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Wednesday, 26 December, 2001, 09:05 GMT
Lucky break for Serendipity director
A scene from Serendipity the movie
Serendipity's characters leave true love to fate
By the BBC's Caroline Westbrook

If he had not enjoyed directing Serendipity, the romantic comedy which hits UK cinemas on Boxing Day, UK film-maker Peter Chelsom may well have been tempted to abandon the camera for a while.

Chelsom, from Blackpool, may have picked up plenty of plaudits for his homegrown projects Hear My Song and Funny Bones, but it was not quite the same story for his movie Town And Country.

Peter Chelsolm
Chelsom: Recovered from his flop Town And Country

The Warren Beatty comedy achieved notoriety for its lengthy, nightmare shoot and ever-spiralling budget.

And it won a place in cinema history when it was finally released earlier this year, as one of the biggest box office flops of all time.

"After Town And Country I was beginning to despair. Serendipity honestly restored my faith in directing," says the actor-turned-director.

"The film made more money in its first two nights on release in the US than all my other films rolled into one."

Relief

The film's title, Serendipity, refers to its central theme of destiny and the famous New York café in which much of the action takes place.

The story centres on a couple of strangers, played by John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, who spend a day together after a chance meeting and are then parted.

Serendipity the movie
The movie gave US audiences a fun distraction

Years later, when both are on the verge of marrying other people, they make a last-ditch attempt to find each other, in the hope fate will bring them back together.

Given the film presents such a fairytale view of New York, it was oddly significant that it should have been the first film to have a star-studded première in the Big Apple following the events of 11 September.

"The fact is that even before the attacks on New York I was making a film about a New York that didn't really exist," Chelsom explains.

"So to be the first première of any movie after the attacks, it was an incredibly powerful experience.

"It was such a warm night, and people were so glad to have light relief and watch a movie about the New York of their dreams. It sounds corny but it's true, it was my favourite night."

Passionate

Chelsom has spent so much time movie-making in the US that he does not even have a property in the UK.

"I don't like that because Los Angeles, where I'm based, is basically a campus and there's no high street."

He plans to rectify the situation with his next two projects, both of which will be filmed in the UK.

"I'm writing with Adrian Dunbar, with whom I wrote Hear My Song, and the working title is The Freddy Randall Story. That's what I'm passionate about at the moment and that's what I want to do next," he said.

"I'd like to make it with no North American money at all, and with as little money as possible."

Serendipity opens in the UK on 26 December

See also:

31 May 01 | Film
Pearl Harbor flies into UK
19 Oct 01 | Reviews
Sweethearts too close to home
01 Aug 01 | Film
Cusack for US president?
06 Jun 01 | Film
Beatty film is costly flop
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