“How often does an original Emma Thompson script show up in your inbox?”
That’s the question director Paul Feig found himself asking when the screenplay for Last Christmas — the upcoming romantic comedy co-written by the Oscar-winning actress and inspired by the Wham! song — came his way. Feig knew he had to do the film, but he was on a self-imposed tight deadline of, well, last Christmas.
“I was hell-bent on [shooting] in London before Christmas so we could use all the lights and the decorations that were naturally here,” Feig tells EW. “I finally get to make the love letter to London I’ve always wanted to make.”
A self-professed Anglophile, the Michigan-born Feig packed the movie, which stars Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, full of his favorite London spots. The production filmed in England’s capital city during the three weeks before Christmas, capturing the festive sights and sounds of everything from Piccadilly Circus and the Strand to Regent Street and the Embankment. They also spent a week shooting in Covent Garden, the location of Yuletide Wonderful, the year-round Christmas shop where Kate (Clarke) works.
“It’s an over-the-top place with more Christmas than you would ever see in one building, but it’s absolutely lovely and classy,” explains Feig. “But it’s overload, especially if you’re like Emilia’s character in the movie and not entirely in the Christmas spirit.”
For someone like Kate, being forced to dress up like an elf could really get your Christmas garland in a twist. Even worse? Having a meet-cute while dressed as an elf, which is what happens when Tom visits Yuletide Wonderful and spots something he’s “curious about” above them. “It’s a meet-cute that turns funny, and not what you would expect,” Feig teases.
The locations spanned far and wide in the city, including an ice rink at Alexandra Palace, where Kate and Tom go on a date and “have to leave quickly,” which is why Feig says they’re pictured wearing skates out on a city street.
Feig describes Last Christmas as “a romantic comedy plus,” buoyed by the specificity of the script, co-written by Thompson and playwright Bryony Kimmings with input from Thompson’s husband, Greg Wise. “We refer to it as a dramatic romantic comedy,” says Feig. “It’s got the idea of romance, but also of somebody trying to repair their life — of familial tensions and how a family is falling apart and what it takes to put a family back together and dealing with the aftermath of difficult situations.”
Thompson began writing the script several years ago while George Michael, the music superstar and songwriter behind “Last Christmas,” was still alive. Delving into issues near and dear to his heart — particularly homelessness — the project received the singer’s blessing. “We have a whole story line in our movie about a homeless shelter, and [we consulted] with a lot of homeless charities to make sure we were portraying it correctly,” Feig notes. The filmmaking team worked closely with Michael’s estate, which allowed them to heavily sprinkle his music across the film, including a previously unreleased track that will play at the movie’s conclusion. “The great sadness is that he’s not here to be a part of this,” Feig says of Michael, who died on Christmas Day in 2016. “But he knew it was going to happen, and that gives me such joy. We feel like he’s here with us.”
So what can we expect, besides these characters likely giving their hearts to someone special? The film won’t save you from tears, because, in the words of Feig, “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll go through a range of emotions — but all in the Christmas spirit.”
Last Christmas hits theaters Nov. 8.
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