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Shall We Dance - Peter Chelsom Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Your film has already taken, globally, more than $140 million and has still to open in the UK and, crucially, Japan, yet you didn't want to do it?
A.
No I passed. I lied. I said I'd read the script when I hadn't when Miramax sent it to me. I think it was because I didn't want to remake such a perfect original, because I'd loved the Japanese movie, I didn't want to go back to that Blackpool thing - I'd made three movies that I called my Blackpool movies, the last of which was Funny Bones - and it felt like an old territory so I lied.
And then they sent me the script a year later and they lied to me and said there had been substantial re-writes and there had been no re-writes whatsoever...
Richard: And you said it was much better [laughs]
Peter: We'r going on the road next week. I usually get that last line. Sure, I did, I said it was much, much better! I think the thing was I saw in Audrey Wells' script the fact that it could translate to America. And that it was the same story, different filter if you like. I thought that it could work - the Japanese movie relied on that taboo in Japan about ballroom dancing per se, whereas the American movie, if there was to be a taboo in that, it was that if you're living any sort of kind of the American dream there's a sort of shame involved in raising your hand and saying 'actually this is not enough, I'm not happy'.
Or, to put it another way, it's possible to have everything and be lacking something.

Q. You mention Blackpool a couple of times, so can you tell us why your taking the film to Blackpool for a very rare premiere?
A.
I'm very excited. If in the film you hear the stars talking longingly about going to Blackpool, that's because they've never been [laughs].
I'm really excited about it. I'm sitting on a panel of judges judging a ballroom dancing competition before the screening. At Funny Bones I turned on the illuminations for the second time that year. You can take the kid out of Blackpool but not Blackpool out of the kid. My brother lives up there and I'm staying in his house and really looking forward to it.

Q. Peter, did your yearning come when you decided to go from in front of the camera to behind it?
A.
Um, yeah, you know, I think that the depressing thought at 30 is that you're not happy with your career and you have to go back to go and start again. In other words, you punish yourself with the thought that I made the wrong decision but then what I realised gradually is that I could bring all of me, it was like a parallel road, I just had to hop over. I had a boringly respectable career as an actor, you know, but at the age of 30 I just stopped very, very abruptly and it was fine, and I haven't acted since.

Q. But you nearly did recently?
A.
Yes, you don't know this Richard...
Richard: Was it something I turned down?
Peter: It was the closest I've ever come and I actually said 'yes', and the director even called Harvey Weinstein and said can you release Peter at some point from the post-production and the dates just didn't work. But I would have done, yes, it was a nice part and the money was good.

Q. You were to play a golfer I recall?
A.
If someone says will you come and stay in a five-star hotel in Montreal, we'll pay you x amount of money, but you've got to come four weeks early because we've got to give you golf lessons [laughs], you know, you do the maths. My wife and I said yes...
Richard: That sounds a bit like this. You know, 'we want you to do this movie and unfortunately you've got to spend two to three months with the most beautiful women on the planet and learn to dance with them'. I say 'oh boy, I don't know if I can handle that'.

Q. Did you learn to dance as well? Are you passionate about it?
A.
I'm a closet dancer. Being brought up in Blackpool, we were sent to ballroom dance classes at the age of 12, it was how you got to snog your first girlfriend - not to be confused with shagging. That's how you met girls. But it was part of our culture and the programme, Come Dancing, was huge.
My dad used to do impersonations of the dancers doing the steps that he does. It was just part of our culture.

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