THEN AND NOW: The cast of 'Love Actually' 17 years later

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Kim Renfro
·10 min read
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Hugh Grant Love Actually
Hugh Grant plays the prime minister in "Love Actually." Universal and Getty Images
  • The holiday rom-com "Love Actually" premiered in 2003.

  • Seventeen years later, the movie's many stars have gone on to appear in Oscar-winning movies, Netflix original TV shows, HBO miniseries, and more.

  • Insider has taken a closer look at what all the major stars of "Love Actually" are doing now.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

"Love Actually" hit theaters just in time for 2003's holiday season, and audiences deemed it an instant Christmas classic.

Though the movie has a problematic treatment of women, "Love Actually" remains a holiday staple for many.

Keep reading for a look at how the star-studded cast looked then, what they look like now, and what they've been up to in between.

We all remember Liam Neeson played the newly widowed character Daniel.

Liam Neeson and Jojen Love Actually
Daniel was one of the most heartbreaking characters in the movie. Universal

Daniel's wife had recently died after battling an illness.

Neeson went on to portray a man with a very special set of skills in "Taken" (and in its two sequels), as well as dozens of other notable roles.

Liam Neeson at Concussion premiere 2016
Neeson also starred in 2016's "Silence." Mike Coppola/Getty

More recently, Neeson has starred in the 2018 crime drama "Widows" and 2020's "Honest Thief." 

In "Love Actually," Neeson's character had a young stepson named Sam.

Sam Love Actually
Sam's childhood crush is one of the movie's only PG storylines. Universal

Actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster played Sam when he was 13 years old.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster went on to voice Ferb Fletcher in Disney's "Phineas and Ferb," but most will recognize him in 2020 as Benny Watts in Netflix's "The Queen's Gambit."

Thomas Brodie Sangster Benny Watts The Queen's Gambit Netflix Jojen Reed Game of Thrones HBO
Thomas Brodie-Sangster in "The Queen's Gambit" and in "Game of Thrones." Netflix and HBO

Brodie-Sangster also costarred as Jojen Reed on "Game of Thrones" during seasons three and four, and had a role in the "Maze Runner" movie series.

Sam's school crush in the movie is an American girl named Joanna.

Joanna singing Love Actually
The school holiday concert is the epic climax of "Love Actually," when all the different characters come together. Universal

Joanna sang an unforgettable rendition of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" at her school's holiday performance.

Olivia Olson went on to costar in the animated series "Phineas and Ferb," as well as in Cartoon Network's "Adventure Time."

Olivia Olson backstage at the "X Factor Celebrity " Final at LH2 Studios on November 30, 2019 Getty Images
Olivia Olson backstage at the "X Factor Celebrity " Final at LH2 Studios on November 30, 2019 in London, England. Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

She's done other voice-acting work in "The Powerpuff Girls" series, and in the 2020 "Phineas and Ferb" movie. 

The only other American character was Sarah.

Sarah Love Actually
Sarah was too occupied with her hospitalized brother to have a love life. Universal

Sarah worked at a design firm and harbors a not-so-secret obsession with her coworker Karl.

Laura Linney starred in horror movie "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" in 2005, and now you can watch her in the Netflix drama series "Ozark."

Laura Linney New York red carpet January 2020 Getty Images
Laura Linney poses on a red carpet in January 2020. Bruce Glikas/WireImage/Getty Images

Linney also had supporting roles in the 2016 movies "Sully" and "Nocturnal Animals," as well as Netflix's 2019 TV show "Tales of the City."

Sarah's memorable love interest in the movie was Karl, played by Rodrigo Santoro.

Karl Love Actually
Karl and Sarah just weren't meant to be at the time. Universal

Try as he might, Karl couldn't convince Sarah to break her commitment to her family so they could spend more time together.

Rodrigo Santoro drastically switched up his look to play the god-king Xerxes in both "300" movies, but was more recognizable as Hector Escaton in HBO's "Westworld."

Rodrigo Santoro Build series December 2019 Getty Images
Rodrigo Santoro attends the Build Series on December 10, 2019 in New York City. Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

So far Santoro's "Westworld" character has appeared in all three seasons, and fans will have to wait and see if he'll return for the coming fourth installment.

Sarah and Karl's boss was Harry, a wry man who had an emotional affair with his secretary.

Harry Love Actually
Harry screws up big time in "Love Actually." Universal

Harry was played by the late Alan Rickman.

Alan Rickman died in early 2016 after a cancer diagnosis.

alan rickman
Rickman's death in 2016 was devastating news. AP

His most memorable roles in the years after "Love Actually" were Severus Snape in the "Harry Potter" movie franchise and Judge Turpin in "Sweeney Todd."

Emma Thompson was cast as Karen, Harry's charming wife.

Emma Thompson Love Actually
Karen was a dutiful mother and loyal wife to Harry. Universal

Harry spends most of "Love Actually" emotionally cheating on Karen, much to her devastation when she finds out.

Thompson voiced Mrs. Potts in the 2017 "Beauty and the Beast" live-action remake,

Dame Emma Thompson attends the "Dolittle" special screening at Cineworld Leicester Square on January 25, 2020 in London, England Getty Images
Dame Emma Thompson attends the "Dolittle" special screening at Cineworld Leicester Square on January 25, 2020 in London, England. Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

Like Rickman, she also played a Hogwarts schoolteacher in the "Harry Potter" movies (Sybil Trelawney), costarred in the HBO miniseries "Years and Years," and wrote the 2019 holiday rom-com "Last Christmas."

The ex-drug addict rock star character Billy Mack helped put some raunchiness into "Love Actually."

Billy Love Actually
Billy Mack tells a radio host that he shagged Britney Spears. Universal

Throughout "Love Actually," Billy was on a mission to get his new song to the #1 spot on the music charts.

Bill Nighy is yet another "Harry Potter" alumni - he played Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour.

Bill Nighy 2016 Dubai Film Festival Getty Neison Barnard
Nighy also starred as Davy Jones in the 2006 "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest." Neison Barnard/Getty

He also voices a character in the "Castlevania" TV series, and costarred in the 2019 movie "Pokémon: Detective Pikachu." 

Another small character who ramped up the R-rating factor was John - a nude body double working on a movie set.

Martin Freeman Love Actually
These were some of the movie's most straightforward nude scenes. Universal

John was a stand-in for a famous actor's sex scenes, where he met a new girlfriend named Judy. 

Martin Freeman had far less nudity involved in his roles as Bilbo Baggins for "The Hobbit" franchise and Dr. John Watson in "Sherlock."

Martin Freeman November 2019 Getty Images
Martin Freeman attends the "The Operative" on November 14, 2019 in London, England. Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Freeman is also now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing Everett K. Ross in "Captain America: Civil War" and "Black Panther." Most recently he costarred in the 2020 TV series "Breeders."

Hugh Grant played the newly-elected Prime Minister.

Hugh Grant Love Actually
Ah, yes, the charming bachelor Prime Minister. Universal

He fell in love with one of his staff members just days into the gig.

Grant played a fantastic villain in 2017's "Paddington 2," and most recently starred in an HBO miniseries called "The Undoing."

Hugh Grant 2020 red carpet Getty Images
Hugh Grant poses on the red carpet prior to the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony in Berlin on February 17, 2020. Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

He also starred in the 2018 miniseries "A Very English Scandal."

Grant's political nemesis in "Love Actually" was the President of the United States, played by Billy Bob Thornton.

President of the United States Love Actually Billy Bob Thornton
President Billy Bob himself. Universal

The US president was characterized as a bully who believed he was entitled to anything (and anyone) he wanted in the UK.

Thornton went on to star in a different kind of holiday movie, "Bad Santa" - which had a sequel in 2016.

Billy Bob Thornton at Bad Santa 2 Premiere
He also had a recurring role in the TV series "Fargo." Jamie McCarthy/Getty

He also starred in a TV show called "Goliath," which came to an end in 2020 after four seasons.

One of the smaller roles in "Love Actually" was the sexy Wisconsin sisters Colin met in a bar.

January Jones Love Actually
We barely remembered that Jones was in "Love Actually." Universal Pictures

The blonde, Jeannie, was played by actress January Jones.

January Jones' big breakout role came in 2007 with AMC's "Mad Men," where she played opposite Jon Hamm as his wife Betty.

january jones

She also starred in the Fox comedy "The Last Man on Earth," and most recently appeared in Netflix's original series "Spinning Out," which was canceled after just one season.

Another minor character was Peter, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose wedding is part of the movie's love-filled opening sequence.

Chiwatel Ejiofor Love Actually
Peter gets married while wearing a shockingly pink shirt. Universal

Peter's wedding was one of the first times in the movie that we saw a big intersection of all the characters' lives.

Chiwetel Ejiofor may have had a small part in "Love Actually," but his career has exploded since then.

chiwetel ejiofor
Ejiofor at a red carpet appearance for "The Martian." Getty Images

Films like "12 Years A Slave," "The Martian," and "Doctor Strange" helped make him a US household name. In 2019, he voiced Scar in "The Lion King" remake, and in 2020 he had a role in Netflix's original film "The Old Guard."

Peter's new wife was Juliet, played by Keira Knightley.

Juliette pie Love Actually
Bringing pie did not help the awkwardness of this scene, Juliet. Universal

Juliet was the unwitting object of her new husband's best friend's affections (confusing, we know).

Keira Knightley has since made a name for herself in period pieces such as "Pride and Prejudice," "Atonement," and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.

Keira Knightley 2019 red carpet Getty Images
Keira Knightley at the premiere of the film "Official Secrets" in 2019. Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images

Her most recent films include 2018's "Colette" and "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" along with 2020's "Misbehaviour."

Andrew Lincoln played Mark - the third wheel in Peter and Juliet's relationship.

Love Actually
The signs Peter makes for Juliet are unforgettably cheesy. Universal via YouTube

He professed his love for Juliet in a dramatic fashion, even though he knew the feelings were unrequited. 

Lincoln went on to star in "The Walking Dead," and eventually left the show in 2018.

andrew lincoln
Lincoln at a red carpet premiere for "The Walking Dead." John Sciulli/Getty Images for AMC

He's recognizable to millions now as Rick Grimes, the lead character of "The Walking Dead." Lincoln will return to the apocalyptic universe for a movie about Rick Grimes.

In 2020, Lincoln played Ebenezer Scrooge in a stage production of "A Christmas Carol."

One of the funnier moments in "Love Actually" came from a short scene with an overly enthusiastic jewelry salesman played by Rowan Atkinson.

Mr. Bean jewelry guy Love Actually
He took far too long while packaging a necklace for Harry. Universal

The "Mr. Bean" actor had a long gag in "Love Actually" about the elaborate gift packaging used by a department store.

Atkinson continued to star on TV as Mr. Bean, and in 2020 it was announced that he's developing several new Netflix originals.

Rowan Atkinson arrives for the special screening of "Johnny English Strikes Again" at AMC Lincoln Square in New York on October 23, 2018 Getty Images
British actor/comedian Rowan Atkinson arrives for the special screening of "Johnny English Strikes Again" at AMC Lincoln Square in New York on October 23, 2018. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

He also reprised his role as a rogue agent in a 2018 sequel to "Johnny English."

Colin Firth played the sad sap Jaime, who started off the movie getting cheated on.

Colin Firth Love Actually
Firth was another household name who co-starred in "Love Actually." Universal

His love story involved a major language barrier and ended with a surprising proposal to a new woman.

In the years since, Firth has been cast in acclaimed roles for movies like "A Single Man," and Oscar-winning drama "The King's Speech."

Colin Firth October 2020 red carpet Getty Images
Colin Firth attends the "Supernova" Premiere during the 64th BFI London Film Festival at BFI Southbank on October 11, 2020 in London, England Dave Benett/WireImage/Getty Images

He took audiences by surprise with breakout action hit "The Kingsman," the sequel of which premiered in 2017. Firth also had a role in the 2019 Oscar-winning movie "1917."

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