It launched the careers of stars like Hugh Grant, and inspired a slew of romantic comedies.
Now, 25 years after its release, most of the original cast of Four Weddings and a Funeral have reunited for a short sequel to be shown during Friday’s Comic Relief telethon on BBC One.
What can we expect from the sequel?
Four Weddings writer – and Comic Relief co-founder – Richard Curtis has written the new instalment, called One Red Nose Day and a Wedding.
As well as Grant, actors including Andie MacDowell, Rowan Atkinson, Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, James Fleet and John Hannah have reprised their roles for charity. We also know there are special guests including Susanna Reid.
The original film followed a group of friends as they attended – you guessed it – four weddings and a funeral.
Curtis has revealed some details of the sequel’s plot.
He says: “It’s 25 years since the film came out, and I was never going to follow it up.
“And then it did just occur to us that the characters in the movie would have children so they might be back in the wedding phase again.
“Without revealing too much, we have another wedding and a reception after the wedding, and all the characters came back.”
At the end of the original film, it was revealed that Charles (Grant) and Carrie (MacDowell) had a baby.
Could that baby have grown up to be a character played by Lily James, who was pictured on set in December in a suspiciously bridal costume?
We will find out at some point during Comic Relief, which kicks off at 19:00 GMT.
Two Oscar nominations and a hit song (and THAT dress)
Four Weddings was a huge hit when it was released in 1994, and Grant’s portrayal of bumbling bachelor Charles made him an instant international star.
Before Four Weddings, the actor’s career was going nowhere and he had taken work teaching French actress Juliette Binoche how to do an English accent, being paid cash in hand.
Upon the film’s release, he wasn’t the only one who achieved sudden stardom – girlfriend Liz Hurley dominated the tabloid front pages after turning up to the UK premiere in what became known in the press simply as “THAT dress”.
In the years following Four Weddings, Grant went on to play similarly tongue-tied romantic leads in a string of British and Hollywood films, including Curtis’s own Notting Hill and Love Actually.
Four Weddings made £187m at box offices worldwide, was nominated for best picture and best screenplay at the Oscars, and the film’s theme song – Wet Wet Wet’s Love Is All Around – spent 15 weeks at the top of the UK charts.
Why did we fall in love with Four Weddings?
Clarisse Loughrey, culture reporter for The Independent, says its very Britishness was one of the keys to its success.
“There’s a touch of national pride to it, I think,” she says. “The rom-com genre is otherwise completely dominated by Hollywood, but Four Weddings and a Funeral is a film that feels British to its very core – all the way from Hugh Grant’s floppy hair to the delightfully profusive swearing.”
Sarah O’Connell, film critic and host of YouTube talk show The Sarah O’Connell Show, points out that an early US release helped boost its popularity in the UK: “Four Weddings was actually released in the US two months before its UK debut, by which time, it had already garnered critical acclaim.
“Early word of mouth also helped generate a buzz to ensure that everyone wanted to see it, in the same way that Mamma Mia and The Greatest Showman more recently became event movies.”
But Four Weddings didn’t win over every viewer. Curtis recounts how, at the premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah, the town council walked out due to the swearing in the opening sequence.
Dr Louis Bayman, lecturer in film studies at the University of Southampton, says it’s the film’s portrayal of romance that gives it such lasting appeal.
“I think what is most notable about the film is how it manages to register change while remaining a very traditional love story – classic, even.
“The characters swear, have modern jobs and lifestyles, are very recognisably ’90s’, there are important gay roles, and yet it also harks back to notions of true love which strike people as timeless.”
O’Connell says the film’s single-handedly raised the profile of British films: “Four Weddings and a Funeral proved that British romantic comedies, even relatively low budget ones, could become international hits.”
She continues: “For a long time after its release, many romantic comedies had ambitions to be, and marketed themselves as, the next Four Weddings.
“Twenty-five years later, the iconic film is still celebrated and remembered fondly, and rightly so. “
Five things you might not know about Four Weddings and a Funeral
- Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd worked as an “aristocracy co-ordinator” on the film, getting people such as the Earl of Burlington to make unpaid cameos as wedding guests.
- The British Board of Film Classification dubbed the film “smug” and “morally bankrupt”.
- The Crown’s Alex Jennings and Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker were reportedly Curtis’s first choices to play Charles and Carrie. Parker is now famous for playing another Carrie – Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City.
- Waterworld’s Jeanne Tripplehorn turned down the role of Carrie. She went on to star opposite Grant in the 1999 gangster rom-com Mickey Blue Eyes.
- Studio executives wanted the title changed, arguing that it could put men off. Suggested alternatives included True Love and Near Misses, Rolling in the Aisles and Skulking Around.
Some characters won’t be returning
Not all the original cast will be in the sequel. Charlotte Coleman, who played Scarlett, died in 2001 after an asthma attack, aged just 33.
It’s also unlikely that Simon Callow will return, as his character Gareth died in the last film – leading to the funeral of the title.
Dr Bayman says it’s a shame Gareth didn’t make it through the first film. He says: “Simon Callow deserves mention for his powerhouse performance and for establishing the presence of gay romance alongside straight ones.
“However, the fact that his is the one character who dies, rather than ties the knot and lives happily ever after, was criticised at the time and seems now to suggest the limitations on gay representation even then.”
There’s another Four Weddings spin-off in the works
The sequel is not the first time Curtis has followed up one of his biggest successes.
He wrote a short sequel to his 2003 hit Love Actually for Comic Relief 2017. It helped raise a lot of money for charity, but the responses were mixed.
Many are excited to see what’s become of the Four Weddings characters 25 years on, and it will surely also help raise lots of money. But this isn’t, to misquote Star Wars, the sequel everyone is looking for.
Hulu is also developing a TV mini-series based on the film with actress and producer Mindy Kaling. Game of Thrones and former Hollyoaks alumni Nathalie Emmanuel is slated to star.
Loughrey says: “To be honest, I’m more interested in what Mindy Kaling’s television series based on the film might achieve.
“The Mindy Project felt modern and relatable in its romantic relationships, and I’d be interested in seeing this same concept approached from a female perspective.”