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Sunday June 23rd 2024

Love Actually | 2003

Love Actually film location: Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Mayfair, London
Love Actually film location: All You Need Is Love – actually, the wedding of Peter and Juliet: Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Mayfair, London
Love Actually poster

The ultimate London romcom comes on like a 'Greatest Hits' package, with director Richard Curtis delivering eight feelgood climaxes as he commits grievous bodily assault on the tearducts, swept along by Craig Armstrong's swooningly emotional score.

▶ The movie opens and closes at London's major air terminal, Heathrow Airport, with Hugh Grant's voiceover reassuring us of the ubiquity of warm, fuzzy feelings. The shots of emotional travellers were grabbed documentary-style. Don't worry. Your furtive assignation won't be up there on the big screen – everyone who's featured gave permission to be in the film.

The 'Five weeks to Christmas' swiftly establishes the city.

Love Actually film location: Whiteley's, Bayswater, London
Love Actually film location: dressed for Christmas: Whiteley's, Bayswater, London

▶ The galleried atrium is that of Whiteley’s Centre, Queensway, Bayswater, W2, the vast department store dating from 1911 but had a complete makeover in 1989. It's where Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) uses an old pedoscope (foot X-ray machine) to examine the contents of a flask in Ken Russell's 1967 Billion Dollar Brain, and where Julia Roberts holds her photographic exhibition in Mike Nichols’ film of Closer.

The store closed in 2018 and is supposedly being converted into a hotel.

Love Actually film location: South Molton Street, London
Love Actually film location: Christmas lights in the opening montage: South Molton Street, London

The shopping street hung with festive lights is South Molton Street, which runs southeast from alongside Bond Street Tube Station on Oxford Street in the West End.

▶ The central court of Somerset House in the Strand, saw sterling service as a movie location over the years (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Duchess etc) when it was a rather dull parking lot. Since the building’s renovation, it has been transformed into a pleasant fountain court and, in winter, a skating rink, which is how it appears in the film’s opening montage. In the summer, there are outdoor movie screenings.

And, of course, there's Trafalgar Square where a giant Christmas tree, a traditional gift from Norway, is erected every year.

Love Actually film location: Blenheim Road, Turnham Green, London
Love Actually film location: Jamie discovers his girlfriend in flagrante: Blenheim Road, Turnham Green, London

▶ Over in the suburbs of West London, the private house at 2a Blenheim Road, Turnham Green, W4, was home to writer Jamie Bennett (Colin Firth), where he discovers his girlfriend in flagrante with his brother before fleeing to his cottage in France.

▶ Not quite so far west, the recording studio, where Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records his cheesy Christmas record, is Westway Studios, 8 Olaf Street in Notting Hill, W11.

▶ Mack's record company office is unmistakably City Hall, the London Assembly Building on the South Bank with that view of Tower Bridge through the window.

▶ And the radio studio, where Billy Mack finally reveals that his record is crap and that Britney Spears was a lousy shag, is Heat Radio, Mappin House, 4 Winsley Street, off Oxford Street, London W1.

Love Actually film location: Tabernacle Street, Shoreditch, London EC2
Love Actually film location: Colin delivers sandwiches to the 'Fairtrade office': Tabernacle Street, Shoreditch, London EC2

'Fairtrade Ltd', the workplace of Harry (Alan Rickman) and Sarah (Laura Linney), to which caterer Colin (Kris Marshall) delivers his 'Munch Mob' sandwiches behind the credits is EMA House on Tabernacle Street at Clere Street (mysteriously renamed 'Dowe Street' for the film, although the real "Formerly Paradise Street" sign remains), in Shoreditch, London EC2.

Love Actually film location: Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Mayfair, London
Love Actually film location: All You Need Is Love – actually: the wedding at Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Mayfair, London

▶ The film's big set-piece 'surprise' wedding, as Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) marries Juliet (Keira Knightley) to the unexpected strains of All You Need Is Love, is conducted in the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, W1, just behind the posh Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane in the exclusive Mayfair district. Regular music concerts are held here – but don't expect them to be staged as elaborately as in the film.

Love Actually film location: Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1
Love Actually film location: the 'South Bank Gallery': Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1

▶ The ‘Nile Street’ gallery run by Mark (Andrew Lincoln), where Juliet calls him to ask if he has any video shots of the wedding, was an empty office – now a solicitors – at 23-25 Great Sutton Street, in trendy Clerkenwell, EC1 – which was Hugh Grant's neighbourhood in the 2002 film of Nick Hornby's About A Boy.

Love Actually film location: Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1
Love Actually film location: the office where Harry works with the flirtatious Mia: Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1

Alongside the 'gallery', at 26-27 Great Sutton Street, is the stretch of road where Harry is off to do his Christmas shopping as the flirtatious Mia (Heike Makatsch) phones him about her present.

Love Actually film location: St Christopher's Place, London
Love Actually film location: Harry meets up with Karen: St Christopher's Place, London

Harry is off to meet up with his wife Karen (Emma Thompson) at nearby St Christopher’s Place, a small shopping piazza behind the famous Selfridges department store on Oxford Street.

It's in Selfridges that he furtively buys a necklace for Mia. The shop assistant character (Rowan Atkinson), who makes such an elaborate job of wrapping the gift, was originally meant to be a recurring deus ex machina angel character (which is why he reappears with an unexplained knowing smile at the airport towards the end of the film).

One of the first great department stores, there's been a Selfridges on this site since 1909. If you find the sculptural frontage too modest, you’ll be disappointed to learn that a plan to crown the building with a gigantic tower was never realised. But you probably know all about the store from TV series Mr Selfridge, with Jeremy Piven as the business's founder.

Love Actually film location: Selfridge’s, Oxford Street, London
Love Actually film location: Alan Rickman buys the necklace: Selfridge’s, Oxford Street, London

Oxford Street, an inexplicably crowded shopping hell, is expensive to close down on a weekday, or open up on a Sunday, it's rarely seen on screen, though it’s featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy – but the magic name of Richard Curtis coaxed Selfridges & Co, 400 Oxford Street, W1, to open its doors for filming.

▶ The distraught Daniel (Liam Neeson) bravely weathers the strains of the Bay City Rollers at the funeral of his wife, held in St Paul’s Clapham, Rectory Grove, in Clapham, SW4, south of the Thames.

Love Actually film location: Gabriel’s Wharf, South Bank, London
Love Actually film location: Liam Neeson’s heart-to-heart: Gabriel’s Wharf, South Bank, London

▶ On the South Bank of the River Thames, east of Waterloo Bridge and the National Theatre, is Gabriel’s Wharf, SE1, a section of Queen’s Walk (the walking path running alongside the south bank of the river). It's here, in front of the Riviera Restaurant, 56 Upper Ground, you’ll find the bench on which Daniel, during a heart-to-heart chat, discovers that his distracted son (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is – actually – in love.

The benches remain, though purists looking for the perfect photo op might be disappointed to learn that the benches have been very slightly re-positioned. Close enough, though.

Love Actually film location: Barge House Street, London SE1
Love Actually film location: Mark leaves Juliet alone after watching the wedding video: Barge House Street, London SE1

▶ Slightly further east along the walk is the Oxo Tower Wharf complex, home to Mark, where he embarrassedly leaves Juliet (Keira Knightley) with the wedding video. He exits the flat by the rear entrance of the wharf building on Barge House Street, SE1, through the courtyard to Oxo Tower Wharf itself.

The tower houses the Oxo Brasserie, featured in Thor: The Dark World. It’s also on the Thames pier here that disgracefully aging actor Maurice (Peter O’Toole) recites a speech from Macbeth for an unappreciative Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) in Venus.

Love Actually film location: St Luke's Mews, Notting Hill, London
Love Actually film location: Mark declares his love silently: St Luke’s Mews, Notting Hill, London

▶ In the heart Notting Hill, the home of newlyweds Peter and Juliet – where sadly lovestruck Mark silently declares his love with cue cards, is 27 St Luke’s Mews, W11. The original script called for him to carpet the mews with rose petals – an excellent change, I think.

This is a popular area – it’s in the same Mews that Bill Murray gets mugged, all the while assuming it’s part of the ‘Theatre of Life’ experience, in Jon Amiel’s comedy thriller The Man Who Knew Too Little. And a couple of minutes away stood the pub which became ‘The Mother Black Cap’ in cult favourite Withnail & I (finally demolished in 2010).

In these days of strict security, ‘10 Downing Street’, the official residence of the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), was represented by a set built onstage at Shepperton Studio.

Love Actually film location: Poplar Road, Herne Hill, London
Love Actually film location: ‘the dodgy end of Wandsworth’: Poplar Road, Herne Hill, London

▶ In a fairytale development, the PM realises he's in love with new staff member Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), and on Christmas Eve, races off to search for her in ‘the dodgy end of Wandsworth’.

This involves driving across Albert Bridge in Chelsea, SW3, one of the most charmingly extravagant Thames crossings, particularly as in the film, when illuminated at night.

Natalie's 'Wandsworth' home turns out to be 102 Poplar Road, Herne Hill, SE24, where he eventually finds her.

▶ She's on her way to a family outing, so it's during the a school concert at what was Elliott School, now Ark Putney Academy, Pullman Gardens, Putney, SW15, southwest London, that their relationship is revealed to an astonished public.

▶ You won’t find planes at the ‘airport’ from which Colin departs to find fulfillment in Wisconsin. It’s not an airport at all, but Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher, about 15 miles southwest of London, in Surrey. What is it with racecourses standing in for airports? Sandown previously stood in for ‘Johannesburg Airport’ in Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom, and ‘St Petersburg Airport’ in GoldenEye is Epsom Racecourse. The ‘Wisconsin’ bar itself, by the way, was no further away than a set built on the Shepperton backlot.

▶ And, away from London, the French restaurant, where writer Jamie finally declares his love for Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) is Le Bar de la Marine, 15 quai de Rive Neuve, the Old Port in Marseille, in the South of France, which was also the setting for Marcel Pagnol’s 1931 film Marius.