Hugh Grant became an overnight star when he was cast as the hapless Charles in the smash-hit movie Four Weddings And A Funeral.
But the actor almost lost out on the role of a lifetime because the producers of the film, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next month, thought he was too good-looking — and he wanted an extra £5,000 (Dh30,000) for the part.
In an interview on the Reunion programme on BBC Radio 4, Richard Curtis —who wrote the screenplay — reveals that he tried to block the casting of Grant because he didn’t think anyone would believe he could be unlucky in love.
He said: “I was worried about it. When Hugh did first come in, I did think he was too handsome. I thought people would not believe the fact he was in trouble with girls because he so clearly wouldn’t be. So that’s why he pushed the sort of doubtfulness and lack of confidence.
“He was by far the best person who auditioned but I still voted against him when it came down to the vote between two people.”
Grant, who had previously starred in the Merchant Ivory film Maurice, was a relatively unknown 33-year-old when Curtis was over-ruled and he was cast for a fee of £35,000.
But the film’s producer Duncan Kenworthy recalls how Grant, who appeared opposite US actress Andie MacDowell, almost lost the role when his agent asked for an additional £5,000.
He said: “We couldn’t afford much at all. So the ‘friends’ got £17,500 each and Hugh got £35,000. I remember Michael Foster, Hugh’s agent, saying, ‘OK, we understand. £40,000 and he is yours.’ I said, ‘Sorry, you just don’t understand. It’s £35,000 and if you don’t accept that then obviously we lose him.’”
Curtis, Kenworthy and the film’s director Mike Newell also recall how they had to come up with ingenious cost-cutting measures so that they could produce Four Weddings on a budget of £3 million.
Kenworthy said: “For the second wedding we had what I called an aristocracy co-ordinator. Amber Rudd, now an MP, knew a lot of dukes and earls who would appear for nothing, or for an extra’s pay.
“I swear that you can look across the room and pick out the real aristocrats. So they gave us the authenticity. They all owned their own morning suits, so we saved on the Moss Bros aspect of the budget.”
Writer and director Curtis, 57 — who went on to make the films Notting Hill and Love Actually, also starring Grant — says he wrote the film partly to explain to his own mother why he had never married but hints that he might be about to propose to his real long-term partner, Emma Freud.
“Thinking about it, I might pop the question soon,” he says.
After finishing the romantic comedy, Kenworthy says that the film’s US distributors insisted the opening scene, where Grant’s character repeatedly says the F-word, was reshot. In the American version Charles says the word ‘bugger’ over and over again. He also recalls how Hollywood bosses feared they would not be able to market the movie as a romantic comedy.
But the movie defied all expectations and went on to make £146 million at the box office — with Grant becoming one of the world’s most bankable stars.