INTERVIEW Richard Curtis has an uncanny ability to draw humour out of situations. With Martha and Mary, he wields his pen for a cause, but not compromising his desire to make the audience laugh
Richard Curtis knows the business of comedy. Let us take a moment, go back to 1994 when Four Weddings And A Funeral made us scream with laughter, detour through television and remember Blackadder and Mr. Bean and return to film in the winter of 2003 where his directorial debut, Love Actually brought good tidings, warmth, great laughs and some sadness.
Richard Curtis is breaking the mould of being one of Britain’s funniest writers, and with his film Martha And Mary (was premiered on Star Movies yesterday) which he made for his charity organisation Comic Relief, Curtis brings together a stellar cast to support his fight against malaria in Ethiopia.
Written by Curtis and directed by Philip Noyce, Mary and Martha is the story of two women from different backgrounds who are brought together under extreme circumstances. Hillary Swank lays Mary, an American interior designer who takes her little boy on an extended trip to Africa, and Brenda Blethyn as Martha, an English housewife whose own son heads to Africa as a volunteer.
When both of their sons contract malaria, the lives of these very different women change forever as they forge a deep friendship and embark on an epic journey of self-discovery to Africa, dedicating themselves to the cause of malaria prevention.
Curtis’ own fight against malaria began in 1985 when he visited Ethiopia and was witness to the country’s famine and poverty. “It was after this trip that I started Comic Relief. I remember coming home from Ethiopia and being absolutely startled at the complete disinterest of everyone I knew in what I’d experienced. I’d just seen hut after hut of dying children and had all these photographs but I couldn’t hold my friends’ attention.
At first he wanted was to raise money, “But I’m a great believer in protest and the difference it can make. I think it’s all our jobs to make our governments look at the bigger issues as well as the immediate ones.”
Curtis likes to laugh and instead of a long, boring, technical record he wrote a story that does justice to his sense of humour, the world’s need to laugh and the seriousness of the issue. “The different work I do provides texture to my life and it does not feel strange o me. The business of writing is the same. In Four Weddings And A Funeral I took situations and wanted to see just how funny I could make it and with Mary And Martha I was trying to make it more emotional.”
Curtis has now just wrapped up About Time with Rachel MacAdams, a film about time travel, family and friendships.
CATHERINE RHEA ROY