Find happiness in the pursuit, says director Peter Chelsom

Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike in Hector and the Search for Happiness.
Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike in Hector and the Search for Happiness. Ed Araquel

THE key to happiness is a full, rich life says director Peter Chelsom.

The actor-turned-filmmaker went on his own personal journey of soul-searching during the making of his big-screen adaption of the French book Hector and the Search for Happiness.

The film follows British psychiatrist Hector (Simon Pegg) as he makes the radical decision to leave his routine life in London to travel the globe in the search for happiness.

"It's a film I don't think I could have written 10 years ago and that's a good sign," Chelsom told APN.

"I think it takes a long time in life to get to a place where you can see it more clearly."

Chelsom, director of The Mighty and Shall We Dance, says his nerves were tested as he travelled the world filming in China, Africa and America.

"In the same way the film states in a nutshell that real happiness is richness - the full spectrum of all the emotions and experiences - there is no greater example of richness than going around the world making a film with people with whom you bond and have endless catastrophes thrown at you. There was a real parallel to the film in the making of it."

Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike plays Hector's long-time girlfriend, who goes on her own rollercoaster of emotions as their relationship hangs in limbo during Hector's solo travels.

Simon Pegg in Hector and the Search for Happiness.
Simon Pegg in Hector and the Search for Happiness. Ed Araquel

"They have that agreement of a relationship in the first part (of the film)," he said.

"They have what they call co-dependence; I won't rock the boat if you don't.

"But once she realises he's going to make that journey she has the intelligence and generosity where she says 'you have my permission'… but there's still fear in her face."

Pike and Pegg first played love interests in Pegg's pub crawl comedy The World's End.

But Hector and the Search for Happiness is a more serious role for Pegg.

"I think his performance is remarkable and the fact that he's funny is gold to me," Chelsom said.

"He also has such a natural, childlike curiosity that suits the character, that Tin Tin, Boy Scout thing.

"Most of the actors came on in slightly the wrong mode, in a comedy mode, and I said please trust the situations are absurd enough. I don't want absurd characters in absurd situations."

As an American brain mapping researching, Christopher Plummer gets the best line in the film, summing up Hector and the audience's journey to the realisation that we should relish the happiness of the pursuit, rather than chase the pursuit of happiness.

"My intention is the audience comes away feeling that they've been on a rich emotional journey out of which they feel rather grateful for being who they are," Chelsom said.

"I wanted to make a film about a world that has lost sight of the shore as it were. We've got ourselves into a place where we're constantly needy. We can't sit in Starbucks now without texting and Facebooking that we are in Starbucks.

"Making happiness the goal is the problem. As Christopher Plummer says in the film, everything in this world is going up except happiness."

Hector and the Search for Happiness opens today.

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