Davos WEF

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis: Success isn't as life-changing as you'd expect

Key Points
  • The creative force behind movies including "Love Actually," "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," said success "doesn't really change your life as much as you would expect."
  • Richard Curtis acknowledged he was "utterly lucky" to have earned a vast amount of money from his movies.
Mike Coppola | Getty Images for Save The Children

Making a hit movie isn't as life changing as people might expect, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director Richard Curtis told CNBC.

Speaking to CNBC's Tania Bryer at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Curtis — the creative force behind movies including "Love Actually," "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," said success "doesn't really change your life as much as you would expect."

"That's the truth of the matter, if you make a successful movie what happens to you after the opening weekend, when you read a lot of people have seen your movie?" he said. "Literally nothing has happened, you've had the same breakfast, the same dinner."

Curtis acknowledged he was "utterly lucky" to have earned a vast amount of money from his movies, which had ultimately allowed him to work on his philanthropic endeavors, including global fundraising initiatives Comic Relief and Red Nose Day.

Despite all of his success, Curtis told CNBC he struggled with self-discipline in the early stages of his career.

"I used to be the most ill-disciplined writer, I would get up at one, watch some television, have some tea, make some phone calls, have dinner and then think 'oh I should probably start now,'" he said. "But since I've had a family I actually do try and go to a quiet place and write a lot — this is my secret."

He advised young people looking for a career in scriptwriting to spend a lot of time writing, but not to pursue all of their ideas.

"Make sure you really do believe in a story, that it keeps coming back to you, that there's a purpose to it," he said.

VIDEO0:5200:52
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis: Work with people you admire

"I will write 30 pages a day, I will write all sorts of conversations between characters who won't meet and things like that," Curtis added. "I think the great thing is to not be depressed by how much is bad but to relish anything that's good."

Another secret to his movie success, Curtis said, is making sure he's present throughout the whole production process, whatever his own role is.

"It's not only about the writing, it's about choosing the right director, it's about unbelievable care and casting," Curtis said. "I've always been there when the films are shot, and then in all but two of my movies the initial finished film was catastrophic, and we've had to edit our way out of trouble."

Choosing the right team to help bring a vision to life was vital for any aspiring filmmaker, Curtis noted.

"My advice is to work with people you genuinely admire," he said. "I think sometimes young writers will make the mistake of saying 'well this is a famous name, if that person wants to make my film, that would be fantastic, and that's a famous actor and if they want to be in my film that's fantastic.' But if you don't like that director's work, and if that actor is not the right actor for the part, the whole thing won't work."

"Trying to keep your sense of integrity even in the face of more shiny objects is important," he added.