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Is Notting Hill Based On A True Story?

Actors Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant have both starred in some iconic romantic comedies. Roberts has the likes of 1990's "Pretty Woman," 1997's "My Best Friend's Wedding," and 1999's "Runaway Bride" under her belt. Meanwhile, Grant has fallen in love on screen for films such as 1994's "Four Weddings and a Funeral," 2002's "About a Boy," and 2003's "Love Actually." And in 1999, the two rom-com stars came together for "Notting Hill," directed by the late Roger Michell and written by Richard Curtis. "Notting Hill" follows William Thacker (Grant), who owns a bookstore in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London, as he meets and falls in love with a famous actress, Anna Scott (Roberts), after she comes into his shop.

It's a beloved film that sparks emotion and feels genuine despite its unlikely premise. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, in a piece written 20 years after its premiere, wrote, "The love story between Anna and William still feels bizarrely like something that might actually happen, particularly the farcical scenes at the press junket at the Ritz, where the hapless William has to pretend to be a magazine journalist for Horse & Hound, to provide cover for his being alone with her in a hotel suite ... Some of the details do seem very credible. Is Curtis alluding to a real event in someone's life?"

It's a question that viewers may have had themselves while watching, as Anna and William's story feels piercingly real. So, is "Notting Hill" based on a true story?

It may have been based on a real-life romance

In a 2018 video interview with Vanity Fair, in which he discussed his most famous roles, Hugh Grant blatantly said that "Notting Hill" is based on a true story. "[Richard Curtis] wrote this other film and it was based on something that actually happened to a friend of his, who was a very kind of unfamous bloke living in Notting Hill, who happened to fall in love with an extremely, extremely world-famous person who I'm not allowed to mention, and she with him," he explained.

Grant mentioned Curtis' mysterious friend again in an interview with E! Online, revealing, "This is a story [Curtis] won't admit to, but he's told me in a drunken moment. A friend of his, an ordinary, normal guy, was in Harrods one day and met a very famous woman, and ended up taking her back to his flat in Notting Hill—and all kinds of nonsense ensued. And they used to meet up, whenever she came to London their affair would reactivate itself—and that was the genesis of his script. But he's so scared of people finding out who this very famous person was that he won't tell anyone that story."

Curtis himself has never spoken publicly about his friend, nor identified the celebrity in question. However, the Daily Mail ran a story in March 2021 alleging that the friend is a man named William Sieghart and the famous person was actress Uma Thurman. The Daily Mail didn't cite any sources and merely wrote "evidence now suggests" — so this element should definitely be taken with a grain of salt.

Curtis also pulled from his own life

As mentioned before, screenwriter Richard Curtis has never publicly acknowledged that "Notting Hill" is based on what happened to his friend. But, he has talked about the ways in which his own life acted as inspiration for the film.

Speaking with Variety in 2019, Curtis revealed that imagining how his friends might react to him bringing a celebrity to their weekly dinners was a starting point for his writing the film. He stated, "There was one who has never heard of anybody famous and then other one was Helen Fielding, who wrote 'Bridget Jones's Diary' and knew everybody. I used to imagine what would it be like if I drove down [to their house] with Madonna — how would the dinner party go? The two friends who were hosting the party would have no idea who she was, and Helen would just be screaming with excitement and definitely try to make Madonna her best friend."

This idea of Curtis' eventually evolved into the scene in "Notting Hill," in which William brings Anna to meet his friends — Max (Tim McInnerny), Bella (Gina McKee), Bernie (Hugh Bonneville) — and his sister Honey (Emma Chambers). In the scene, when Honey first sees Anna, she reacts, "Oh holy f***! ... I genuinely believe, and I've believed for some time now, that we could be best friends. What do you think?"

All in all, rom-com fans would definitely agree that "Notting Hill" is up there with the best of the genre — whether or not it's based on a real-life romance.