In telling a feature-film-length “Hannah Montana” story, the producers wanted to find a director who would knock down the confines of the sitcom walls and bring Miley/Hannah’s world to a big-screen reality. Producers Millar and Gough needed a performance-oriented director with the breadth of experience to take the film’s wide range of music, comedy and drama and craft a simple, genuine story of a teenage girl searching for her true self.
“If you look at Peter Chelsom’s films, all the ingredients for this movie are in those movies—comedy, family, melody and emotion. Peter covers the gamut in his films,” says Gough. “Peter always gets the performance, it always comes first, and we needed a director to take most of these kids through their first film, especially Miley. Peter was an actor for 10 years working with The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Royal National Theatre and in TV and film, so to have a director who can actually speak to the actors and bring a range of vision and an experienced hand is exactly what we wanted.”
In addition to his strengths as a visualist and performance-oriented director, Chelsom also brought a couple of other highly desirable attributes, including a complete lack of knowledge about the secret pop-star sensation.
“He had never heard of Hannah Montana, which made it even better because we wanted fresh eyes on the material,” says Millar. “We wanted the script to work without knowledge of the show or the characters, and it did. After Peter became involved, of course, he became completely engrossed in watching all the episodes and became a Hannah expert.”
“This film reminded me of the Disney films of the ’60s that felt like real five-course meals the whole family could go and enjoy,” says Chelsom. “Disney let me make the film I wanted. Now a film about Hannah Montana is going to have certain elements—shopping, partying, music—but we really worked hard to incorporate a lot of substance in it, to make it genuinely a family movie with range, with a richness and beauty that reminds people of those classic Disney family films.”