15 Splendid Facts About Four Weddings and a Funeral

MGM Studios
MGM Studios

Seemingly giving rise to the popularity of British rom-coms and launching the career of Hugh Grant, the Oscar-nominated Four Weddings and a Funeral documents the romantic misadventures of a group of friends—led by Grant's Charles—who attend, you guessed it, four weddings and a funeral.

1. SCREENWRITER RICHARD CURTIS HAD PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE WITH WEDDINGS.

Richard Curtis (co-creator of Mr. Bean and writer-director of Love Actually) told some publications that he had attended 65 weddings in 11 years, then upped the number to 72. The writer came up with the idea for the film after a girl at one of those many weddings wanted to spend the night with him. Curtis turned the offer down and said he had regretted it ever since. He also said he wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral partially to explain to his mother why he had never married. It took Curtis 17 drafts to come up with the final script.

2. HUGH GRANT WAS NOT THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY CHARLES.

When auditioning for the role that would make him famous, Grant (Bitter Moon, The Remains of the Day) gave producers a tape of his best man wedding speech to his brother, where he kept making fun of the groom’s eye sty. Grant claimed that he was "very much unwanted. Richard Curtis did everything in his power to stop me getting the part after the audition. I remember it was a very traumatic audition." Curtis admitted it was true, saying he thought Grant was “too handsome” for the part. At one point, Alan Rickman was set to play Charles; Alex Jennings (who later played Prince Charles in The Queen) was reportedly Curtis’ first choice for the lead.

3. JEANNE TRIPPLEHORN WAS ORIGINALLY CAST AS CARRIE.

Jeanne Tripplehorn was cast in the role, but had to drop out because of a death in her family. Marisa Tomei was also offered the part, but similarly turned the opportunity down because her grandfather was very sick. It was reported that Sarah Jessica Parker was Curtis’ top choice.

4. ANDIE MACDOWELL WAS INSPIRED BY KATHARINE HEPBURN.

Andie MacDowell wanted to play a character different than her sexually repressed character Ann in Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989). She was inspired by Katharine Hepburn because Carrie was, as MacDowell explained to Entertainment Weekly in 1994, “the kind of role she would have played 40 years earlier. She was forthright, the one with power and intelligence, and the guts to say and do exactly what she wanted.”

5. MIKE NEWELL’S AGENT’S ASSISTANT CONVINCED HIM TO TAKE THE DIRECTING JOB.

Mike Newell (Enchanted April, Donnie Brasco) was known to be picky. "It was handed to me in my agent's office by a very bright and forthright assistant who, knowing that I said 'No' to everything, sort of hit me in the chest with it and said, 'You should do that,’” the director recalled of getting the screenplay.

6. EXTRAS WORE THEIR OWN WEDDING CLOTHES.

Conservative MP Amber Rudd helped the producers out for the movie, getting dignitaries such as the Earl of Burlington and Simon Marquis, 3rd Earl of Woolton to make unpaid cameos (or accept an extra’s pay). Her help landed Rudd an “Aristocracy Coordinator” title in the credits.

7. THE BUDGET WAS ONLY 2.7 MILLION POUNDS.

The film was shot for £2.7 million, or roughly $4.4 million. It was so low-budget that the cinematographer Michael Coulter got the establishing shot of the Scottish wilderness while on vacation, and the same vicar—played by Rowan Atkinson—appeared at two of the four weddings so they wouldn’t have to pay two different actors. It was all shot in 36 days.

8. HUGH GRANT WAS PAID LESS THAN $60,000 FOR THE ROLE.

In today's dollars, Grant's payment for the part would equal $58,072. He was initially going to be paid £35,000; his agent asked for an additional £5,000.

9. GRANT WAS DEALING WITH ALLERGIES.

He had a bout of hay fever during production.

10. CURTIS HAD A REASON FOR NEVER REVEALING MOST OF THE CHARACTERS’ OCCUPATIONS.

“My argument was that when you’re hanging around with your friends, you don’t explain who you are," Curtis explained. " You don’t say, ‘Hello, Charles Bennett. How’s life at the bank since your father died?’"

11. AMERICAN FINANCIERS HAD A PROBLEM WITH ALL THE CURSING AND SEXUAL CONTENT.

They faxed notes claiming the sexual content and bad language would hurt the chances of Four Weddings and a Funeral being broadcast on American television, and specifically insisted on no oral sex or “excessive thrusting and screaming” orgasms. The U.S. distributors managed to have Newell and the actors re-shoot the first scene so that Grant says “bugger” instead of the F-word for a more family-friendly version to exist.

12. AT THE FIRST AMERICAN SCREENING, SOME PEOPLE WALKED OUT.

It was in Salt Lake City, Utah. The 30 person, Mormon-filled town council left the theater after witnessing the version of the opening scene with Charles saying "f**k." It was Grant’s first time seeing the entire film and he thought the walk-outs were a bad sign.

13. STUDIO EXECUTIVES WANTED THE TITLE CHANGED.

One claimed the title Four Weddings and a Funeral would turn men off from seeing it. Suggested alternatives included True Love and Near Misses, Loitering in Sacred Places, Rolling in the Aisles, Skulking Around, Toffs On Heat, Charles and Chums, and The Wedding Season.

14. SOME PEOPLE AT THE BRITISH PREMIERE WORE WEDDING DRESSES.

It was Richard Curtis’ idea. Two hundred of the 2000 people in attendance at Odeon Leicester Square got into the spirit. The wedding dresses were upstaged by Grant’s date, Elizabeth Hurley, and her famous black Versace dress, which was held together with oversized safety pins.

15. ANDIE MACDOWELL DEFENDS THE LINE EVERYONE MADE FUN OF.

MacDowell found herself having to defend the corny line about not noticing the rain. “‘The character was so in love, she wasn’t thinking about the fricking rain,” the actress told The Daily Mail. “I think perhaps it was raining a bit hard for the line. But that wasn’t my fault. Mike Newell was directing. I wasn’t going to disagree with him.” She said the scene was filmed in “six or seven” takes, and that nobody on the cast or crew thought “I didn’t notice” would become so well-known.

Disney's Most Magical Destinations Have Been Reimagined as Vintage Travel Posters

UpgradedPoints.com
UpgradedPoints.com

Many of the iconic settings of animated Disney movies were modeled after real places around the world. Ussé Castle in France’s Loire Valley, for example, is widely rumored to have been the inspiration behind the original Sleeping Beauty story. (Although the castle in the movie more closely resembles Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle.) Likewise, the fictional island in Moana was made to look like Samoa, and the Sultan’s palace in Aladdin shares some similarities with India's Taj Mahal.

If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring Agrabah or Neverland, then you’ll probably enjoy getting lost in these Disney-inspired travel posters from the designers at UpgradedPoints.com, an online resource that helps individuals maximize their credit card travel rewards. Only one of the posters features a real destination ("Beautiful France"), but these illustrations let you get one step closer to scaling Pride Rock or plumbing the depths of Atlantica.

All of the images are rendered in a vintage style with enticing slogans attached—much like the exotic travel posters that were prevalent in the 1930s.

“A few of our designers wanted to capture that longing to experience the true locations of these fantastic films, and the inner child in all of us couldn’t resist seeing how they interpreted the locations of their favorite films,” UpgradedPoints.com writes. “The results are breathtaking and make us wish we could fall into our favorite Disney movies.”

Keep scrolling to see the posters, and for more travel inspiration, read up on eight real-life locations that inspired Disney places (plus one that didn't).

A Disney-inspired poster of France
UpgradedPoints.com

An Atlantica travel poster
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A Disney-inspired poster
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A Disney-inspired poster
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A Lion King travel poster
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A Neverland travel poster
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11 Memorable Facts About Cats the Musical

Mike Clarke/Getty Images
Mike Clarke/Getty Images

“It was better than Cats!” Decades after Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed musical opened on Broadway on October 7, 1982, this tongue-in-cheek idiom remains a part of our lexicon (thanks to Saturday Night Live). Although the feline extravaganza divided the critics, it won over audiences of all ages and became an industry juggernaut—one that single-handedly generated more than $3 billion for New York City's economy—and that was before it made a return to the Great White Way in 2016. In honor of Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday on March 22, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

1. The work that Cats the musical is based on was originally going to include dogs.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, published in 1939, is a collection of feline-themed poems written by the great T. S. Eliot. A whimsical, lighthearted effort, the volume has been delighting cat fanciers for generations—and it could have become just as big of a hit with dog lovers, too. At first, Eliot envisioned the book as an assemblage of canine- and tabby-related poems. However, he came to believe that “dogs don’t seem to lend themselves to verse quite so well, collectively, as cats.” (Spoken like a true ailurophile.) According to his publisher, Eliot decided that “it would be improper to wrap [felines] up with dogs” and barely even mentioned them in the finished product.

For his part, Andrew Lloyd Webber has described his attitude towards cats as “quite neutral.” Still, the composer felt that Eliot’s rhymes could form the basis of a daring, West End-worthy soundtrack. It seemed like an irresistible challenge. “I wanted to set that exciting verse to music,” he explained. “When I [had] written with lyricists in the past … the lyrics have been written to the music. So I was intrigued to see whether I could write a complete piece the other way ‘round.”

2. "Memory" was inspired by a poem that T.S. Eliot never finished.

In 1980, Webber approached T.S. Eliot’s widow, Valerie, to ask for her blessing on the project. She not only said “yes,” but provided the songwriter with some helpful notes and letters that her husband had written about Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats—including a half-finished, eight-line poem called “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat.” Feeling that it was too melancholy for children, Eliot decided to omit the piece from Practical Cats. But the dramatic power of the poem made it irresistible for Webber and Trevor Nunn, the show’s original director. By combining lines from “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat” with those of another Eliot poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” they laid the foundation for what became the powerful ballad “Memory.” A smash hit within a smash hit, this showstopper has been covered by such icons as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow.

3. Dame Judi Dench left the cast of Cats when her Achilles tendon snapped.

One of Britain’s most esteemed actresses, Dench was brought in to play Grizabella for Cats’s original run on the West End. Then, about three weeks into rehearsals, she was going through a scene with co-star Wayne Sleep (Mr. Mistoffelees) when disaster struck. “She went, ‘You kicked me!’” Sleep recalls in the above video. “And I said, ‘I didn’t, actually, are you alright?’” She wasn’t. Somehow, Dench had managed to tear her Achilles tendon. As a last-minute replacement, Elaine Paige of Evita fame was brought aboard. In an eerie coincidence, Paige had heard a recorded version of “Memory” on a local radio station less than 24 hours before she was asked to play Grizabella. Also, an actual black cat had crossed her path that day. Spooky.

4. To finance the show, Andrew Lloyd Webber ended up mortgaging his house.

Although Andrew Lloyd Webber had previously won great acclaim as one of the creative minds behind Jesus Christ Superstar and other hit shows, Cats had a hard time finding investors. According to choreographer Gillian Lynne, “[it] was very, very difficult to finance because everyone said ‘A show about cats? You must be raving mad.’” In fact, the musical fell so far short of its fundraising goals that Webber ended up taking out a second mortgage on his home to help get Cats the musical off the ground.

5. When Cats the musical came to Broadway, its venue got a huge makeover.

Cats made its West End debut on May 11, 1981. Seventeen months later, a Broadway production of the musical launched what was to become an 18-year run at the Winter Garden Theatre. But before the show could open, some major adjustments had to be made to the venue. Cats came with an enormous, sprawling set which was far too large for the theatre’s available performing space. To make some more room, the stage had to be expanded. Consequently, several rows of orchestra seats were removed, along with the Winter Garden’s proscenium arch. And that was just the beginning. For Grizabella’s climactic ascent into the Heaviside Layer on a giant, levitating tire, the crew installed a hydraulic lift in the orchestra pit and carved a massive hole through the auditorium ceiling. Finally, the theater’s walls were painted black to set the proper mood. After Cats closed in 2000, the original look of the Winter Garden was painstakingly restored—at a cost of $8 million.

6. Cats the musical set longevity records on both sides of the Atlantic.

The original London production took its final bow on May 11, 2002, exactly 21 years after the show had opened—which, at the time, made Cats the longest-running musical in the West End’s history. (It would lose that title to Les Miserables in 2006.) Across the pond, the show was performed at the Winter Garden for the 6138th time on June 19, 1997, putting Cats ahead of A Chorus Line as the longest-running show on Broadway. To celebrate, a massive outdoor celebration was held between 50th and 51st streets, complete with a laser light show and an exclusive after-party for Cats alums.

7. One theatergoer sued the show for $6 million.

Like Hair, Cats involves a lot of performer-audience interaction. See it live, and you might just spot a leotard-clad actor licking himself near your seat before the curtain goes up. In some productions, the character Rum Tum Tugger even rushes out into the crowd and finds an unsuspecting patron to dance with. At a Broadway performance on January 30, 1996, Tugger was played by stage veteran David Hibbard. That night, he singled out one Evelyn Amato as his would-be dance partner. Mildly put, she did not appreciate his antics. Alleging that Hibbard had gyrated his pelvis in her face, Amato sued the musical and its creative team for $6 million.

8. Thanks to Cats the musical, T.S. Eliot received a posthumous Tony.

Because most of the songs in Cats are almost verbatim recitations of Eliot’s poems, he’s regarded as its primary lyricist—even though he died in 1965, long before the show was conceived. Still, Eliot’s contributions earned him a 1983 Tony for Best Book of a Musical. A visibly moved Valerie Eliot took the stage to accept this prize on her late spouse’s behalf. “Tonight’s honor would have given my husband particular pleasure because he loved the theatre,” she told the crowd. Eliot also shared the Best Original Score Tony with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

9. The original Broadway production used more than 3000 pounds of yak hair.

Major productions of Cats use meticulously crafted yak hair wigs, which currently cost around $2300 apiece and can take 40 hours or more to produce. Adding to the expense is the fact that costumers can’t just recycle an old wig after some performer gets recast. “Each wig is made specifically for the actor,” explains wigmaker Hannah McGregor in the above video. Since people tend to have differently shaped heads, precise measurements are taken of every cast member’s skull before he or she is fitted with a new head of hair. “[Their wigs] have to fit them perfectly,” McGregor adds, “because of the amount of jumping and skipping they do as cats.” Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, over its 18-year run, the first Broadway production used 3247 pounds of yak hair. (In comparison, the heaviest actual yaks only weigh around 2200 pounds.)

10. A recent revival included hip hop.

In December 2014, Cats returned to the West End with an all-new cast and music. “The Rum Tum Tugger,” a popular Act I song, was reimagined as a hip hop number. “I’ve come to the conclusion, having read [Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats] again, that maybe Eliot was the inventor of rap,” Webber told the press.

11. Another revival featured an internet-famous feline for one night only.

On September 30, Grumpy Cat made her Broadway debut in Cats, briefly taking the stage with the cast. Despite being named Honorary Jellicle Cat, she hated every minute of it.

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