Love, Family & Time Travel: From Script to Screen
The genesis for About Time ignited from a
conversation that Curtis had with a friend about what
they would do if they were told that they had only 24
hours left to live. "We both decided that we'd want a
very normal day at home with the family, doing the
things you normally do," recalls Curtis. "I thought it
was an interesting observation, and the next step was
how I would be able to incorporate this into a movie. It
would have to be about someone who could manipulate
their final day or manipulate their life in some way to
enable them to come to that conclusion. That's when I
thought about time travel."
Curtis says that About Time is an evolution for
him, as his early work very much focuses upon
the relationships among friends. He shares: "Four
Weddings is, in many ways, as much a film about
friendship as it is about love. There were a lot of
friendships in Love Actually as well." Naturally, Curtis'
interest in human dynamics evolved as he grew older.
"With my mum and dad passing away within the last
five years, and with my children all growing up, I am
a family man most of all. This film has as much to do
with a brother and sister, a father and mother as it has
to do with love. And, of course, when two people fall
in love, they are finally going to turn into a mother and
a father, and you see that happening during the course
of the film."
The comedy reunites Curtis with Working
Title producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, for the
eleventh time in 25 years. Remembers Bevan: "We
did our first film together in 1983 called The Tall Guy.
All of Richard's films have a lot of familiarities, but
are always breaking new ground. The authenticity of
a Richard film is that it will make you laugh, cry and
think. About Time returns to the 'Curtisian' world in
the same vein as Love Actually, Notting Hill and Four
Weddings and a Funeral, but this feels more grown-
up and more reflective. He set out to make a movie to
reflect on the good and bad things in life and to make
you appreciate what's in front of you."
Although Fellner finds it difficult to believe that
they've spent a quarter of a century creating work
together, he's similarly impressed by his longtime
friend's evolution as a filmmaker. He notes: "Richard
never settles for good. He pushes himself as an artist
to best his previous work, and audiences respect
that drive. His stories are so deeply personal, so
intimate that it's impossible not to be drawn into
them. I appreciate that he finds humor in the pathos
of our everyday experiences and makes the humdrum
While love and family were integral in the creation
of Curtis' vision, the time-travel aspect would make
scripting a very calculated endeavour. Curtis was
careful to make sure rules were in place for Tim and
his Dad as they travel through time, so as to make the film's concept less fantasy and more endearing.
So, what exactly are those rules? The first is that time
travel may not happen before a man in this family is
21. The second is that one must go into a small dark
place -- such as a cupboard, closet or wardrobe -- clench
his fists and think of the specific time, date, place and
address of where he wants to go. The third is that he
can only go to an event in his own past that he can
remember; he can't go into the future or way back into
history. The fourth? Every decision he makes will have
ramifications on his future.
Producer Nicky Kentish Barnes adds that she
admired the unorthodox narrative put forth by the
film's writer/director. She says: "About Time is very
autobiographical, in a sense; it's bits of Richard's life
all put together in a beautiful and well-crafted story.
The story is very emotional; we had grown men
crying on reading the script. It is a slight, sort-of-
magic realism with the time-travel aspect, but it adds
to the emotional content, rather than feeling that it's
taking you out of the story."
With the shooting script locked, Curtis and his
producers set about the exciting task of finding a young
couple who could give voice to his words, along with a
set of family and friends to populate this unique world.
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