When Gwyneth Paltrow joined the cast of “Sliding Doors” and director Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie”) became the film’s producer, actor John Hannah realized that the project he had supported for months would finally get made. But the Scottish actor, who is best known on these shores for delivering the W.H. Auden eulogy in “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” wondered if this American invasion would compromise what was originally conceived as a small-scale, low-budget British film.
With a Hollywood star comes increased attention (along with a substantial $17 million budget), and Hannah worried that the film might suffer from the increased scrutiny of the media and movie fans worldwide. “On the positive side, having someone like Gwyneth in the film means there is going to be interest from distributors, because they’ll see the film will be able to open,” says Hannah, 35, who plays Paltrow’s love interest. “The downside is that British people tend to imagine that American stars are going to be in some way different or less human.”
Fearing that Paltrow might be a picky prima donna who enjoyed basking in her celebrity, Hannah was pleased to discover that “the reality is she’s an actress turning up to do her work, same as everybody else.” At the same time, Hannah’s preconception that Hollywood filmmakers were only in it for the money was tempered by producer Pollack’s careful attention to the film’s script, among other details. “It would be easy to say that American production is more cynical, more financially driven,” says Hannah. “But Sydney had a thorough way of working that was really interesting.”
The thoroughness of cast and crew, including first-time director Peter Howitt, has so far paid off at the box office. On its opening weekend, “Sliding Doors” had the highest per-screen take of the Top 20 films, earning $7135 per screen at 117 theaters. Says Hannah, who is now filming Universal’s “The Mummy” with Brendan Fraser, “In the past I’ve done art house films that I’m really proud of, but luckily this film should be seen by a lot more people.”