LOS ANGELES — Let’s officially designate this as the Richard Curtis Summer, crossing most media:
— It started early on TV, with the “Red Nose Day” special May 23. That’s part of a global charity Curtis co-founded 34 years ago, raising (so far) more than $1.3 billion.
— It reached movie theaters on June 28 with “Yesterday.” That has passed $100 million worldwide, which would be minor in the superhero universe, but is big for a sweet-spirited comedy/drama.
— And now it reaches the streaming world. “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” sleek and amiable, starts Wednesday (July 31) on Hulu, adapting his movie. “It’s a British institution almost, those Richard Curtis films.” said Nathalie Emmanuel, one of the stars.
Like other Curtis films — “Love, Actually,” “Notting Hill,” etc. — “Four Weddings” is familiar to all Englishfolk … eventually. “I saw it when I got the job ,” said Nikesh Patel, another series star.
The responsibility fell on three Americans – Mindy Kaling, Tracey Wigfield and Matt Warburton – to create a 10-week mini-series. “We’re all big fans of the whole Richard Curtis canon,” Wigfield said.
MGM, which owns the rights, pitched the idea to Kaling. Her reaction, she says, was basic: “I would like to do a love story (with) an African-American woman and a British-Pakistani man falling in love.”
So the writers started there and weaved in other stories, as four American friends go to London for a mega-wedding. The show’s international feel neatly fits:
— Kaling, 40. She’s an American native whose parents (an architect and an obstetrician) are from India and Bangladesh, but met in Nigeria. Now she figures she’s “a real Anglophile,” after she had a supporting role in “The Office” (based on a British series) … wrote the “Late Night” movie and co-starred with British star Emma Thompson … then had this show, filmed in London for six-plus months.
— Curtis, 62. Born in New Zealand, the son of a Czech refugee, he lived with his family in several countries – Sweden, Philippines and more – before settling in England at 11. That was 1967, when England was the center of the rock world … as reflected in his “Pirate Radio” and “Yesterday” films.
In many ways, Curtis became the classic Englishman – an Oxford grad who linked with Rowan Atkinson to write “Blackadder,” “Mr. Bean” and the two “Bean” movies. But he’s also worked overseas (including creating the “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” the HBO series filmed in Botswana). And with actor Lenny Henry, he created what became “Red Nose Day”; its TV specials – including, for a time, “Idol Gives Back” in the U.S. — raise money for global causes.
That lifts Curtis to icon status … something that made an impression on the people making the series. Curtis met with Kaling, went to the cast’s first script-reading, saw the rough-cuts and had suggestions.
“He pitched a song for the end of the second episode,” Wigfield said. “We were totally over our music budget. But we were like, ‘But Richard pitched it,’ and they’re like, ‘Alright, we’ll write the check.’”