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Emma Thompson’s ‘Love Actually’ Storyline Was Inspired by Real-Life Heartbreak


For all its problematic relationships and Christmas card sentiment, there’s one storyline in Love Actually that never fails to break our hearts; our emotions haven’t dimmed despite years of repeat viewing. We’re talking, of course, about Emma Thompson’s character Karen, who realizes that her husband Harry (played by Alan Rickman) is having an affair with his secretary Mia. In that particular scene, Karen retreats to her bedroom after discovering that the necklace Harry has bought is not a Christmas gift for her but for Mia, and dissolves into tears to the strains of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”

Now, Thompson has revealed that she drew upon a real-life heartache to bring the scene to life and channelled her memories of the breakdown of her eight-year marriage to actor Kenneth Branagh, who reportedly had an affair with Helena Bonham Carter after meeting on the set of the 1994 film Frankenstein.

“That scene where my character is standing by the bed crying is so well known because it’s something everyone’s been through,” Thompson told the audience at a #MeToo fundraising event recently. “I had my heart very badly broken by Ken. So I knew it what it was like to find the necklace that wasn’t meant for me. Well it wasn’t exactly that, but we’ve all been through it.”

In a previous interview with the Sunday Times, Thompson shared her experiences of putting on a brave face through heartbreak, telling the paper, “I’ve had so much bloody practice at crying in a bedroom, then having to go out and be cheerful, gathering up the pieces of my heart and putting them in a drawer.”

She has since, however, made peace with both Branagh and Bonham Carter, describing the latter as a “wonderful woman.”

“That is […] all blood under the bridge,” she told the paper. “You can’t hold on to anything like that […] It’s pointless. I haven’t go the energy for it. Helena and I made our peace years and years ago.”

Test you ‘Love, Actually’ knowledge with these fun facts!

This post was written by Katie Rosseinsky. For more, check out our sister site Grazia.

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