One could have wagered a safe bet that Hong Kong director Peter Chan Ho-sun's Hollywood debut would not be a multimillion-dollar summer blockbuster the likes of Die Hard or Lethal Weapon. Chan, whose Comrades, Almost A Love Story won nine awards at the Hong Kong Film Festival last year, has always preferred urban feel-good movies and has made a successful career out of them. So while other Hong Kong directors have felt pressured to launch their Hollywood career literally with a bang, Chan felt more comfortable with the small-town story of The Love Letter. 'The beauty about working in Hollywood is that it's like going back to the past,' said Chan from Boston, where he is shooting The Love Letter. 'For a first outing I don't have the pressure of commercial success the way I have in Hong Kong. I don't have to go through the pressure and anxiety of box office and commercial factors. Here I have nothing to compare with. It is like starting over again, which is great. That's part of the reason I moved out here.' Chan also found the premise of The Love Letter, based on the Cathleen Schine novel of the same name, 'interesting'. The story revolves around the residents of a small American town where there are a lot of inhibitions and, as Chan puts it, 'a lot of do's and don'ts'. One day, a mysterious letter arrives; no one knows who wrote it and who it really is for but it perks up the lives of the residents, who all secretly think it is written to them. The film has two very strong women's roles, played by Mrs Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, and Ellen DeGeneres. The leading men's roles are taken by Tom Everett Scott and Magnum star Tom Selleck. Most of the actors are doing the film on what Chan calls 'very good terms', which means they are not taking their usual fees. 'It's the kind of film I can't really make in Hong Kong because it really isn't a mainstream film. The market is so small that I can't make any non-mainstream movie,' said Chan. 'To me [the film] is a breath of fresh air. I won't pigeonhole myself into a certain frame.' Chan is not bothered that his first Hollywood movie has a production budget of just US$15 million (HK$116 million), small in contemporary Hollywood terms. 'It doesn't really matter. Every film has a different market. This is a drama for mature audiences, not a summer blockbuster,' he said. 'Besides, it is all relative. Comrades was a small movie and it made HK$15 million in Hong Kong, which makes it a huge hit. If He's A Woman, She's A Man did $15 million, it would have been a huge flop. So you can't measure everything by the same standards.' The Love Letter is actually the third project that Chan has said OK to since moving to Los Angeles almost 18 months ago. Other directors might have felt compelled to start on the first feasible project to come their way, but Chan has always held out for projects that were 'right'. Initially, he was supposed to start work on Universal's much bigger-budget Susie And Hercules, but getting the script the way he wanted proved more difficult than he expected. He was also concurrently working on a Hollywood remake of his earlier gender-bender hit He's A Woman, She's a Man. Chan's resume makes him a good choice for The Love Letter, of course. Nina Jacobson, the executive who found Chan for The Love Letter, was introduced to the director's work through his agent. She saw He's A Woman, She's A Man and thought she 'would be very, very lucky if I could get him'. 'There's been a lot of attention to Hong Kong action directors but not to dramatic or comedic directors,' she said. Ms Jacobson and Chan finally met at a 'meet-and-greet' about 18 months ago where she remembers discussing The Love Letter, which was being written at the time. But it was Comrades that finally clinched it for Chan. 'Comrades showed a whole other side of his film-making. That was the final selling point. It showed that he could do a more emotional story, not just a Hong Kong version of a slick Hollywood comedy,' said Ms Jacobson. Chan was also attracted enough to put aside his other projects to work for four months on the script with the writers. Besides starring in the movie, Capshaw is also one of the film's producers, having optioned the book in 1996. Chan is not in awe of the fact that he will be directing his own producer and, in fact, also the boss's wife, since The Love Letter is being produced at DreamWorks SKG of which one of the owners is Spielberg. 'To me, she's Kate Capshaw; she's not Mrs Steven Spielberg. I knew her work before she even appeared in Indiana Jones. She did Windy City in 1983 and I liked her then,' said Chan. 'If I thought she wasn't right for the part, I didn't have to make this movie. I had already signed on to Universal but the reason I am doing this first is because the script was not ready for the other project. All I am saying is I did not need to make this movie if the terms were not right.' On the contrary, Chan said Hollywood legend Spielberg even steered clear of the project because his wife is in it. 'To be fair to Kate, she took the project somewhere else. She did not take it directly to DreamWorks. It has enough commercial viability on its own, and the thing is that Steven Spielberg has not interfered at all and has not used his influence to help his wife cast the movie at all,' Chan added. 'Every single character we got I went and got myself. There was no special treatment because of Spielberg. On the contrary, this is probably one of the movies that he did not touch at all because of his wife. He's been very politically correct. He would have been more involved if it had been any other movie in the studio.' Shooting for The Love Letter is expected to wrap up in Massachussetts towards the end of September, after which it will be back to Los Angeles for Chan to pick up where he left off with his two other pending projects. There is as yet no release date for The Love Letter. But as Chan has always maintained: 'There's no rush.'