Richard Curtis has apologised for setting a film in Notting Hill without a single black character.
The screenwriter admitted to being “stupid and wrong” in his other films because of the way he represented women and larger people.
According to The Times
Curtis, 66, was confronted over how his films had dated in an interview with his daughter, Scarlett, 28, who asked directly about his treatment of women and sex.
Speaking on stage at The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, she said: “In the last few years there has been a growing criticism around the ways your films treated women and people of colour.”
She questioned the description of Renée Zellweger’s character in Bridget Jones’s Diary as having “tree-trunk thighs” when she had a normal figure.
She also cited “multiple accounts of inappropriate boss behaviour in Love Actually, including the prime minister, how in general the women are visions of unattainable loveliness and a noticeable lack of people of colour in a film called Notting Hill — one of the birthplaces of the British black civil rights movement.”
Curtis said he regretted much of his work. “I wish I’d been ahead of the curve,” he said. In his defence, Curtis said that he had written a gay relationship as the central love in Four Weddings and a Funeral and that Simon Callow, who played Gareth, had told him that it was the first time he had been offered the part of a gay man who did not die of Aids
Curtis’s daughter pointed out that the character was still a tragic figure who died of a heart attack.
Curtis replied: “I think because I came from a very undiverse school and bunch of university friends, I think that I hung on to the feeling that I wouldn’t know how to write those parts. I think I was just stupid and wrong about that. I felt as though me, my casting director, my producers just didn’t look outwards.”
He said of his fat jokes: “I remember how shocked I was five years ago when Scarlett said to me, ‘You can never use the word ‘fat’ again.’ Wow, you were right. In my generation calling someone chubby [was funny] — in Love Actually there were jokes about that. Those jokes aren’t any longer funny.”
Curtis, said his material was not seen as malicious at the time. “I think I was unobservant and not as clever as I should have been.” He agreed that Hollywood had failed to produce consistently good romantic comedies in the way that it had mastered genres such as westerns and science fiction.
He said that he had not written Four Weddings as a romantic comedy but a series of sketches borrowed from his life. “You can’t write a very effective rom-com if it’s not part of your autobiography. The romantic bit is strangely unfakeable.”