WITH successes such as Bridget Jones's Diary and Notting Hill under his belt, Richard Curtis has it made. Which makes his decision to give up directing surprising.
"Well, I've only directed three films, so I don't think anyone's going to miss me hugely," he says, laughing.
Curtis, who took the directing reins on Love Actually and The Boat That Rocked, makes his hat-trick with About Time.
It stars his long-time collaborator and friend Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleeson as a father and son – "Dad" and Tim – who can transport themselves through time.
"The moral of the movie, in so far as there is one, is you should relish every ordinary day. When you're directing a movie, it leads to 1,000 obsessive days. Directing is intense, so I'm trying to avoid that tension," admits Curtis.
"At the moment, I'm feeling it would be nice not to launch into that process again, and just appreciate all the things to do with friends and family that sometimes, when you're making movies, you ignore."
It was this idea that inspired About Time. "I had a conversation with a friend about how we would spend our last day, and we both agreed we wouldn't want to win a prize or go on a date with a model," he explains. "We'd like to spend our time doing the things we do and relishing them, rather than letting worries get the better of us."
With a career spanning three decades, New Zealand-born Curtis is one of Britain's brightest screenwriters, and the talent behind iconic TV shows like Blackadder, The Vicar Of Dibley and Mr Bean.
He's also written and produced some of the most successful British films, including Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, the Bridget Jones films and Steven Spielberg's War Horse.
"As the writer, you don't get locked into the edit, so it's a smaller commitment. There are films where I've been there every day and then there are ones I haven't. I don't like to let go completely, but it's a bit like sending your children to boarding school," he says.
While his earlier films centred on romantic relationships, About Time's more focused on the family bond. Curtis, who has four children with wife Emma Freud, describes it as his most personal to date.
"With my mum and dad passing away within the last five years, and my children all growing up, I'm a family man most of all. This film has as much to do with a brother and sister, father and mother, as it has to do with love," he says.
It was important to cast Nighy as Dad, in their fourth collaboration.
"There are a lot of feelings about my own father in this role. I really loved having a friend play it, so it wouldn't just be a performance," Curtis explains.
He had initial doubts about Gleeson when they met: "Domhnall turned up with this enormous orange beard," says Curtis of the young actor, who was midway through shooting period picture Anna Karenina at the time.
"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 recalls.
While he may be stepping away from the director's chair, he's certainly keeping busy on the writing front. Trash, which he penned, is currently being shot by director Stephen Daldry in Brazil, and he's busy completing the script for a movie based on Roald Dahl's Esio Trot, which will star Dame Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman, before it starts filming in November.