Taglines: A new funny film about love. With a bit of time travel.
The night after another unsatisfactory New Year party, Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life—so he decides to make his world a better place… by getting a girlfriend. Sadly, that turns out not to be as easy as you might think.
Moving from the Cornwall coast to London to train as a lawyer, Tim finally meets the beautiful but insecure Mary (Rachel McAdams). They fall in love, then an unfortunate time-travel incident means he’s never met her at all. So they meet for the first time again—and again—but finally, after a lot of cunning time-traveling, he wins her heart.
Tim then uses his power to create the perfect romantic proposal, to save his wedding from the worst best-man speeches, to save his best friend from professional disaster and to get his pregnant wife to the hospital in time for the birth of their daughter, despite a nasty traffic jam outside Abbey Road.
But as his unusual life progresses, Tim finds out that his unique gift can’t save him from the sorrows and ups and downs that affect all families, everywhere. There are great limits to what time travel can achieve, and it can be dangerous too. About Time is a comedy about love and time travel, which discovers that, in the end, making the most of life may not need time travel at all.
Love, Family and Time Travel
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 extraordinary.”
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.
Feeling Loved Up: Casting About Time
From the start, the producers and casting director FIONA WEIR knew performer Domhnall Gleeson would be ideal for the role of the time-traveling Tim Lake. However, he did quite shock them upon introduction.
In the midst of filming Anna Karenina, Gleeson arrived at a meeting with Curtis, sporting a head of long hair and bushy beard. Laughs Curtis of the meeting: “At first, Domhnall was very difficult to cast. He turned up with this enormous orange beard, and he looked like a 35-year-old Russian autocrat. It was hard for me to imagine what he actually even looked like, but in the end it was an easy decision. He has a lot of the qualities I most love in an actor and actually has them as a human being. He has doubt, high spirits and optimism, and he is very funny.”
His rugged exterior aside, producers were keen on the Irish actor joining the production as their lead. Compliments Bevan: “Domhnall is a brilliant young actor and has the ability to be extremely dramatic and very funny, which is a very unusual combination.” The producer didn’t mind that his lead, heretofore best known for his pivotal role in the Harry Potter series, was an unorthodox choice. Bevan continues, “It’s refreshing to see a new face playing a lead in a Richard Curtis film—a different face and not a posh boy—he gives the film a whole different feel.”
The minute About Time begins, audiences see Tim as a normal guy. He’s a slightly confused, but very likeable hero, who is going through his life with the same level of confidence the majority of ordinary people can muster. “You love Tim’s character from the beginning,” reflects Kentish Barnes. “You want him to succeed when he meets the love of his life.”
When Gleeson first read the script, he laughed aloud, which he took as quite the promising sign. Reflects the performer: “It was sweet relief reading the script. It had so much to say about a way of living your life that I found valuable and beautiful. That was Richard’s introduction to the film for me, and that was what I tried to keep close to my heart while we filmed.”
With Gleeson on board the production, filmmakers moved forward in casting the role of Mary, the young American woman with whom Tim falls in love, marries and starts a family. Because of Rachel McAdams’ busy schedule, the filmmakers weren’t certain she would be able to join the production. Little did they know, however, that she adored the script.
Curtis was thrilled that an actress of McAdams’ caliber had signed onto the film. He muses: “Rachel is someone, who every time I’ve seen her in a film, I have melted with this sense of comfort and love. We were certainly lucky to get her.”
Bevan agrees that McAdams was absolutely perfect for the role, commending: “Rachel has that great girl-next-door quality. She has the beauty, the humor and the wit, but she also has the ability as an actress to make whomever she is playing against look equally as great.”
McAdams recalls what drew her to the part: “I enjoyed the script immensely and loved what it was about. It was quite moving with a very simple, but so meaningful moral of the story, and I loved all the characters. I knew that signing onto a Richard Curtis film was just a good package deal; he does these things so well. He is very generous with his spirit and brings so much of himself to the project.”
The performer appreciated that the expatriate was as complex as her on-screen love, sharing, “Mary’s got this funny mix of confidence and total insecurity. But then she meets Tim, and she just blossoms. He ushers her in the direction she was meant to go in, and the puzzle pieces fit, finally.”
For the seasoned young performer, working with Gleeson was a surprising joy. She enthuses: “It’s been wonderful to watch Domhnall transform from the younger Tim to the older Tim. He has this endless energy for physical comedy, and his comedic timing is impeccable. He always seems to find humor. Domhnall is so grounded, so rooted in the character, and he makes everything matter.”
Her leading man, Gleeson, returns the kind words: “Rachel brings this gorgeous honesty to her character. She’s very funny, and she brings something that is pure and uncomplicated in the best possible sense. It was joyous being on set with her all the time.”
In casting the role of Tim’s Dad, filmmakers turned to a veteran of Curtis’ films: much-feted performer Bill Nighy, first introduced in a Curtis role as a washed-up rocker in Love Actually. “Tim’s Dad is a strange synthesis of a lot of people I’ve met,” explains Curtis. “There’s a lot of my feeling about my father in the role, and it was a fun idea to have Bill play the part. To cast a friend you actually love in that part was a great pleasure.”
Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson, Lydia Wilson, Vanessa Kirby
Screenplay by: Richard Curtis
Production Design by: John Paul Kelly
Cinematography by: John Guleserian
Film Editing by: Mark Day
Costume Design by: Verity Hawkes
Set Decoration by: Liz Griffiths
Music by: Nick Laird-Clowes
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date: November 8, 2013