| Grant: Fright actually'
London, Jan. 11: It is meant to be one of the most cheerful and uplifting films of the moment, but Love Actually, the box office hit seen by millions of Britons, has been judged to be too frightening for airline passengers.
British Airways has decided that the film, which stars Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Colin Firth among others, will have to be censored before it is shown on its aircraft because of a reference to September 11. The decision has infuriated producer Duncan Kenworthy who described it as “ludicrous”. It will prompt renewed concern that the airline is over-reacting to the threat of terrorism.
However, British Airways, which plans to screen Love Actually on flights from March, insisted the film would have to be cut before it was suitable to be shown. A BA spokesman said the offending passage was an opening speech by Hugh Grant, which includes the lines: “When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love.”
The spokesman said: “We have made a very small edit to the beginning of the film and removed a reference in the script to the tragic events of September 11.
“We feel that this is justified given the terrible events of that day and in no way detracts from the rest of the film.”
Kenworthy, however, criticised BA’s argument, adding that he was disappointed by the way in which airlines generally imposed more stringent cuts than those demanded by sanitised American television networks. “I find it ludicrous,” said Kenworthy. “If it’s OK to watch on American television it should be available for viewing on airlines.”
He also expressed surprise that airlines were unconcerned by a scene later in the film that portrays a young boy deceiving security personnel at Heathrow and sprinting through several checkpoints.
Kenworthy said despite his protests, film producers had no choice other than to bow to airline pressure because of the substantial sums of money involved in licensing agreements. He added: “I don’t like censorship at any point, but I am contractually obliged to provide a version acceptable to the airlines.”
BA issues guidelines to an outside agency, which provides its on-board entertainment, asking it to select films with a “general appeal” to the broad range of ages and nationalities on its flights. Films containing foul language and graphic scenes of a violent or sexual nature are rejected or censored.
Portrayals of air crashes or hijackings are also cut. Passengers on flights operated by Virgin Atlantic, BA’s rival, will be able to see Love Actually uncut on flights from February, although a warning about the Hugh Grant speech will be printed in the in-flight magazine.