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.

'143,' Fred Rogers's Code for "I Love You," Gets Its Own Holiday in Pennsylvania

Family Communications Inc./Getty Images
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

"It takes one letter to say I and four letters to say love and three letters to say you. One hundred and forty-three."

That quote from Fred Rogers has become a symbol of the children's entertainer's legacy. The number 143, his special code for "I love you," is used by a charity inspired by Rogers, and it was spotlighted in the recent documentary movie Won't You Be My Neighbor? Now, Mister Rogers's favorite number has its own holiday in Pennsylvania.

As Philly Voice reports, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf declared May 23 to be 143 Day in the state. Rogers was born in Westmoreland County near Pittsburgh and he spent his whole life in the area. By honoring the famous Pennsylvanian with his own holiday, the organizers behind the statewide 143 Day campaign hope to inspire residents to be kind to their neighbors on May 23 and every day of the year.

The initiative encourages schools, businesses, and citizens to share their acts of kindness on social media with the hashtag #143DayinPA. A "kindness tracker" on the campaign's website keeps how many time the hashtag has been used, and so far, over a 6000 acts of kindness have been shared online. And if someone has trouble thinking of ways to honor the spirit of Mister Rogers, the campaign's "kindness generator" can come up with a suggestion for them.

One hundred and forty-three was more than just a fun saying for Fred Rogers: It was a lucky number he made part of his lifestyle. The television personality even went so far as to go swimming every day to maintain his weight at the number.

[h/t Philly Voice]

10 Bizarre Documentaries That Are Stranger Than Fiction

A still from Abducted in Plain Sight
A still from Abducted in Plain Sight
Top Knot Films

Documentaries have grown considerably more ambitious since Fred Ott’s Sneeze, an 1894 clip that documents the irritated sinus cavities of its subject in just five seconds. They can inspire, as in the case of 2019’s Academy Award-winning Free Solo, about bold mountain climber Alex Honnold. They can shine a light on cultural overachievers like Fred Rogers, the subject of 2018’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? And they can parse political history, with films like 2003's The Fog of War shedding light on decisions that shaped the world.

Other documentaries set out to chronicle true stories that, were they presented as a fictitious, might be hard for people to believe. We’ve profiled such films in previous lists, which you can find here, here, and here. If you’ve already made your way through those tales of cannibals, tragic love affairs, and twist-laden true crime, here are 10 more that will have you staring at your television in disbelief.  

1. Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)

When Idaho native Jan Broberg was 12 years old in 1974, her neighbor began to take an unseemly and inappropriate interest in her. What begins as a disturbing portrait of predation quickly spirals into an unbelievable and audacious attempt to manipulate Jan’s entire family. Director Skye Borgman’s portrait of seemingly reasonable people who become ensnared in a monstrous plot to separate them from their daughter has drawn some shocking reactions since it began streaming on Netflix earlier this year.

2. The Wolfpack (2015)

Confined to their apartment in a Manhattan housing project for years by parents wary of the world outside their door, the seven Angulo siblings developed an understanding about life through movies. The Wolfpack depicts their attempts to cope with reality after finally emerging from their involuntary exile. Hulu subscribers can watch it now.

3. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

The highly marketable conceit of director Tim Wardle’s documentary is that triplets born in 1961 then separated spent the first 18 years of their lives totally ignorant of their siblings. When they reconnect, it’s a joy. But the movie quickly switches gears to explore the question of why they were separated at birth to begin with. It’s that investigation—and the chilling answer—that lends Three Identical Strangers its bittersweet, haunting atmosphere. It’s currently on Hulu.

4. Tickled (2016)

A ball of yarn bouncing down a flight of stairs is the best metaphor we can summon for the narrative of Tickled, which follows New Zealand journalist David Farrier on what appears at first glance to be a silly story about the world of “competitive endurance tickling.” In the course of reporting on this unusual subculture, Farrier crosses paths with people who would prefer their hobbies remain discreet. When he refuses to let the story go, things grow increasingly tense and dangerous. HBO subscribers can see the film, and it’s also available as a $3.99 rental on Amazon Prime.

5. Billboard Boys (2018)

In 1982, an Allentown, Pennsylvania radio station sponsored a contest in which three men agreed to live underneath a billboard. The last man remaining would win a brand-new motor home, a considerable incentive in the economically-struggling area. Three contestants went up, but things didn't go as planned. It's available for free to Amazon Prime members.

6. Hands on a Hardbody: The Documentary (1997)

How far would you be willing to go for a new pick-up truck? That’s the deceptively simple premise for this documentary chronicling an endurance contest in Longview, Texas, where participants agree to keep one hand on the vehicle at all times: The last person standing wins. What begins as a group seeking a prize evolves into a battle of attrition, with all the psychological games and mental fortitude that comes with it. The film can be hard to find, but you can watch the first nine minutes on YouTube for free (above) and then catch the rest for $9.99 on iTunes.

7. My Kid Could Paint That (2007)

At the age of 4, upstate New York resident Marla Olmstead began painting sprawling abstract art that her parents sold for premium prices. Later on, a 60 Minutes report called into question whether Marla had some assistance with her work. Was she a child prodigy, or simply a creative girl who had a little help? And if she did, should it matter? My Kid Could Paint That investigates Marla’s process, but it also sheds light on the world of abstract art and the question of who gets to decide whether a creative impulse is valid. You can rent the film for $3.99 on Amazon.

8. Beware the Slenderman (2016)

In 2014, two Wisconsin girls came to a disturbing decision: In order to appease the “Slenderman,” an internet-sourced boogeyman, they would attempt to murder a classmate. The victim survived, but three lives have been altered forever. Beware the Slenderman explores the intersection where mental illness, social media, and urban mythology collide to result in a horrific crime. It’s available to HBO viewers or as a rental on Amazon for $3.99.

9. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992)

For years, Richard Kuklinski satisfied his homicidal urges by taking on contract killings for organized crime families in New York and New Jersey. Following his arrest and conviction, he agreed to sit down and elaborate on his unusual methodologies for disposing of victims and how he balanced his violent tendencies with a seemingly normal domestic life that included marriage and children. (You can see an example of Kuklinski's chilling disposition in the clip above.) In addition to The Iceman Tapes, which originally aired on HBO, Kuklinski participated in two follow-ups: The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman in 2001 and The Iceman and the Psychiatrist in 2003. See them on HBO or watch the original and both follow-ups for free on Amazon Prime.

10. Tabloid (2010)

Filmmaker Errol Morris (The Fog of War) details the unusual love affair between beauty queen Joyce McKinney and Kirk Anderson, who alleged McKinney kidnapped and assaulted him after believing he had been brainwashed by the Mormon church. That’s only the beginning of this twisty—and twisted—story, which illustrates how people can perceive the same event in completely different ways. It’s currently streaming on Hulu.

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