A writer/director of whimsical sensibility who maintains a strong working relationship with his actors, Peter Chelsom may well be the man behind one of the biggest box-office flops of all time (the notoriously plagued Town and Country ), though the affectionately homegrown style of his numerous other projects outweigh the negatives of his one true misfire in the eyes of his many longstanding and devoted fans.
Born in Blackpool, England, in 1956, Chelsom wet his feet in the entertainment industry by performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court, and the National Theatre in his twenties, later giving up the stage to focus on more celluloid-oriented goals. After making an impressive debut with his short film Treacle in 1987, Chelsom refined his talents in the television commercial business. Drawing critical praise upon the release of his feature debut, Hear My Song (1991), it was obvious that the fledgling director had a sincere ability to strike the emotional chords of his audience while maintaining a warm and charmingly irresistible quirkiness. A good-natured love story loosely based on the tale of Irish tenor Josef Locke, the promise of Chelsom's film career gained even more momentum as he avoided the sophomore slump with the endearingly quirky tale of a failed comedian with unbreakable resolve in Funny Bones (1995). Though some were standoffish in regards to the film's sometimes overwhelming weirdness, Chelsom's strikingly original approach ensured that audiences would pay close attention to his future efforts. This might have benefited his next feature, The Mighty (1998), a largely unseen but touching tale of the unusual alliance formed between a terminally ill child and an illiterate outcast, but the attention audiences and critics gave to the long-delayed Town and Country was overwhelmingly less than flattering. Greeted by the critics and audiences as an incoherent, overblown mess (which might in fact be the kindest things said about the film), Town and Country disappeared quickly from theaters and left Chelsom disheartened and questioning his career as a director. Fortunately, his next film, the romantic comedy Serendipity (2001), proved that even the most talented filmmakers can have their misfires. Though not as overwhelmingly quirky as his past endeavors, Serendipity's sincere warmth, aided by the performances of John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, was a signal that Chelsom might still have a few memorable tricks up his sleeve.