The idea for Mark's surprise of the band singing "All You Need Is Love" at Peter and Juliet's wedding came from Jim Henson's funeral (which Richard Curtis attended) where all the puppeteers brought their Muppets and sang a song.
When casting the part of Sarah, Richard Curtis auditioned a great many British girls, but kept saying, "I want someone like Laura Linney..." The casting director eventually snapped and said, "Oh, for fuck's sake, get Laura Linney then." She then auditioned and got the part.
Kris Marshall returned his pay check for the scene where the three American girls undress him. He said he had such a great time having three girls undress him for twenty-one takes, that he was willing to do it for free, and thus returned his check for that day.
The lake that Lúcia Moniz and Colin Firth are "swimming" in was actually only eighteen inches deep and they had to kneel down and pretend to be in deeper water. It was also over-run by mosquitoes and Colin Firth was badly bitten and his elbow swelled up to the size of an avocado, requiring medical attention.
A speech given by Hugh Grant in 'Love Actually' - where he extols the virtues of Great Britain and refuses to cave to the pressure of its longstanding ally, the United States - was etched in the transatlantic memory as a satirical, wishful statement on the concurrent relationship with George W. Bush. Tony Blair responded by saying in 2005, "I know there's a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually (2003) and tell America where to get off. But the difference between a good film and real life is that in real life there's the next day, the next year, the next lifetime to contemplate the ruinous consequences of easy applause."
Olivia Olson (Joanna - Sam's crush), does all her own singing in "All I Want for Christmas is You" at the Christmas concert. She had such an amazing voice that the director had it edited so it sounded more like a child singing.
The airport greeting footage at the beginning and end of the film is real. Richard Curtis had a team of cameramen film at Heathrow airport for a week, and whenever they saw something that would fit in they asked the people involved for permission to use the footage.
Knowing about Billy Bob Thornton's quite unique fear of antique furniture, Hugh Grant would sometimes flash a piece of antique (which is abundant in England) in front of Thornton just before the cameras rolled, and watch him freak out in amusement.
When Daniel says "We need Kate and we need Leo and we need them now", a toothpick can be seen in Daniel's left hand as he says "now". Later, Sam has a toothpick in his mouth while he and Daniel are lounging on a couch. What director Richard Curtis describes as "this toothpick business" was a result of Liam Neeson never being without a toothpick after he gave up smoking.
Portuguese actress Lúcia Moniz, who plays the maid Aurelia, got the part as a result of a joke by a friend of hers who is a casting director and sent her photos to the movie's casting director. Lúcia went to the casting and ended up being chosen.
When Juliet (Keira Knightley) visits Mark (Andrew Lincoln) in his flat to view the footage he shot on her wedding day, a video copy of Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) can be seen. One of the main themes in Rear Window is voyeurism or watching something or someone, and as we see that is exactly what Mark was doing to Juliet without her knowledge.
In the version edited and broadcast in the US on the ABC Family Channel, the entire subplot of John and Just Judy (the characters in the ersatz "porn" movie) is completely edited out. And, even with those and other cuts, the film ran 3 hours with commercials.
Laura Linney filmed this movie in London, while she was working on Mystic River (2003) in Boston, USA. She flew across the Atlantic Ocean several times within few months, in order to complete her work on both films.
With the exception of Sam's running through the airport scenes and the footage of people greeting each other, all airport scenes were filmed on a built set, which cost most of the budget for the movie. Some of these scenes include Colin leaving for and arriving in "Wisconsin" and Sam shouting at Joanna through the glass, and all footage of the actors at the "airport".
Thomas Sangster, who was 13 years old when he played Sam in this movie, was cast as a 13-year-old again a decade later. Sangster started playing the young teen Jojen Reed in the TV series "Game of Thrones" in 2013, while he was in his mid-twenties.
The dolls that Emma Thompson holds up are Ken dolls dressed in drag. Richard Curtis just asked the prop people to take Ken and put him in dresses. Emma Thompson had such a difficult time with the scene, saying she just could not lift the dolls knowing that they were Ken in drag, but in the end she gave in and shot the scene.
Number 10 Downing Street in the movie is not, of course, the actual Prime Minister's residence, but a replica. The exterior was created in the Shepperton Studios car park and the interior is a set. In preparation for the movie, writer-director Richard Curtis and his production designer Jim Clay were escorted on a two-hour tour of the actual Number 10 by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown (Prime Minister June 2007-May 2010). They were not permitted to take photographs or make sketches of the interiors, and throughout the entire tour they were flanked by security. The "Number 10" that appears in the movie was designed by Clay, solely from memory.
In Daniel's eulogy he says that one of his wife's (joking) requests was to "bring Claudia Schiffer as my date to the funeral." Claudia Schiffer plays the mother of one of Sam's classmates who Daniel meets and develops an interest in near the end of the film.
In the scene after Sarah leaves Harry's office following their conversation about her feelings for coworker Karl, two clocks can be seen on the wall showing the time in New York and Brazil. Laura Linney (Sarah) is from New York and Rodrigo Santoro (Karl) is from Brazil.
The video for Billy Mack's "Christmas is All Around" single is a clear reference to a series of memorable, and very popular, videos that Robert Palmer had done - "Addicted to Love", "Simply Irresistible", and "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" - in which Palmer sings in a good suit, backed up by an all-female band, all dressed alike and dancing in a back-and-forth manner.
The property surrounding the house in which Colin Firth's character stays in France, including the dock that was specially built for the film, were heavily damaged by fire during the 2003 heat wave, but the house survived.
One of the working titles is "Love Actually is All Around" taken from The Troggs' song "Love is All Around", written by Troggs lead singer Reg Presley. An alternate version by Wet Wet Wet featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) was at number one in the UK charts for 15 weeks in 1994, and Richard Curtis thought it would be amusing to start Love Actually (2003) with the same song that had driven everyone to distraction nine years earlier. For this film it is reworked by Bill Nighy's character, who turns it into a Christmas song. "Christmas is All Around", the resulting tacky joke theme song, was actually released in Britain in hopes that it would be "Number 1 for Christmas 2003".
Andrew Lincoln wrote the romantic cards himself. In 2013, Andrew reminisced about his climactic gesture in Love Actually with Entertainment Weekly, and revealed, "It is my handwriting! It's funny, because the art department did it, and then I said, 'Well, can I do it?' because I like to think that my handwriting is really good. Actually, it ended up with me having to sort of trace over the art department's, so it is my handwriting, but with a sort of pencil stencil underneath."
The art gallery where Andrew Lincoln works is based on a real Southbank gallery called La Guff. It specialised in arty but rubbish black and white pictures of bottoms - some of which can be seen in the movie.
The very last seconds of the movie the screen is filled with more and more scenes, each smaller and smaller, of people reuniting with loved ones. In the last split second, they form a big "heart" (or "valentine").
Daniel owns a huge "Launderette" sign, visible around 26:54. Annie returns to Lisbon. At 1:20:42, Tony is shown to live upstairs from a launderette with the identical "Launderette" sign, and a delicatessen called "Lisboa."
Several actors have worked together before in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Kate Winslet - who only appeared in footage from Titantic in this film). Kiera Knightly starred in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as did Colin Firth but not the same version (hers was film, his was for television).
When Colin Firth's character proposes to Aurelia, her sister tells her to accept so she can go to England and meet "Prince William instead." Firth played William's great-grandfather, George VI, in The King's Speech (2010).
Karen expresses surprise at the inclusion of (at least) two lobsters among the characters in her daughter's school Christmas pageant ("there was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?"). Although there is a variety of small lobster (Palinurus elephas, also known as the common spiny lobster) native to the Mediterranean Sea, its habitat doesn't stretch as far east as the land that is now known as Israel. Furthermore, since Jesus's family was Jewish and shellfish like lobster is forbidden to devout Jews who observe the rules for keeping kosher, Karen is correct that it is highly unlikely that there was any quantity of lobster present at Jesus's birth.
Richard Curtis: [Bernard] When Curtis was in college, his girlfriend left him for a man named Bernard. In each of his screenplays, there is a fairly unpopular character named Bernard. In this case, the character is Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman's "horrid son".
When Jamie Bennett appears to ask for the hand of the chubby Portuguese sister, her line is subtitled "But I've never seen him before." What she actually says in Portuguese is "But I've never seen him fatter". That's an idiomatic expression in Portuguese for "I've never seen him before".