Since its release in 2003, Love Actually has become an undeniable Christmas classic (via Wired). The feel-good, turtleneck-filled film features a series of loosely interconnected love stories that play out during the holiday season in early 2000s London — what’s not to love? The film is filled with iconic moments. Who can forget Rowan Atkinson’s ridiculous gift wrapping scene, Emma Thompson’s heart-wrenching breakdown to Joni Mitchell, or Hugh Grant’s legendary dance through 10 Downing Street?
One of the best things about Love Actually was its seriously impressive cast. With the likes of Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, and Liam Neeson all gracing our screens, watching Love Actually can feel like watching a procession of the greatest hits of British cinema. But where are all of these amazing actors now? Well, while Rickman sadly passed away in 2016, the rest of the cast has gone on to enjoy some pretty surprising careers. Here is more about the totally unrecognizable cast of Love Actually.
Hugh Grant has grown out of his iconic rom-com leading man roles
When Love Actually came out in 2003, Hugh Grant was already a staple of British romance films, such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Two Weeks Notice (via IMDb). With his signature floppy hair, his swoon-worthy grin, and his charming accent, it’s easy to see why. In Love Actually, Grant stepped easily into his usual casting — the handsome, bumbling man in love — although this time, he was also playing the prime minister! His adorable love story with his assistant, Natalie, is probably one of the most romantic in the film.
Since then, Grant has grown out of his traditional casting and taken on some surprising roles. In Paddington 2, Grant portrayed a campy, over-the-top villain. In The Gentlemen, Grant played Fletcher, a “seedy and sleazy” Cockney journalist, as Grant told Associated Press.
In addition to branching out into more varied roles, Grant has also settled down and started a family. As he told Vanity Fair, becoming a father has helped him to mature as an actor. Apparently, experiencing “pure, unconditional love” turns out to be pretty useful!
Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who played Sam in Love Actually, has become a total star
In Love Actually, the young Sam, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, is the adopted son of Daniel, Liam Neeson’s character. After Sam’s mother passes away, he becomes enamoured with Joanna, an American girl from his school. With Daniel’s help, Sam builds up the confidence to pursue the girl of his dreams. It’s an adorable plot line that never fails to tug at our heartstrings, thanks to the adorable wide-eyed Brodie-Sangster.
Chances are, you’ve come across the young actor since his role in Love Actually. In fact, he’s had quite a few major productions since then, including The Maze Runner, Wolf Hall, The Queen’s Gambit, and Game of Thrones (via IMDb). And based on his photos in 2020, the child actor is all grown up — he was even spotted out and about in Los Angeles with his girlfriend sporting some facial hair (via People)!
Even though Brodie-Sangster is all grown up these days, he still remembers Love Actually fondly. In fact, as he told Interview, it turns out he’s retained a skill he learned for the role — the drums!
Keira Knightley, who played Juliet, became one of Britain's most celebrated actresses
When she starred in Love Actually, Keira Knightley was already pretty firmly established in the film industry, having starred in Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates of the Caribbean (via IMDb). Even though her career took off as expected, Knightley has definitely surprised people with just how good her acting chops really are.
Knightley went on to take on some seriously challenging roles. In Pride and Prejudice, she played Elizabeth Bennet, the spiky, witty, free-thinking Jane Austen heroine. Some of her other critically acclaimed films include Atonement, The Imitation Game, and Official Secrets, to name just a few. In just about all of these roles, Knightley wowed audiences with her emotional depth and nuanced performance and picked up Oscar nominations along the way.
Excellent acting isn’t the only thing about Knightley that has taken us by surprise — she’s also ended up becoming one of the industry’s biggest advocates for gender equality. In Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies, the actress wrote an essay called “The Weaker Sex,” in which she recounted the inequalities she experienced as a mother and actor (via iNews).
Love Actually's Colin Firth has graduated to more mature roles
Colin Firth was a familiar face for fans of romantic films when he starred in Love Actually as Jamie, who falls in love with his Portuguese housekeeper while on a writer’s retreat in his rural summer home. Prior to this, he’d become a household name thanks to his iconic portrayal of Darcy in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. As Firth explained to Good Housekeeping, this role led to him being typecast for years to come. His role as Jamie in Love Actually fit squarely into the mold. Eventually, Firth got bored of playing the same romantic lead. “Looking good and strutting around is very boring,” he said. “I wanted to do other things as an actor” (via The Times).
Since Love Actually, Firth has managed to break out of this casting type and take on a few more interesting roles — although he’s still looking pretty good, as far as we’re concerned. In 2011, he played an intelligence officer in the political thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (via The Guardian). Then, in 2013, he portrayed a lieutenant with PTSD in The Railway Man (via The Guardian).
Liam Neeson, who played Daniel in Love Actually, is best known for his action roles
Liam Neeson played Daniel in Love Actually, a heartbreaking character who loses his wife to cancer at the beginning of the movie and is left to raise her son. These days, Daniel seems like a pretty subdued and emotional role for Neeson. When he starred in Taken in 2009, his career took on a new course and he became one of Hollywood’s best-loved action stars. As Neeson told Entertainment Weekly, “Taken was an accident.” He added, “I never focused on, ‘Oh, I’d love to do action movies.'”
However, Taken was a huge hit, and Neeson hasn’t really looked back since. “They started sending me action scripts and you’d see ‘Leading man, age 37’ crossed out and ‘late 40s, early 50s’ written [instead],” Neeson explained. Since Taken, he’s starred in Cold Pursuit, The Commuter, Non-Stop, along with a series of Taken follow-up films. It’s clear that he’s found a niche that has worked for him! Looking back at his performance in Love Actually, it’s pretty funny to see what a huge shift he’s made!
Emma Thompson went on to act in a range of iconic roles while also thriving as a screenwriter
Emma Thompson broke all of our hearts in Love Actually as Karen, the wife of Alan Rickman’s Harry, who finds out that her husband is cheating on her and breaks down in silent tears in her bedroom while listening to Joni Mitchell.
As an actress, Thompson has gone on to play a series of iconic roles. To list just a few, Thompson played the titular role in Nanny McPhee, Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter films, and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks. In addition to her thriving acting career, Thompson has also proved herself to be an incredible screenwriter. Her credits include Last Christmas, Bridget Jones’s Baby, Effie Gray, and Nanny McPhee (via IMDb).
In 2019, Thompson, who had just turned 60, spoke to WebMD about what she wanted to do next. As she admitted, her career has pretty much been non-stop. “I’m addicted to doing and action and activity, but this year I’m going to look at how it feels to be less addicted to that and more able to sit,” she said.
Martin Freeman, who played John, became a household name after Love Actually
When he played John, the wholesome adult movie stand-in in Love Actually, Martin Freeman was best-known for starring in the British version of The Office (via IMDb). After a series of comedic roles, Freeman got his big break as Watson in Sherlock, the modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes before he landed the role of Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit trilogy. Suddenly, he was a household name!
As he explained to The Guardian, Freeman has been careful to avoid being typecast as the nice guy. “If you’re not careful, you’ll never get out of it until you are too old to be a lovable Tim from The Office type,” he explained. In fact, it seems that he’s pretty tired of being seen as nice. “I think sometimes people think ‘affable’ is going to mean ‘doormat’ or ‘just grateful all the time for any attention,'” he said, describing how his roles have painted him in a certain way.
While his role in Love Actually was certainly a lovable Tim type, he’s branched out since then — and by the sounds of things, we’ll be seeing him in more and more not-so-nice roles in the future.
Love Actually's Joanna Page went on to star in this popular show
Judy, played by Joanna Page, was the adorable counterpart to Martin Freeman’s John. In the film, the couple meet while standing in for an adult movie. It’s probably the weirdest, most awkward meet-cute in movie history.
While Freeman admitted to being a little rougher round the edges than his typecasting, Page appears to be just as sweet as her Love Actually character, who’s involved in one of the most uncomfortable love scenes in movies. Unsurprisingly, she went on to play Stacey in the hit British show Gavin & Stacey — another super sweet character. As Page explained to The Guardian she is naturally “a bubbly sort of child-woman.” It’s no wonder she made a career out of playing similar roles. By the sounds of things, they’re still the roles she’s best suited to. In 2019, she took part in the Gavin & Stacey reunion and jumped back into the bubbly role with ease.
These days, Page’s career seems to be pretty much defined by the role. As she told iNews, after doing the show in her native Welsh accent, “Now [producers] only want me to be Welsh.” But, she added, “I don’t mind being pigeonholed, that’s absolutely fine.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor became a massive Hollywood movie star after Love Actually
These days, Chiwetel Ejiofor is one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors, known for award-winning performances in 12 Years a Slave, Children of Men, and 2012 (via IMDb). When he played Peter in Love Actually, his career was just starting out. In the film, his character didn’t have a huge plot line — basically, he married Keira Knightley and that was about it!
These days, he’s not only a Hollywood star, but also an undeniably excellent actor with loads of experience. In 2015, he told Interview, “After a while of doing [film acting], you get a sense of whether something is working, whether you feel that it is connected, whether it is locked in, whether it is telling the story.” It’s clear Ejiofor knows exactly what he is doing and takes his craft seriously. And he doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. When asked where he’d be in 20 years, he said, “Certainly acting. I enjoy writing and directing. So a combination of all those things over the next 20 years would be quite interesting to me.” We can’t wait to see what’s next!
Love Actually star Andrew Lincoln starred in The Walking Dead
Andrew Lincoln played Mark, one of Love Actually‘s most memorable characters thanks to his iconic cue cards scene with Keira Knightley. Mark, who loved his best friend’s wife, was a quiet, forlorn, and somewhat creepy character — as co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor admitted to People. Ejiofor also joked, “I did set the zombies after him, so he got his comeuppance.”
He was referring, of course, to Lincoln’s career-defining role. In 2010, Lincoln was cast as Rick Grimes, the star of The Walking Dead. The show ended up being huge — he played the role from 2010 to 2018. And as The New York Times put it, it placed him at “the center of one of the world’s biggest pop culture franchises.”
It’s pretty funny to look back at Lincoln’s sad, love-struck character in Love Actually now, considering just how different he was to the zombie-killing Rick! However, it turns out, his role in Love Actually was what won him the role in the first place. As Sharon Bialy, the show’s casting director, told Insider, after seeing his performance as Mark, she thought, “Oh my God, he’s perfect,” and that was that!
After Love Actually, Martine McCutcheon suffered ill health that threatened her career
Hugh Grant’s love interest, Natalie, was played by the EastEnders star Martine McCutcheon. Since Love Actually, her career has been a little more subdued than some of her co-stars.
In 2017, she revealed to The Sun that she had been diagnosed with myalgic encephalopathy, or chronic fatigue syndrome, after going bankrupt in 2013. “I woke up in bed one day not knowing what time it was, feeling boiling hot and not being able to get up to open a window,” she confessed. The illness coincided with mental health problems, too. As she told the Independent, “I lost seven years of my life to depression.”
More recently, McCutcheon’s mental and physical condition seems to have improved. She even pursued a music career. She had released several albums prior to filming Love Actually, and she returned to music in 2017 with the album Lost and Found. As she explained to Red Carpet News TV, “It’s literally about my journey of losing myself and finding myself again.” It’s wonderful to see McCutcheon more like her old self again.
Lucia Moniz, who played Aurelia, has moved onto more serious roles in Portuguese cinema
Lúcia Moniz was the Portuguese actress who portrayed Aurelia, Colin Firth’s love interest in Love Actually. Aurelia didn’t have much to say in the film — after all, her character only spoke Portuguese! Nevertheless, we got plenty of expressive looks and hand gestures from Moniz. While her role in Love Actually was pretty basic, Moniz has since starred in some hard-hitting Portuguese and English films.
In 2020, she starred in the film Fatima, an English-language World War I drama about a real-life Portuguese story. Moniz plays the mother of a young girl who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary. In 2020, she spoke to HeyUGuys about how the role epitomized skepticism and cynicism — a far cry from Aurelia! Nevertheless, she did reminisce about Love Actually. She said, “Colin Firth was just my savior really. He was great,” she recalled. Sounds like even though Moniz has moved on with her career, she still looks back on Love Actually and her co-stars fondly.
After Love Actually, Rodrigo Santoro joined the cast of this HBO show
In one of the most tragic plot lines, Laura Linney’s character hooks up with her major work crush, Karl, played by Rodrigo Santoro, only to be called away by her mentally ill brother. It becomes clear that a real relationship will never work. Santoro as Karl was more eye candy than three-dimensional character. However, with his wavy hair, brooding eyes, and killer body, he’s not a character you’re likely to forget!
Since the film, Santoro has taken on a few major roles. You might recognize him as Hector Escaton, the dreamy bad boy cowboy-slash-robot in Westworld (via IMDb), though he’s pretty unrecognizable without those iconic Karl spectacles!
Santoro still looks back on Love Actually fondly after all these years. Apparently, his co-star Linney said she had the “best kiss ever” with him, to which Santoro said on People, “Same here.” He then explained how she helped him through the film as it was one of his first roles since moving from Brazil. It’s so cool to see how far he’s come!
Kris Marshall has shed his dorky, boyish looks since Love Actually
Kris Marshall played Colin, who traveled to America to find love because American girls are “game for a laugh.” In a ridiculous twist of fate, Colin does end finding a group of beautiful women who can’t get enough of his accent in spite of his dorky looks. While you may not immediately recognize Marshall, the actor has actually had a pretty impressive career thanks to his comedic skills.
Marshall was already famously playing man-child Nick in My Family. After Love Actually, he made us laugh as Dave, the Muslim convert and the “straight man,” in Citizen Khan. However, he’s also proven his acting chops throughout his career, as he played a more serious role as a detective in Death in Paradise and the complex, troubled Tom Parker in the period drama Sanditon.
These days, Marshall looks nothing like the young Colin. In fact, he’s settled down and become a dedicated family man. As he said on Lorraine, he refuses to take jobs that take him away from his family for too long. “I couldn’t have my son going, ‘Who’s that person?'” he explained. How sweet!
Laura Linney, who played Sarah in Love Actually, is now one of America's most respected actors
Laura Linney played Sarah, the meek, shy office worker who cares for her mentally ill brother and pines after the hunky Karl. Since the film, she has certainly shown her range. In fact, Laura Linney has definitely become a household name these days. Her impressive list of credits includes The Truman Show, John Adams, Nocturnal Animals, and Ozark, among many other titles. With Oscar nominations, as well as Emmys and Golden Globe wins (via IMDb), Linney has secured her place in the list of the great American actors. She has also proven herself on stage in impressive Broadway plays beginning in the ’90s. By the looks of things, the Love Actually team was lucky to have her!
Despite her lengthy and seriously impressive career, Linney still has a soft spot for the Christmas movie. As she explained on The Graham Norton Show, people tend to feel sorry for her character. “But they shouldn’t because I really believe I got the best kiss in that movie hands down,” she joked.
Bill Nighy is still a staple of British TV and film
Love Actually certainly would not be complete without Billy Mack. Bill Nighy plays the washed up rock star who promises to perform on live TV naked if his subpar Christmas remake of “Love Is All Around” reaches No. 1. When Love Actually was filmed, Nighy already had a vibrant career (via IMDb). And by the looks of things, not much has changed! As one interviewer for The Guardian explained after meeting him on two occasions 16 years apart, “He is a remarkably consistent person.”
Nighy has taken on a series of iconic roles in About Time, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Dad’s Army, and more. But despite his lengthy career, which spans decades, Nighy still gets anxious about his work and hates seeing himself on screen. “You’ve got to watch yourself act and see yourself not pulling off all those things you thought you might, this time, have pulled off,” he described. It’s crazy to think that this legend is so anxious!
Olivia Olson, who played Joanna in Love Actually, went on to work as a voice actor
Olivia Olson played the young Joanna, who caught the eye of Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s Sam. She didn’t have many scenes in the film, but she did bring us her very own rendition of the Christmas classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You” at the climactic school Christmas show.
It turns out that Olson is still singing! In 2019, she appeared on X Factor Celebrity. Unfortunately, she was sent home in an emotional episode when Simon Cowell chose to save another contestant. She took to Instagram to say, “I’m grateful for the opportunity as it has completely pushed me out of my comfort zone, reminding myself I love to be up on that stage.”
By the looks of things, Olson is keeping busy in spite of the X Factor set back. She voiced Vanessa on Phineas and Ferb (her Love Actually co-star Brodie-Sangster voiced lead character Ferb!). Plus, she has worked as a voice actor for many other shows and video games like Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls (via IMDb). We can only hope that we get to see her up on stage again soon!
Heike Makatsch, who played Mia in Love Actually, is seriously famous in Germany
Mia was the conniving seductress at the office where Alan Rickman’s character worked who lured him away from the lovely Emma Thompson. She was pretty much the only “villain” in Love Actually — she even donned devil horns at the art gallery opening! Mia was played by the German actress Heike Makatsch. You may recognize her from her English-speaking roles as Lisa in Resident Evil or Liesl’s Mother in The Book Thief. While Makatsch has worked in English cinema a few times, her real success lies in Germany.
According to the Goethe Institut, Makatsch is “one of the most sought-after and prize-laden [actresses] in Germany.” Apparently, she starred in one of Germany’s biggest films ever made, Hilde, a film about the famous German singer Hildegard Knef.
It turns out, Makatsch also had a pretty interesting personal life. According to Daily Record, she dated 007 himself, Daniel Craig, for seven years! These days, however, she’s reportedly settled down with Hilde co-star Tystan Pütter (via Daily Feed).
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