Martin Clunes wife was reason film Sliding Doors was made after helpful tip

Director Peter Howitt has revealed the incredible real life Sliding Doors moment that made the hit 1998 Hollywood film.

Peter also gushed about the people who helped to get it made – including Martin Clunes' wife, the film producer Philippa Braithwaite.

Sliding Doors, which follows Gwyneth Paltrow's character Helen and the two paths her life could take depending on whether or not she catches a train one day, turns 25 years old this year.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Star about making the film, director Peter Howitt revealed that with the help of celebrities including Philippa Braitwaite, Four Weddings and a Funeral star John Hannah and Academy Award winner Sydney Pollack, the film had its own Sliding Doors moments that led to the film becoming a global success.

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"It goes in this order – Phillipa [Braithwaite], John Hannah and then Sydney [Pollack]," said Peter.

Peter, who had previously risen to national fame as Joey Boswell in BBC sitcom Bread, shared his idea for Sliding Doors with Bread director Susan Belbin, who subsequently told him to "go home and write that, right now."

After writing a few pages, Peter realised that he did not know any film producers, and asked his friend Martin Clunes if he could pitch his idea to Martin's future wife Phillipa Braithwaite.

"I said to Martin, 'your girlfriend is a film producer isn't she? I've got this idea and I've written a few pages, do you think she'd take a look?' That was all," said Peter.

After speaking to her she told him he should finish the story, adding: "If you keep getting told no, you've got to have someone, got to have something that makes you keep going in the face of rejection, rejection, rejection.

"But how do you keep going? What keeps you going? Well the only thing that keeps you going is your own self belief. It has to be your own self-belief and Philippa's belief. That's what kept me going."

Yet the film's production took on two separate paths of its own when Peter showed the script to Four Weddings and a Funeral Actor John Hannah, whom would later play James Hammerton in the film.

"I sent the script to him, because I thought he would be great as James," said Peter.

"He met with Lindsey Doran, who is literally one of the loveliest people I've ever met in my life – and the smartest. She's just quite brilliant," said Peter.

Yet while Lindsay was reading the Sliding Doors script, life was imitating the film as the script was taking on another path in London, with Peter saying: "The script is having this life here, and this life there.

"One existence in London, which isn't going very well, and another existence in L.A which is starting to go quite well."

Phillipa had recently walked away from a meeting with a group of investors to close the financing of the film, after Peter told her "Don't go back in, just walk away. This film is not meant to be made this way. This is not the vibe for this film."

At the same time, producer Lindsay had rang Peter's agent to ask if Mirage could get involved with producing and financing the film, after she read the script in Los Angeles.

His agent did not know at the time that Phillipa and Peter had walked away from the closing meeting, telling her: "'Thank you for your interest, but we're all taken care of."

However, the Sliding Doors moment finally came to a culmination when director Sydney Pollack had a free morning when a writer had asked for more time to deliver a script that Sydney was expecting to read.

Peter explained that if that script had been delivered on time, Sydney may not have ended up reading Sliding Doors or asked to have been involved.

Peter continued: "They linked us up, the next day I was talking to Sydney Pollack – so that was Sliding Doors' Sliding Doors moment. All those stars had align."

Sydney even had a hand in another Sliding Doors moment, after suggesting Gwyneth Paltrow for the lead role – just a year after Peter had said to his girlfriend at the time that he'd love for Gwyneth to play Helen.

"Sydney had done a film with Gwyneth, he said 'what about Gwyneth Paltrow?'

From there, the rest became pop culture history, with Peter remembering one poignant moment at the end of the first week of filming: "Remi Adefarasin who was the Director of Cinematography, came up to me and said, 'we're doing something special here. You know that don't you?'

"I said, 'no, I don't know that,' and he said – 'I can feel it.'"

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