Hugh Grant almost died in dangerous Four Weddings and a Funeral motorway scene, director says

‘I suddenly saw the whole film collapsing in front of me,’ Mike Newell said

Jacob Stolworthy
Tuesday 07 May 2024 08:08 BST
Four weddings and a funeral 1994 trailer

Hugh Grant almost died while filming Four Weddings and a Funeral, the film’s director has revealed.

Following fierce competition from other British stars, including Jim Broadbent and Alan Rickman, Grant was ultimately cast in the romantic comedy’s lead role of Charles, which was written by Richard Curtis.

However, very soon after filming started, disaster almost struck in a near-fatal incident involving Grant, then aged 34, and Charlotte Coleman, who played Charles's best friend Scarlett.

The dangerous moment occurred while filming the opening scene, which sees Charles and Scarlett racing to a wedding in their Mini and reversing after missing their exit. Director Mike Newell has revealed that Grant was actually behind the wheel of the car on the motorway, and that the moment happened for real.

“That scene on the motorway, for some reason, Hugh was actually driving – he shouldn’t have been but he was,” Newell said as part of a retrospective of the film, celebrating its 30th anniversary.

“They were within inches of backing at full speed into a truck that was coming at them,” the director told The Guardian.

“I suddenly saw the whole film collapsing in front of me, and what I had done was engineer the death of the leading man on the motorway.”

‘Four Weddings and a Funeral'
‘Four Weddings and a Funeral' (Rank Film Distributors)

Now 64, Grant’s appearence in the film launched him to Hollywood stardom. Simon Callow, who appeared in the film as Gareth, told the outlet how he felt at the time that Grant was “underplaying” his role, but was proved wrong.

He said: “As we were filming, I kept thinking: “Well, Hugh is great and fantastically well-cast but I think he’s underplaying it.” That shows how little I know, because the performance is an absolute masterclass in light comedy.”

One person who was not initially sure about Grant’s casting was the film’s writer, Curtis, who told The Times in a separate retrospective: “I argued hard against Hugh Grant. I had in my mind a less glamorous person because I’m a very unglamorous person. So I was thinking Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane, John Gordon Sinclair. I argued for Alan Rickman.

Hugh Grant in ’Four Weddings and a Funeral’
Hugh Grant in ’Four Weddings and a Funeral’ (Rank Film Distributors)

“But we interviewed about 70 other people and it turned out that the combination you need of charm and wit to make it funny was very hard to find. And Hugh had it instantly. He gives the impression of being feckless and that he can’t act, but he worked so hard on every line.”

Grant’s co-star, Coleman, died in November 2001.

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