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Man About Town: Richard Curtis enters a world of what-ifs with new film 'About Time'

What if you’d made a different decision about something in your past?

Do you wish you’d gone in for that kiss, quit that job or taken that other fork in the road? Those are the sort the questions at the heart of Richard Curtis’s new time travel film About Time.

“We’re always thinking ‘if I’m more successful I might be more happy, that’s obviously not true, and if I’d done things differently in the past I might be in a better position now, and that’s probably not true,” Curtis told me at the film’s premiere at Somerset House. “So it leads you pretty clearly to the idea that you’ve got what you’ve got and you should just try and relish it.”

Curtis, who wrote the now-classic Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, remains one of the few of his contemporaries who hasn’t chased the Hollywood dollar, preferring to write “movies set in the street where I live”. He has no regrets about folding up the director’s chair for the last time with this film, which takes on some areas he has visited before: such friends, families and the guy next door getting the girl of his dreams.

“There is an element of wish fulfilment,” he said. “Four Weddings started with something that happened to me and I made the other choice. I met a girl at a wedding, she said are you staying at the hotel, and I said ‘no, I’m going home with friends’, which is what Hugh’s character says and I went with the friends. And it was what would have happened had I made the better decision. And then I remember in Notting Hill I used to go and have dinner with the same friends every week, and I used to think whilst I was driving down there ‘what would happen if I turned up there with Madonna?”

He added “life turns out to be fifty fifty happy and you don’t seem to be able to change the odds very much”.

He might wonder what if, but had he made different decisions maybe he wouldn’t have created some of the biggest British movies of the past 20 years. It seems like he might have a point about not wanting to go back and change things...