The cast of Four Weddings and a Funeral could have looked very different

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Moya Crockett
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Writer Richard Curtis says he originally wanted another actor – not Hugh Grant – to play the romantic lead in Four Weddings and a Funeral.      

It’s one of the most beloved rom-coms of the Nineties, starring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell as distant acquaintances who end up falling in love after encountering one another at a series of social events. But writer Richard Curtis says that he originally wanted another British actor, not Grant, to play the main role of Charles in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

“I just thought Hugh was a bit annoying, too good looking, a bit posh,” Curtis said during an appearance at the Cheltenham Literary Festival.

“I was right about all of those things but he is also very good.”

Instead of Grant, Curtis wanted the late, great Alan Rickman to star in Four Weddings. However, he was overruled by other people working on the film who preferred Grant.

“We auditioned about 70 people for Hugh’s part. Eventually it was down to Hugh and Alan Rickman,” he said, according to The Telegraph. “I went for Alan but I was outvoted.”

Hugh Grant with then-girlfriend Liz Hurley at the Four Weddings and a Funeral premiere in 1994 

Four Weddings became the highest-grossing British film in history at the time of its release, making £144million at the box office and receiving four BAFTAs, a Golden Globe and two Oscar nominations.

It also made an international star out of the 34-year-old Grant, who was previously best known for his role in Merchant Ivory romantic drama Maurice. He once famously said that prior to Four Weddings, he “was always the Nazi brother” in films, and had taken to being paid cash in hand – “like the plumber” – for tiny roles.

Earlier this year, Grant described the tumultuous experience of making Four Weddings, telling the BAFTA: A Life in Pictures podcast that nobody involved in the film’s creation thought it would be a success.

“Four Weddings was shot in 36 days in a blind panic with the director [Mike Newell] hurling teacups at the wall, saying ‘I can’t f**king do it!’

“Everyone was suicidal, we thought it didn’t work and we were going to have to emigrate to Peru as it was so embarrassing.”

Alan Rickman in 1994, the year of Four Weddings’ release

But while he might have wanted to star in Four Weddings at the time, not getting the part of Charles didn’t hinder Rickman’s career. Just a year after the release of Four Weddings, he starred as Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility, opposite Emma Thompson.

He would later reunite with Thompson in a different film written by Richard Curtis: 2003’s Love Actually, in which he played Harry, the deceitful husband of her character Karen. In February 2017, Thompson revealed that she had turned down the chance to resurrect Karen in a Love Actually sketch for Comic Relief – because she didn’t want to play the role without Rickman, who died of pancreatic cancer in early 2016.

“It’s too soon,” Thompson said.

“It’s absolutely right [that they’re making the sequel] because it’s supposed to be for Comic Relief, but there isn’t much comic relief in the loss of our dear friend really only just over a year ago.”

Images: Getty Images