Ten years ago, Love Actually hit theaters, and with it came an endlessly re-watchable Christmastime collection of love stories that are actually, well, all around us. The film explored 10 separate vignettes — some heartwarming and hilarious, some tragic and heartbreaking – that saw its characters “get the sh–” kicked out of them by love. To celebrate the film’s legacy, we reached out to the film’s cast to talk about their storylines, and for the rest of the week, we’ll be sharing some of their behind-the-scenes takes.
First-time director Richard Curtis really knew what he was doing when he put together the romantic comedy favorite Love Actually 10 years ago: cast the most charming current and rising British stars, give them fun stories to sink their teeth into and let the cameras roll. Oh, and hot girls. Cast hot girls. But first, make sure they’re going to become big actresses later in their careers.
Sure, those silly American girls were only in the last few minutes of the film, their scenes only served to glorify Colin’s (Kris Marshall) trip on “Shag Highway, headed west,” and none of them can make up for the fact that Laura Linney takes that call. But the little-known actresses who played them did turn out to be January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Denise Richards, and Shannon Elizabeth. All four spun careers out of their brief moments in Love Actually.
10 years later, EW chatted with Shannon Elizabeth — who was eager to remind us that she was only actually in this film for about 20 seconds — to hear more about the ladies’ stints on set and what “the hot girls” are up to now. (Mad Men, anyone?)
Elizabeth said that the best part about being in the film was obviously not the screen time or the career boost — “Between the size of the role, being at the very end, and doing an accent, I think most people didn’t even realize it’s me” — but the experience of working with the cast and the other girls. “I think anytime you can be a part of a cast like that, it absolutely doesn’t matter if you’re an extra in it,” she told EW. “You just want to be a part of it.”
Even though most of the vignettes took place separately, “everyone was there for the airport scene,” which meant that Elizabeth and Denise Richards got to hang with the likes of Hugh Grant and Liam Neeson. “I remember Denise and I doing wardrobe fittings together and walking around going, ‘What do we do?’” recalls Elizabeth. “We were both just kind of star struck to be there with everybody. Those actors, that was amazing.”
Elizabeth said she hopes that the Wisconsin girls “moved to a big city and lost some of that accent.” Which, unfortunately, means that Colin’s happily ever after probably didn’t last long. Here’s Elizabeth’s version: “He broke her heart, she went back home and said, ‘Screw it, I’m going to New York!’” Well, at least he’ll always have that one night.
“I knew it was a good movie, I knew I loved it — but over the years you realize that people really connected with this movie,” Elizabeth said of Love Actually‘s lasting legacy. “You want to be a part of anything that touches people in an emotional way. I don’t know if it changed anything for me, but I’m so proud to be a part of this movie.”
As for Elizabeth’s co-hot girls? We can’t know exactly where “the sexy one,” “the hot one” and the “American goddesses” are now — but at least the state of the actresses who portrayed them is assured.
Then: With only a few named credits to her name, Love Actually was the first blockbuster to feature this future star. She followed up her credit as “Jeannie – American Angel” with roles in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and We Are Marshall.
Now: Five years after Love Actually was released, Jones hit it big on critical darling Mad Men as TV’s iciest mom. After playing Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class and two more years of Mad Men to film, it’s safe to say that two minutes in Love Actually did Jones’ career some good.
Then: Elisha had 23 episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark under her belt by the time she filmed Love Actually, so it wasn’t exactly her first foray into the big time. Oh, as well as a little show you may have heard of called 24. Before playing “Carol-Anne – American Angel” in Love Actually, Elisha played a small part in Old School – but her breakout role came in The Girl Next Door with Emile Hirsch.
Now: Elisha showed the world (though not enough of it) that she can hang with the funniest of them with her hilarious turn as Alex Kirkovich on ABC’s Happy Endings. The show was canceled too soon, but hopefully there’s a bright and hilarious future for Cuthbert.
Then: Shannon had already made a big (topless) splash as Nadia the foreign exchange student in American Pie and American Pie 2 before playing “Harriet – the sexy one” in Love Actually. She took a turn on the small screen with an extended guest stint on That ’70s Show.
Now: Shannon has let her onscreen career slow down a bit as she’s focused more on her philanthropic work with children and animals in recent years. (She was headed to India when we spoke.) She, of course, returned to play Nadia in American Reunion in 2012 and is starring in Catch a Christmas Star on Hallmark, premiering November 17.
Then: Oddly, with the least screen time of the bunch, Denise — professional hot girl and sometimes-nuclear physicist — had a number of films under her belt before playing “Carla – the real friendly one” in Love Actually, including Starship Troopers, Wild Things, and The World Is Not Enough. That’s right, she was a Bond girl (in one of the worst Bond movies ever and offset castings, but who’s counting?).
Now: Richards went on to have guest stints on shows like Two and a Half Men and 30 Rock — but is now most famous as, well, herself.