Notting Hill is a 1999 romantic comedy film set in Notting Hill, London, released on 21 May 1999. The screenplay was written by Richard Curtis who had previously written Four Weddings and a Funeral. It was produced by Duncan Kenworthy, and directed by Roger Michell. The film stars Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans, Emma Chambers, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee and Hugh Bonneville.

Bookshop owner William Thacker's world begins to turn upside down after the world's most famous actress, Anna Scott, visits his store. A few minutes later, Will knocks into Anna on the street and spills his orange juice over her. He offers her his place to change, and hence starts a tense courtship between an everyday man and the woman every man dreams of.

The film was well received by critics, and charted well at the box office, becoming the highest grossing British film yet released. The film won a BAFTA, and was nominated in two other categories. Notting Hill won several other awards, including a British Comedy Award and a Brit Award for the soundtrack.

Plot[edit | edit source]

William Thacker is the owner of an independent bookstore in Notting Hill that specializes in travel writing. Witty and handsome, he has not been coping well with his divorce and is currently sharing his house with an eccentric Welsh wannabe artist named Spike. One day, Thacker encounters world-famous Hollywood actress Anna Scott during her trip to London, when she enters his shop to purchase a book. Shortly thereafter, the pair accidentally collide in the street, causing William to spill his orange juice on the both of them. He offers his house, which is just across the road, as a place for Anna to get changed. She accepts and they retire to his abode. Having changed, Anna surprises William with a kiss and plants the seeds for their mutual attraction.

Days later, William asks Spike if he has any messages. Spike has trouble writing down or remembering any messages left for Will, but does recall "Some American girl called Anna" calling a few days previous. Anna is staying at the Ritz, under a pseudonym, and asks William to come and visit her. When he arrives, Anna's room has become the centre for a press day and as a result, William is mistaken for a member of the press. In a moment of panic he claims he works for Horse & Hound magazine. He has to interview every single cast member of Anna's new film Helix, even though he has not seen the film himself. William does get to talk to Anna, and invites her to his sister Honey's birthday party.

There, at Max and Bella's house, Anna feels at home with William's circle of friends, putting up a good case for the "last brownie". The pair go on several dates, to the cinema and to a restaurant. Anna invites William back to her hotel room, only to find her American boyfriend, Jeff King, already there. Although Anna asserts that they have broken up, William decides to leave anyway. Some time later, Anna arrives on William's doorstep, hoping for a place to stay. Some degrading images of her that look like a porn film have been leaked to the press. The newspapers have consequently started ridiculing her (calling her "Scott of Pantarctica" and "Wotta Lotta Scott") and she needs to hide out. The pair bond once again, with William helping Anna learn lines for her new film. That night, the pair sleep together for the first time. In the morning, William is stunned to see a throng of reporters at their doorstep, it seems that careless talk by Spike down at the pub the previous night had alerted the media to Anna's whereabouts. She leaves in a hurry, and William decides once and for all to forget her.

One year later, Anna returns to England to make a Henry James film, which William had suggested she do. She invites him to the set of the film and he listens to the sound recording whilst Anna is busy filming. He overhears her telling her co-star that William is "just some guy", and leaves. The next day, Anna comes to the bookshop once again, hoping to resume their love affair, but William turns her down. Afterwards, William consults his friends on his decision, leading him to realize that he has just made the biggest mistake of his life. He and his friends search for Anna, racing across London in Max's car. They reach Anna's press conference before she leaves for the United States, and William successfully persuades her to stay in England with him. Anna and William get married, with the film concluding with a shot of William and a pregnant Anna sitting on a park bench in Notting Hill.

Production[edit | edit source]

Richard Curtis developed the idea for the film from thoughts he had, whilst lying awake at night. He described the starting point for the plot as "the idea of a very normal person going out with an unbelievably famous person and how that impinges on their lives". Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell was approached for the film, but rejected it to work on Pushing Tin instead. He did later admit that in commercial terms he had made the wrong decision, but did not regret it. The film's producer Duncan Kenworthy then turned to Roger Michell, stating that "Finding someone as good as Roger, was just like finding the right actor to play each role. Roger shone out."

Curtis chose the setting of Notting Hill for the film as he lived there and knew the area well, stating "Notting Hill is a melting pot and the perfect place to set a film". This left the producers with a challenge of having to film in a heavily populated area. Kenworthy noted "Early on, we toyed with the idea of building a huge exterior set. That way we would have more control, because we were worried about having Roberts and Grant on public streets where we could get thousands of onlookers." In the end they decided to take the risk anyway and film in the actual streets. Michell was worried "that Hugh and Julia were going to turn up on the first day of shooting on Portobello Road, and there would be gridlock and we would be surrounded by thousands of people and paparazzi photographers who would prevent us from shooting". The location team, and security forces prevented this, as well as preventing problems the presence of a film crew may have caused the residents of Notting Hill, who Michell believes were "genuinely excited" about the film. The film's location manager Sue Quinn described her job of finding suitable locations and getting permission to film there as "a mammoth task". Quinn and the rest of her location team had to send letters to thousands of people in the area, promising that they would donate to each person's favourite charity, resulting in over two hundred different charities receiving money from the film project.

The film's production designer was Stuart Craig who was pleased for the chance to do a contemporary film, stating on the film "we're dealing with streets with thousands of people, market traders, shop owners and residents which makes it really complex".[8] Filming began on 17 April 1998, in both West London and at Shepperton Studios. Will's bookshop was situated on Portobello Road, which was one of the main areas in which filming took place. Other places within Notting Hill where filming took place included Westbourne Park Road, Golborne Road, Landsdowne Road and the Coronet Cinema. After filming for a period of six weeks in Notting Hill, filming moved to the Ritz Hotel, where filming had to take place at night, the Savoy Hotel, the Nobu Restaurant, the Zen Garden of the Hempel Hotel and Kenwood House. One the film's final scenes takes place at a film premiere, which presented difficulties for the production team. Michell wanted to film the scene in Leicester Square, but the request was declined. Police had found the fans at a recent Leonardo DiCaprio premiere problematic, and the police were concerned the same problems might occur at the staged premiere. Through a health and safety act, the production received permission to film and constructed the scene in just twenty-four hours.[8] Interior scenes were the last scenes to be filmed, with them taking place at Shepperton Studios. After filming was completed, the final cut of the film was three and a half hours long, with ninety minutes of footage being edited out for the film's release.

The film features the 1950 Marc Chagall painting La Mariée. In the story, Anna sees a print of the painting in William's home, and later gives him what is presumably the original. According to director Michell in an article in Entertainment Weekly, the painting was chosen because screenwriter Curtis was a fan of Chagall's work, and because La Mariée "depicts a yearning for something that's lost." The producers had a reproduction made for use in the film, but had to first get permission from the painting's owners as well as clearance from the British Design and Artists Copyright Society. Finally, according to producer Kenworthy, "we had to agree to destroy it. They were concerned that if our fake was too good, it might float around the market and create problems." The article also noted that "some experts say the real canvas could be worth between $500,000 and $1 million."

Music for the film was composed by Trevor Jones. Several additional songs written by other artists appeared on the film's soundtrack. These include Elvis Costello's cover of the Charles Aznavour song "She", as well as Ronan Keating's specially recorded cover version of "When You Say Nothing at All"; the song reached number one in the British charts. Originally, Charles Aznavour's version of "She" was used in the film, but American test screening audiences did not respond to it. Costello was then brought in by Richard Curtis to record a cover version of the song. Both versions of the song appear in non-U.S. releases.

Locations[edit | edit source]

The real travel bookshop.

Saint's Tattoo Studio[edit | edit source]

In the opening sequence, Saint's Tattoo Studio, in Portobello Road was featured and refered to as the 'The Tattoo Parlour' and showed a man coming out with a tattoo that says 'I Love Ken'.

Bookshop[edit | edit source]

The travel bookshop was based on an actual travel bookshop just off Portobello Road. However the shop used in the film was in fact an antiques store on Portobello Road. It is now a Gong furniture store.

The Blue Door[edit | edit source]

The house used as Will's house just off Portobello Road was mobbed with fans and tourists after the films release. They often took scrapings of the blue paint as souvenirs. After having to repaint several times, the owners decided to paint the door black. The pub accross the road has a sign in the window saying "the blue door is black".

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