Richard Curtis has made some of the most iconic films in British cinema history. From Notting Hill to Bridget Jones’ Diary to Love Actually, Curtis’s films are the ultimate comfort movies—but that doesn’t mean they have escaped criticism.
In recent years, the films have been critiqued for their multiple jokes and problematic comments about weight—usually directed towards the film’s female characters (who also happened to be quite slim).
During an appearance at The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Curtis was asked whether he regrets those jokes by none other than his daughter, Scarlett Curtis.
“As your daughter, I can confirm that you’re a wonderful man, and I like to think I’ve taught you a lot about feminism. So this is by no means the moment I cancel my dad live on stage. But in the last few years, there has been growing criticism from a lot of people about the ways your film, in particular, treated women of colour,” Scarlett began.
“Just to name a few of my faves: ‘tree trunk thighs’; Bridget [Jones] being overweight when she’s just a very skinny white woman; multiple counts of inappropriate male behaviour in Love Actually including the actual prime minister; a general feeling that women are visions of unattainable loveliness; and the noticeable lack of people of colour in a film called Notting Hill, which was quite literally one of the birthplaces of the British black civil rights movement.
“Are there things you wish you’d done differently?” Scarlett asked her father.
Richard immediately agreed with his daughter and expressed regret for those choices.
“I remember how shocked I was five years ago when Scarlett told 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,” Richard explained. “Those jokes aren’t any longer funny.”
“I don’t feel I was malicious at the time, but I feel I was unobservant and not as clever as I should have been.”
The director also addressed the lack of diversity in his films, including Notting Hill, when he stated, “I wish I’d been ahead of the curve. Because I came from a very undiverse school and a bunch of university friends, I think that I’ve hung on to the diversity issue to the feeling that I wouldn’t know how to write those parts.”
“I think I was just sort of stupid and wrong about that.”