Doors wide open for actor John Hannah

Tera Roberson

Staff Writer

With a successful television and film career spanning the Atlantic, John Hannah, who stars opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, proves he has what it takes to make Hollywood's list of leading men.

Although his U.S. acting career is limited to a role in Four Weddings and a Funeral, this charming and attractive Scottish actor has been quite busy.

In between his role as the star of McCallum, a popular Scottish television series in which he plays a pathologist, and four back-to-back feature films, the doors to acting success seem wide open to Hannah.

"For the last couple of years I've been really busy. I've been doing this television series in Britain, so I'm just taking some time off right now," he said during a press stop at the offices of The Daily Cougar earlier this year.

"It's a fortunate situation to be in, to have that choice," Hannah said. "For the first time since I've been an actor, (I don't) really have to worry about paying next month's rent. So I am just going to kick back and do nothing for a while."

In Sliding Doors, which opens in Houston Friday, Hannah plays Jack, a very likable and charming chap who meets Helen, played by the increasingly visible Gwyneth Paltrow, after a bad day. He's smart. He's cute. He's funny. He's sincere. And he's also married.

Hannah says that besides his co-star's beauty, the concept of Sliding Doors sparked his attraction to the film. "I think (the movie) is really an original premise. The idea is completely unique," said Hannah.

The film follows a what-if situation involving Helen, whose life is mapped out in two distinct, continuously running paths. In one, Helen rides the early subway home, meets James and catches her boyfriend Gerry cheating with an old flame, sparking an exciting new adventure. In the other, Helen misses the subway and arrives at her apartment to find Gerry showering soon just after his ex-girlfriend has left.

"I think that what (Peter Howitt, the director has) done with it is really a brilliant job of having this idea, but then working it out in every possible way by examining what might happen," Hannah said.

In a story of chance, fate would have it that Hannah and writer/director Howitt actually worked on a film together five years ago. However, Hannah believes fate was on his side this time around.

"Luckily (Howitt) had forgotten me. I'm sure if he had remembered, he wouldn't have wanted me to do this part, so luckily he had forgotten that I was in it," said Hannah.

For his role as Jack, Hannah said that unlike most men who marvel at the sight of a pretty woman who is also naïve and vulnerable, Jack's intentions are decidedly less predatory.

"I've been acting now for 12 years, and one of the things that I was attracted to was the sense of Jack's character in the film," Hannah said. "He's not after anything. He doesn't want anything from Helen; he's not trying to seduce her."

The simplicity Jack emanated also presented a challenge Hannah had not yet faced in his acting career.

"He's simply somebody who exists, who's trying to live in an entirely uncomplicated way," Hannah said. "It's almost like taking all your clothes off and walking on stage and doing absolutely nothing. You have nothing to hide behind. You have no comedy routine to do, you have no song to sing; you simply exist."

Network Event Theater will present a free screening of Sliding Doors at 8 p.m. tonight at the University of Houston Cullen Performance Hall. Passes are required and can be picked up in Rm. 154 of Cullen Performance Hall. Call (713) 743-5186 for more information.

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