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SLIDING DOORS

About The Production
When it comes to romantic relationships, time is of the essence

When it comes to romantic relationships, time is of the essence. Romance and heartbreak are built on chance encounters, accidental discoveries, moments of revelation. Miss one of these and fate unspools in an entirely different way.

Or does it?

That's the question writer/director Peter Howitt poses in "Sliding Doors," an emotionally suspenseful romantic comedy about love's possible outcomes. Along the way, Howitt also makes shrewd, humorous observations about the complex state of relations between men and women, observing the nuances of modern courtship including infidelity, uncertainty, fear of commitment and the true love that can emerge in spite of it all.

It all began when Peter Howitt, then a successful British television actor, was walking along London's Charing Cross Road and was nearly struck by a passing car. Still catching his breath, Howitt realized that his entire life might have been changed in that split second. The incredible fragility of fate got him thinking. "The cogs started to whir in my head and I rang my mate and told him I had a great idea for a film," recalls Howitt.

Bringing the film to the screen, however, involved its own chain or fateful twists. In addition to his acting career, Howitt had previously written comedy sketches and directed two short films, one of which won a silver medal at the Chicago Film Festival. With these films in his hand, he approached producer Philippa Braithwaite, who had recently produced the successful, low­budget British movie "Staggered." They talked about his idea for a fantastical romantic comedy over supper, and Braithwaite had no doubt that it was well worth pursuing. That was sign enough to Howitt. He recalls: "I had decided that it would be a simple modern love story with an unusual premise. In some ways it was an eccentric idea, but it had a beginning, a twist and a surprise ending. Although at that stage I had no idea if it would ever get made, at the same time I had a blind faith that it was meant to be."

Later, with a finished script in hand, Howitt began to put together a cast, including Scottish actor John Hannah with whom Howitt had previously acted. But early financing fell through. Meanwhile John Hannah, hot on the heels of the international success of his first feature film, "Four Weddings and a Funeral," was in America meeting a series of Hollywood producers. Among these was a visit to the offices of Sydney Pollack's Mirage Enterprises at Paramount Pictures ­­ at which Hannah mentioned "Sliding Doors" as a script he hoped some day to do. Lindsay Doran, then president of Mirage, introduced John and the script to her colleagues Sydney Pollack and Bill Horberg.

"John mentioned a movie that he really wanted to do next but the financing had recently fallen through. At the time I was in discussion with Guy East at Intermedia about some possible co­ventures, and "Sliding Doors" seemed to be perfect," recalls Sydney Pollack. "I called Guy and said: 'We've come across a really lovely, funny script; take a look at it.' I also explained that, although Peter was pretty much an unknown quantity as far as directing was concerned, I had liked his short films. Within seven days the money was in place."

On the very day that Sydney Pollack and Bill Horberg signed onto the project, Philippa Braithwaite hauled an astonished Peter Howitt out of the pub, where he was bemoaning the fate of his film. The film had the green light, she told him. "The timing was perfect. I now fel

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