By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Director Richard Curtis' latest film "About Time," a time-traveling romantic comedy, began with a conversation between old friends about happiness and what would make a perfect final day.
After writing hit films such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill," and directing "Love Actually," the 56-year-old New Zealand-born filmmaker said he was at a time in his life when he realized it would be a normal day with family, friends doing what he usually does.
In "About Time" Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson plays Tim Lake, a charming, insecure young lawyer trying to find his way in life and love, who can travel back in time and comes to the same conclusion.
"I've tried to really write a film that isn't only just about friends and love but about family and children and about losing members of your family, and about protecting members of your family," Curtis said about the movie that opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.
The film reunites actor Billy Nighy, who appeared in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and "Love Actually," with Curtis. He plays Lake's father, who tells his 21-year-old son that the men in the family can travel through time to revisit and change events in their own lives.
"About Time" is a bit of a departure for Curtis, whose earlier romantic comedies, although witty and tender, were grounded in reality. But the director thought the best way to show how special an ordinary day could be would be to invent someone who could change what happened in his own life.
MAKING EVERY DAY COUNT
In addition to Gleeson, who appeared in "Anna Karenina" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," the film also stars Rachel McAdams, of "The Notebook" and "The Time Traveler's Wife," as Mary, Lake's love interest.
Stage and screen actress Lindsay Duncan is the family's matriarch, a woman whose style icon is Britain's Queen Elizabeth, and Australian actress Margot Robbie, who stars in the upcoming "The Wolf of Wall Street," is his first love.
Curtis said he chose McAdams for the part because he thought she would be the perfect actress to transition in the film from a young woman on a first date to a mother of three.
He envisioned Nighy as the universal father.
"We loved the idea that people would be able to put their own father in the place that Bill was occupying," said Curtis, who lost both his parents in the last five years.
Set in London and the southwest coast of England in Cornwall, "About Time" follows Lake, who was disbelieving at first but finally gets the knack of time travel. He uses his gift to woo and win Mary after a false start, to help family and friends out of professional and personal problems, and to relive precious moments with his father.
But ultimately Lake realizes that he doesn't need time travel to find happiness and make the most of his life.
"If the movie has integrity it is because I actually believe it would be great to try and be happy every single day with very simple ingredients," Curtis said.
"About Time," which is produced by Working Title Films and is distributed by Universal Pictures, is his third turn as a director. It is likely to be his last after he confirmed media reports he has no plans to direct another film.
"I caught up with what I'm thinking about life," he said.
But Curtis will continue writing and is working on "Trash," a film about street kids in Brazil that will be directed by Stephen Daldry.
"I think there will be other journeys," he said. (Editing by Mary Milliken and Doina Chicu)