TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
Best known as the screenwriter of the popular British romantic comedies "Four Weddings and A Funeral" (1994) and "Notting Hill" (1999), Richard Curtis has also worked with some of England's finest comedians and biggest stars, his most frequent collaborator being fellow Oxford alumnus Rowan Atkinson. A New Zealander by birth who lived in various locales due to his father's business commitments, Curtis attended Oxford University's Christ Church College, where he majored in English and met graduate student Atkinson. The two quickly became creative partners, leading to a hit performance at 1979's Edinburgh Festival that brought the pair notice and an offer for the BBC-2 series "Not the Nine O'Clock News". Written by Curtis and Atkinson and starring Atkinson alongside a cast including future director Mel Smith, this irreverent and influential sketch comedy program ran from 1979 to 1982. In 1983, Curtis and Atkinson teamed up to write the 15th Century set comedy "The Black Adder", starring Atkinson as an unsavory son of King Richard IV. The series would be reborn in 1986, with co-writer Ben Elton collaborating with Curtis as "Blackadder II", starring Atkinson alongside Miranda Richardson as Queen Elizabeth...
Best known as the screenwriter of the popular British romantic comedies "Four Weddings and A Funeral" (1994) and "Notting Hill" (1999), Richard Curtis has also worked with some of England's finest comedians and biggest stars, his most frequent collaborator being fellow Oxford alumnus Rowan Atkinson. A New Zealander by birth who lived in various locales due to his father's business commitments, Curtis attended Oxford University's Christ Church College, where he majored in English and met graduate student Atkinson. The two quickly became creative partners, leading to a hit performance at 1979's Edinburgh Festival that brought the pair notice and an offer for the BBC-2 series "Not the Nine O'Clock News". Written by Curtis and Atkinson and starring Atkinson alongside a cast including future director Mel Smith, this irreverent and influential sketch comedy program ran from 1979 to 1982. In 1983, Curtis and Atkinson teamed up to write the 15th Century set comedy "The Black Adder", starring Atkinson as an unsavory son of King Richard IV. The series would be reborn in 1986, with co-writer Ben Elton collaborating with Curtis as "Blackadder II", starring Atkinson alongside Miranda Richardson as Queen Elizabeth I as a lord of her court, a direct descendant of the original series' subject, and equally as slimy and scheming. The following year, Elton and Curtis created "Black Adder the Third", this time with Atkinson playing the butler of Hugh Laurie's Prince Regent in a French Revolution-era England. 1988's special "Black Adder's Christmas Carol" featured Atkinson as old Ebenezer, alongside such British luminaries as Robbie Coltrane, Miriam Margolyes and Stephen Fry as well as series veterans Tony Robinson, Hugh Laurie and Miranda Richardson. In 1989, Atkinson and company completed the (to date) last installment, "Blackadder Goes Forth". Also penned by Elton and Curtis, this chapter starred Captain Blackadder, battling on the frontlines of northern France during World War I.
While 1989 seemingly marked the end of Blackadder, the partnership of Curtis and Rowan Atkinson was far from over. In addition to a featured role in Curtis' feature screenwriting debut, "The Tall Guy" (1989), Atkinson starred in the screenwriter's next television undertaking, a project quite unlike anything else he had previously written. "Mr. Bean", featuring Atkinson as a virtually mute somewhat misanthropic fool, began its run on Britain's ITV in 1990. As the program featured little or no dialogue in any given episode, Curtis established a new way of writing for the series. He would formulate Bean's gestures, movements and reactions in front of a mirror and present them visually to Rowan Atkinson. A tremendous hit in England, the show ran until 1995, and aired in the USA on HBO and PBS and spawned the film "Bean/Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie" (1997). The latter, written by Curtis and directed by Mel Smith, proved a record-breaking international hit before opening to smaller returns in the USA. Atkinson was also featured in Curtis' 1991 British TV movie comedy "Bernard and the Genie". This lighthearted fable starred then virtual unknown Alan Cumming as Bernard and comic favorite Lenny Henry as the Genie. Additional television projects included "The Vicar of Dibley" (1994- ), a comedy created, produced and written by Curtis, starring comedienne Dawn French (co-creator of "Absolutely Fabulous" and frequent collaborator with Jennifer Saunders) as a female cleric serving a small town.
Despite his prolific and exceptional small screen successes, Curtis is perhaps best known on American shores as the screenwriter of a trilogy of similarly themed romantic comedies: "The Tall Guy", "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill". All three films were somewhat eccentric in viewpoint and cynical in tone but ultimately sweet and optimistic in scope. They also all featured a slightly odd Yank added in to a mix of cynical Brits, with romance inevitably ensuing, and a male lead who is insecure, conflicted yet overwhelmingly charming and a female lead who is strong and mysterious, but with just the right measure of vulnerability. While the similarities could be tagged formulaic, it is one unique to Curtis, and a successful one at that, with inspired, multidimensional characters as an added feature. Charming, odd, and smart, the screenwriter's new take on the romantic comedy won over moviegoers, providing cinematic delights.
"The Tall Guy" starred Jeff Goldblum as the titular American, a straight man to an obnoxious British comedian (Atkinson) who lands a star-making role in the puzzling but popular West End musical "Elephant!", based on "The Elephant Man". This eccentric comedy, directed by "Not the Nine O'Clock News" cast member Mel Smith, became a sleeper hit in Great Britain, marked the film debut of Emma Thompson as Goldblum's love interest, and showcased Curtis' one-of-a-kind humor, a delightful mix of cynicism and sweetness.
"Four Weddings and a Funeral" proved even more successful, earning the screenwriter Oscar and BAFTA nominations and jump-started the Hollywood career of star Hugh Grant. The episodically structured film (a carry over from Curtis' sketch writing days) opened with the most succinctly scripted dialogue in recent history. A single four letter word uttered with varying meaning-laden inflection served as the only dialogue for the roughly eight minute opening sequence. From there the film presented both touching and wildly funny moments among friends, confusing and somewhat humiliating new romances and unforgettably heartbreaking goodbyes, all especially compelling because of the sheer likability of all (save perhaps Andie MacDowell's exasperatingly cold Carrie) of Curtis' characters. Rowan Atkinson had a memorable cameo in the film as well, playing a nervous novice vicar prone to malapropism at one of the weddings. Curtis also co-executive produced this Oscar-nominated Best Picture which was produced by Duncan Kenworthy and directed by Mike Newell. For a time, "Four Weddings and a Funeral" held the title as the highest-grossing film in British history.
Five years later Curtis reteamed with Hugh Grant and producer Kenworthy on "Notting Hill", a tale of an unsuccessful bookshop owner in the titled London district who meets up with and is pursued by a beautiful and charming woman who happens to be terribly famous American actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts). Grant lent his winning presence to what many would consider the luckiest man alive, an average Joe who wins the heart of everyone's superstar dream girl. Roberts was in top form as well, and Curtis' inclusion of a scene where Scott gets to tell off a group of men sitting in a restaurant rather vocally discussing their fantasies of her made for a funny moment with a poignancy not lost on the moviegoer.
Curtis next performed the nigh-impossible feat of turning novelist Helen Fielding's much-beloved bestseller Bridget Jones' Diary into screenplay form, resulting in the equally admired 2001 film of the same name, directed by Sharon Maguire. Not only did Curtis deftly figure out how to translate the pages to the screen without being pilloried by its admirers, he also crafted yet another brilliantly written scoundrel role for Hugh Grant to sink his teeth into, this time without so many redeeming features (Along with Grant and star Renee Zellweger, Curtis would return as the screenwriter for the 2004 sequel "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason").
After indulging himself in more "Mr. Bean" escapades by penning episodes of the 2002 animated incarnation of the series, Curtis then made his directorial debut with his self-penned "Love Actually" (2003), yet another romantic comedy overflowing with wit, charm and colorful performances from an stunning ensemble of Brit actors, including Grant, Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley and Colin Firth (as well as Laura Linney, Liam Neeson and others) in holiday themed, multistory confection that explored several different intertwining romantic predicaments. A unerring feel-good film levened by an acid wit, the worst one could say about "Love Actually" is that its many storylines ultimately resulted in too much of a good thing: many of the plotlines soared--such as Grant's which cast him as the British Prime Minister infatuated with the woman who serves him tea--while a handful weren't equal to the rest of the film.
Filmographyclose complete filmography
CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
Curtis was made a Commander of Order of the British Empire (CBE) in December 1999.
"The fame thing that 'Notting Hill' is about is, in a way, to do with the long-term observation of my friends in comedy and the extra pressure that's been on them. It's not in a dramatic movie star way, but a lot of the people I knew before they were famous are now famous. It slightly changes the way they think about things. Being self-conscious in the street is really the main thing, wlaking with their heads bowed." --Richard Curtis quoted in The Guardian, April 29, 1999.
Curtis on the transatlantic popularity of his films: "I think the things I've done have proved that there's no such thing as 'generic British humor'. I've never been able to see the difference between American and British humor." --quoted in the Los Angeles Times, October 26, 1997.
"Getting older and more familified, I'm interested in love of different shapes and size. I've been a married man, as it were, for ten years, so I was looking for a change. I thought, if I know how to do the love thing, why not try and do a really different version of it?"---Curtis on his film "Love Actually" Premiere December 2003
Companions close complete companion listing
Bibliography close complete biography
Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.Click here to contribute