Notting Hill film ‘got rid of’ ethnic roles, says comic star Omid Djalili
NOTTING Hill cemented Hugh Grant’s reputation as Britain’s leading man and helped property prices in the once run-down corner of West London to soar to those of Mayfair or Belgravia.
Yet, the comedian Omid Djalili has now slammed the 1999 smash- hit romantic comedy, claiming that ethnic actors’ scenes were axed — and his own role reduced — to make it ‘more white’.
Djalili, who compered the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for the Queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May, claims: ‘Notting Hill, another film I was cut out of, for being too brown.
‘Notting Hill was a film where they tried to show the diversity of the Notting Hill area, then [a] producer goes: “We want this to be more white.” So they got rid of everyone.’
In the film written by Richard Curtis, Djalili, 56, made an uncredited cameo as a vendor who sells Will ( played by Grant) the orange juice that he accidentally spills on Hollywood star Anna (Julia Roberts).
‘I had some lines that were taken out, so it looks like I’m an extra,’ says Djalili, who was born in London to Iranian parents. ‘I just give Hugh
Grant the orange juice.
The only ethnic minority who stayed in the movie was Sanjeev Bhaskar — he had a couple of lines. But, yeah, they whitewashed the film, unfortunately.’ Speaking on Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre podcast, Djalili, whose film credits include roles in Gladiator and The Mummy, adds: ‘I’m not bitter about it. I’m just saying that as fact. ‘You’re looking at me like in shock, but they did — it’s true, they thought it wasn’t white enough.’ There has been criticism of the film over the years for failing to reflect the ethnic make-up of the area, which has been at the heart of the West Indian community since the 1950s and home of the Notting Hill Carnival.
Comic Relief co- creator Curtis — whose films include Four Weddings And A Funeral, and Bridget Jones’s Diary — declines to comment.
After the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, he said: ‘I would write different movies now. We are all thinking about things in different ways. We have a really impatient younger generation who are focusing on things I never focused on.’