Given the fuss over a 10-minute sequel, it’s hard to believe Love Actually is almost 14 years old.
But despite the huge amount of public affection for the romcom, which follows the complicated love lives of several couples at Christmas, it’s generally acknowledged that one of the storylines could be interpreted as slightly disturbing.
Namely, the theory that Mark’s attraction to Juliet tips from unrequited love into worryingly obsessed territory.
Now Andrew Lincoln, who played Mark, has said in a new interview that he was concerned right from the start that his character could be seen as a “creepy stalker”.
In the film, originally released in November 2003, Mark is the best friend of Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who gets wed to Juliet (Keira Knightley). While Juliet thinks Mark dislikes her, it turns out he’s secretly in love with her.
And unable to control his feelings, when given the task of filming said best friend’s wedding, he spends the entire happy day filming only the object of his misplaced affections.
Later, he turns up on Juliet and Peter’s doorstep and holds up handwritten cards declaring his love. Handwritten cards, remember, so that Peter (who now has a wedding video that does not feature a groom) cannot overhear his best mate telling his new wife that he loves her.
Some think it’s a selfless and romantic move, Mark clearing up any animosity by telling the truth but not hurting his friend, and hopefully managing to move on.
Others think it’s plainly wrong: putting Juliet in the difficult position of lying to her husband just because Mark wants to get something off his chest, initially treating her badly because of his own issues, and cutting Peter out of his own wedding day video in a move that smacks of obsessive behaviour and results in what could easily be a supercut for his own dodgy ends.
In a new interview, Lincoln describes the character as “weird”. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, he says: “In one of the most romantic movies of all time, I got to play the only guy who doesn’t get the girl.
“The story is set up like a prism looking at all the different qualities of love. Mine was unrequited. So I got to be this weird stalker guy.”
He adds: “My big scene in the doorway felt so easy. I just had to hold cards and be in love with Keira Knightley. And that was my own handwriting on the cards, thank you for noticing. But I kept saying to Richard [Curtis, the film’s writer-director], ‘Are you sure I’m not going to come off as a creepy stalker?’”
As EW reports, director Richard Curtis allayed his concerns, and now says of the character: “Retroactively, I’m aware that Andrew’s role was on the edge. But I think because Andrew was so openhearted and guileless, we knew we’d get away with it.”
Lincoln, who has previously said he was worried it was “borderline stalker territory”, echoed Curtis’ sentiment, saying he thought looking young helped him tip it back into innocent romance.
“I think it was decided [during audtions] that I looked quite innocent.
“I didn’t have facial hair or wrinkles back then – and I wasn’t starring on a zombie TV show [The Walking Dead]. I didn’t look as, well, creepy as I do now.”
Images: Rex Features