He’s a bumbling bookseller, she’s a world-famous Hollywood actress – and a more unlikely pair you’re unlikely to find. Yet in the movie Notting Hill, ordinary William Thacker falls for gorgeous Anna Scott after a chance encounter in his shop.
They say art imitates life but the love story between Hugh Grant’s William and Julia Roberts’ Anna in the 1999 hit flick seems so improbable it’s been dismissed as mere fantasy.
Yet amazingly it seems the plot of the iconic romcom may have its roots in a real-life romance.
If Hugh is to be believed, the character of Anna was inspired by Hollywood A-lister Uma Thurman (50).
Notting Hill writer Richard Curtis has never openly claimed the plot was inspired by a real-life relationship but said his inspiration “was imagining what it would have been like to turn up to dinner at a friend's house with Madonna or Princess Diana”.
Hugh (60) recently revealed the writer told him the identity of the “real Thacker”.
“This is a story [Curtis] won't admit to but he's told me in a drunken moment. A friend of his, an ordinary guy, was in Harrods and met a very famous woman, and took her back to his flat.
“That was the genesis of his script. But he's so scared of people finding out who this famous person was he won't tell anyone.”
That woman was apparently a then-24-year-old Uma and the guy was London publisher William Sieghart. Uma was single after her divorce from Gary Oldman and the unlikely pair had a brief romance.
But Notting Hill isn’t the only fictional film inspired by real life.
From The Notebook to 50 First Dates, here are the real couples behind your favourite movie love stories.
The Notebook (2004)
Author and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks moved us to tears with the forbidden love story of Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) in The Notebook. From their adorable meet at the carnival to that serious make-out session in the rain, it’s hard not to be reduced to a puddle every time this classic comes on.
Author Nicholas Sparks, who wrote the book, had fans reaching for the tissues again when he revealed that Noah and Allie were based on the grandparents of his then-wife Cathy, who had been married for six decades.
As they were too ill to come to Nicholas and Cathy’s wedding in 1989 the newlyweds visited the elderly couple the following day for a re-enactment and heard the story of how they met.
“Though their story was wonderful, what I most remember from that day is the way they were treating each other,” Nicholas says.“The way his eyes shone when he looked at her, the way he held her hand, the way he got her tea and took care of her.”
The Vow (2012)
A pair of newlyweds are ripped apart by a horrific car crash which leaves bride Paige (Rachel McAdams) with severe memory loss. Her husband, Leo (Channing Tatum), has to make her fall in love with him all over again.
This movie is based on the story of Kim and Krikkit Carpenter, who suffered life-changing injuries in a crash 10 weeks after their 1993 wedding.When she woke up from a 21-day coma Krikkit had lost her memories of the past 18 months – exactly the period of time that she’d met and fallen in love with her husband. Her memory didn't recover, but Kim didn't give up: he stayed with Krickitt until she fell in love with him again.
They pair tied the knot again three years after the crash but, sadly, there was no Hollywood ending and they divorced in 2012.
A Star is Born (2018)
The film, which stars Lady Gaga as an up-and-coming star and Bradley Cooper as her washed-up mentor, is the third remake of a 1937 movie.
The Oscar-winning musical is thought to be based on the life of Barbara Stanwyck and her husband Frank Fay. Barbara was an up-and-coming chorus girl when she met and married Frank, a famous vaudeville star, in 1928. The couple later moved to Hollywood, where she became a screen legend with a string of Oscar nominations while her husband’s career faded.
He became a violent alcoholic and the pair divorced after six years.
It Could Happen to You (1994)
In this romcom, a police officer (Nicolas Cage) promises a waitress (Bridget Fonda) half his lottery money if his ticket hits the jackpot, in lieu of a tip. Naturally the ticket wins, and the pair fall for each other.
The film is based on police officer Robert Cunningham, who told New York waitress Phyllis Penzo that he’d split his 1984 lottery winnings with her after each of them chose three of the six numbers. Robert ended up with a £4,4 million win and he returned to the pizza restaurant where she worked to give her a whopping tip of £2,2m.
Sadly, there was no romance, but the pair did become lifelong friends.
50 First Dates (2004)
The Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore vehicle might be a romantic comedy, but if you imagine a life where you were unable to create new memories, it probably wouldn't be all that funny.
And that's reality for British woman Michelle Philpots, whose memory has been wiped every single day for the past 23 years, just like Drew’s character, Lucy. After suffering two car crashes in the space of a few years Michelle was left with a rare type of amnesia.
According to Michelle’s husband Ian, managing her condition can be a struggle.
"It can be very frustrating for me, but I have to be patient and understand. I have to keep calm because I love her. I am lucky we met before she had the accidents because she can remember me. Luckily we have lots of photos to remind her, otherwise she would forget it all."
Anna and the King (1999)
The King and I was originally a stage musical, produced in 1951. The first film version was produced in 1956 and there have been a number of remakes since, including the 1999 version famously starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat.
This plot stems from the memoirs of teacher, traveller, and public figure Anna Leonowens. She lost her husband while living in Australia and moved to Siam (now Thailand) where she began teaching to support herself and her two children. She taught the English language and culture to King Mongkut's 39 wives and 82 children for more than five years in the 1860s and, according to her memoirs, developed a close relationship with Mongkut himself.
Interestingly, all versions of the movie are banned in Thailand due to the film’s unflattering portrayal of the country’s former ruler.
Sources: thesun.co.uk, dailymail.co.uk, insider.com, vogue.com, theculturetrip.com, Brightside.me