Martine McCutcheon says Love Actually saved career as she planned showbiz exit

Martine McCutcheon has revealed she has the film Love Actually to thank for 'saving her career' after the 'relentless schedule' and 'pressure' of EastEnders left her feeling 'unwell'.

The 46-year-old shot to fame in 1994 as Tiffany Raymond in the Walford soap, before being killed off four years later in a New Year's Day special seen by a staggering 22million viewers.

After leaving Albert Square and tiring from the role of Eliza Doolittle in the stage production of My Fair Lady, she got the call from director Richard Curtis who was looking to cast someone in the role of Natalie – Hugh Grant's love interest.

READ MORE: Martine McCutcheon stuns in glamorous video as she pays tribute to her late brother

As the movie celebrates its 20th anniversary, actress Martine recalled the life-changing moment.

Martine explained to the Mirror: "At that time, I’d decided to give up the business. I'd worked from the age of 17 playing Tiffany – it was a relentless schedule of 22 scenes a day, six days a week, alongside my pop career. There was a lot of pressure, a lot of touring and I battled with exhaustion and felt unwell.

"Then there was the press scrutiny. I had paparazzi running after me. I was only 23 and lived on my own – it was scary. I just thought, ‘I love what I do but I don’t love what comes with it’, so I called my agent and gave up the industry. I remember thinking, ‘If I’m meant to stay in it I’ll get a big sign.'"

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Martine went on to reveal she was taking time out at a friend's house in Spain where she had slept for 'three days straight' when the call came through from Curtis. It was the friend who took that initial call.

She continued: "He said, 'Richard Curtis has called and he wants you to star opposite Hugh Grant in a film called Love Actually and it starts next week – can you fly back?'" she says. "I literally dropped the phone. That film completely changed my life because I wouldn’t have been in the industry any more.

"When I first saw Four Weddings And A Funeral it was my absolute dream to work with Hugh Grant and Richard Curtis – I fell in love with the writing and I fell in love with Hugh."

The actress added that she can no longer watch herself back on TV without 'cringing' partly due to the 'mannerisms you pull and the expressions you make' that you see on screen.

Martine certainly won't be watching the EastEnders Christmas special, meanwhile, citing she knows 'how it works' and that she keeps thinking about 'everything behind the scenes'.

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