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'Four Weddings and a Funeral' marks its 30th anniversary

The British film Four Weddings and a Funeral is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The rom com made its debut on 20 January 1994, at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, before being in the USA in March, and in Britain in May.

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The film is remembered for big hats, Hugh Grant’s floppy fringe and a depiction of a gay couple that was rarely seen in mainstream films of the time.

The film follows the journey of eligible bachelor Charles (Hugh Grant) and his group of friends who seem to spend all their time going to weddings. Among his gang of friends is flat mate Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman), friend Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas), younger brother Tom (James Fleet) and mate David (Daivd Bower). The final members of their crew are gay couple Gareth (Simon Callow) and Matthew (John Hannah).

Sadly, the film does fall into the trope of ‘kill your gays’ as the titular funeral does relate to the passing of one half of the couple. Yet at the time it was praised for presenting gay characters who were more than great best friends for the leads.

Watching the couple today is an odd experience, they actually have very few interactions with each other throughout the film, and very little affection is shown between them.

Yet, Matthew’s eulogy for Gareth is one of the film’s most powerful and memorable moments, and his reading of the 1936 poem Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden introduced a generation to the gay British poet.

The film also included many other well-known names and faces in its cast. Andie McDowell plays Carrie, an American woman who is the object of Charles affections, while Rowan Atkinson makes a memorable appearance as a vicar. David Haig and Sophie Thompson made a long-lasting impression as sex-crazed couple Bernard and Lydia, while Anna Chancellor appeared as jilted bride Henrietta.

Actor Alex Jennings, who would go on to feature in the television series The Crown was originally cast as the lead but trouble securing funding saw him leave the production. Originally Jeanne Tripplehorn was going to play Carrie but pulled out of the film when her mother died. Marissa Tomei and Sarah Jessica Parker were considered before Andie McDowell signed on.

McDowell was the biggest name in the cast, at the time she was being paid around a £1,000,000 a film. She agreed to do the film for just £250,000 and a share of the profits. Grant, who was not a box office name at the time, was paid £40,000 and the supporting cast earned £17,500 each.

When the film was released, some critics labelled it forgettable, saying audience would forget about it by the time they made it from the cinema to the carpark. They’re probably reviews they cringe at in retrospect – the film broke records for opening weekend box office for British film in the USA, won the BAAFTA for Best Film, and it’s regularly featured in polls listing the greatest comedy films of all time.

The cast reunited for a short film to support Red Nose Day in 2018. It focused on Charles and Carrie’s daughter getting married to Fiona’s daughter. Lily James and Alicia Vikander played the next generation in the special.

Sadly, one cast member could not be part of the reunion. Charlotte Coleman passed away in 2001 after suffering an asthma attack. Alongside her memorable appearance in Four Wedding and a Funeral she’d been a successful child star playing the lead in the British series Marmalade Atkins and appearing in Worzel Gummidge.   

In 1990 she starred in the television mini-series Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, the screen adaptation of Jeanette Winterson’s semi-autobiographical novel about a teenage girl growing up in an Evangelical household in the 1970s who realises she is a lesbian.


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