Richard Curtis is king of the ‘Hill’

'Funeral' screenwriter to receive BAFTA award

As BAFTA/LA fetes “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill” screenwriter Richard Curtis for his conscience, he’ll also have an African detective and British pirate radio in his conscious.

Curtis will receive the org’s inaugural Humanitarian Award for founding U.K. Comic Relief, co-founding Make Poverty History and organizing the 2005 Live 8 concerts. But he’ll also spend time in Los Angeles reviewing helmer Anthony Minghella’s most recent cut of their first project together, an adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s hit eight-novel series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.” Minghella is completing filming in Gaborone, Botswana.

The two Brits had hoped to collaborate “for ages,” Curtis says. While Minghella was working on pics including “The English Patient,” “Cold Mountain” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Curtis kept busy writing such projects as “Love Actually” (which he also directed) and three hit TV series, while also winning a 2006 Emmy for penning BBC/HBO’s “The Girl in the Cafe.”

Curtis and Minghella found their vessel in the yarn of Mma Precious Ramotswe searching for clients’ missing family members, probing philanderers, traveling in her white van and zealously prescribing red bush tea.

With Jill Scott set to appear as Ramotswe in 2008, a different kind of vessel will busy Curtis come March, when shooting begins on “The Boat That Rocks,” his second feature as writer-director. Pic recounts the tale of disc jockeys living on ships in British waters and committing pirate radio in the mid-1960s.

Picture “eight of the most extreme disc jockeys you’ve ever imagined having to live in a corridor, and a corridor that moved,” he says. “And with no girls.”

Born in New Zealand in 1956, raised in the U.K. from age 11 and Oxford-educated, Curtis knows some mid-1960s British history.

“In 1966, the BBC only broadcasted two hours of popular music per week,” he says. Then came the pirates, who began playing pop “24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Soon) half the nation was listening to these illegal pirate stations.”

Curtis says the government labeled the DJs “dangerous criminals,” quashed them — and then, of course, began employing them when they opened their own pop stations. Though mindful of his award and his belief in the “responsibility of the film and television community” to “work for those whose lives are hardest,” he adds that “The Boat That Rocks” contains “very few humanitarian interests, apart from the rights of all mankind to enjoy rock and roll.”

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