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20 years later, 'Love Actually' director admits handwritten sign scene is 'a bit weird'

The British romantic comedy "Love Actually" was released in 2003, a film which many may now consider to be a classic around the holidays.

The movie, directed by Richard Curtis, features the separate, and eventually intertwining stories of a star-studded and mostly-British cast finding love of all kinds around Christmas, including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley and Emma Thompson, among others.

Over the years, however, one scene has become a subject of repeated online discourse. It's near the end of the film, where Mark (played by Andrew Lincoln) silently confesses his love to Juliet (played by Keira Knightley) outside of her home using handwritten signs and telling her "to me, you are perfect," even though she is married to his best friend, who remains inside and oblivious.

'Love Actually': Where to watch, streaming info, TV times and cast

'Love Actually' director: 'We didn't think it was a stalker scene'

Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley in a scene from "Love Actually."
Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley in a scene from "Love Actually."

In a November interview with The Independent, Curtis said he agrees with the sentiment that the scene is a bit strange.

"He actually turns up, to his best friend’s house, to say to his best friend’s wife, on the off chance that she answers the door, 'I love you,'" Curtis told The Independent. "I think it’s a bit weird."

Curtis added that at the time the film was made, "we didn't think it was a stalker scene. But if it’s interesting or funny for different reasons [now] then, you know, God bless our progressive world."

Has 'Love Actually' aged well? Some disagree

Beyond the sign scene, not everyone looks back fondly on the other moments in "Love Actually."

The movie does (barely) pass the Bechdel Test, a test for movies where two named women in a movie who talk to each other have to have a conversation about something other than a man. One of the only scenes that passes the test is when Karen (played by Emma Thompson) has a conversation with her daughter, Daisy, about her role in the school's nativity play, where she is cast as "first lobster."

The movie has a number of references to women's weight, especially concerning the character Natalie (played by Martine McCutcheon). Natalie works for the Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant), and tells him her boyfriend dumped her because she was getting fat. There's also a scene where the Prime Minister refers to her as the "chubby girl," and her own father later calls her "Plumpy."

Curtis, in the interview with The Independent, noted that his daughter Scarlett held him to account on some of the more controversial aspects of "Love Actually" and some of his older movies at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October, especially the ways those movies "in particular treated women and people of color."

Has the entertainment industry changed since 2003's 'Love Actually?'

Although some of the themes and jokes made in "Love Actually" may not differ much from other movies released in 2003, perhaps its yearly scrutiny comes with its association as a holiday movie. In the 20 years since, the entertainment industry has tried to move more toward equality both behind and in front of the camera, although some say it has not moved far enough.

A 2023 report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative examined 69,858 speaking characters and 1,600 top films from 2007 to 2022. The report found that the percentage of females in leading and co-leading roles reached a 16-year high of 44% in 2022. But there was no meaningful change in the percentage of female-speaking characters: 34.6%, only slightly higher than 2021's mark of 33.1%. Only 15% of 2022’s top 100 movies featured a cast that was gender-balanced, and just one nonbinary character was featured in that crop of projects.

And the annual UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report released in March found ethnic and gender diversity in 2022 movie releases reverted back to 2019 or 2018 levels in a number of metrics, both in front of and behind the camera.

“The fear is that diversity is something is temporary or could be easily cut at any point in either theatrical or streaming,” said Christina Ramón, director of the Entertainment and Media Research Initiative at UCLA, which produced the report.

“What will be interesting to see is what happens in 2023 if it continues to have this bifurcation," Ramón previously said.

Contributing: Associated Press; Brian Truitt, USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Love Actually' card scene is 'a bit weird': Director Richard Curtis