Peter's Friends

Peter's Friends is a 1992 British comedy film written by Rita Rudner and Martin Bergman, and directed and produced by Kenneth Branagh.

Peter's Friends
Directed byKenneth Branagh
Produced byKenneth Branagh
Written byRita Rudner
Martin Bergman
CinematographyRoger Lanser
Edited byAndrew Marcus
Distributed byThe Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release date
  • 18 September 1992 (1992-09-18) (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • 13 November 1992 (1992-11-13) (United Kingdom)
  • 25 December 1992 (1992-12-25) (United States)
  • 22 January 1993 (1993-01-22) (Ireland)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$5 million
Box office$4,058,564 (US)[1]
£3.1 million (UK)[2]

The film follows six friends, members of an acting troupe who graduated from Cambridge University in 1982 and went their separate ways. Ten years later, Peter (Stephen Fry) inherits a large estate from his father, and invites the rest of the gang to spend New Year's holiday with him. Many changes have taken place in all of their lives, but Peter has a secret that will shock them all.


It is New Year's weekend and the friends of Peter (Fry) gather at his newly inherited country house. Ten years ago, they all acted together in a Cambridge University student comedy troupe. Since then they have gone in different directions and career paths.

Peter's friends are Andrew (Branagh), now a writer in Hollywood; married jingle writers Roger (Laurie) and Mary (Staunton); glamorous costume designer Sarah (Emmanuel); and eccentric Maggie (Thompson), who works in publishing. Joining them are Carol (Rudner), the American TV star wife of Andrew; and the impolite Brian (Slattery), Sarah's very recently acquired lover. Also accompanying them are Vera, Peter's long-serving housekeeper (Law), and her son Paul (Lowe).

Peter's father has recently died, and Peter plans to sell the house after this last party. Andrew and Carol's marriage is strained by the demands of her fame. Roger and Mary are recovering from a devastating personal tragedy only slowly revealed to the audience: the death of one of their children. A lonely Maggie is determined to persuade Peter they should be more than just friends, and Sarah's not as happy with her life as she appears.

The weekend does not go as planned. After a failed attempt to seduce Peter, Maggie receives a makeover from Carol and seduces Paul. Carol leaves Andrew and returns to America, and after a year of sobriety Andrew returns to the bottle. Roger and Mary reach an emotional breakthrough, share their grief and address her obsessive overprotection of their remaining child. Brian returns to his wife after realizing that Sarah is not interested in that which she already has, but only in that which belongs to someone else. In the climax of the film, Peter reveals the real reason for his bringing them all together: he is HIV-positive. The friends emerge from their own problems and pledge their assistance to Peter, and the weekend (and the film) ends on a more upbeat note.


  • Stephen Fry as Peter Morton, the eponymous character.
  • Kenneth Branagh as Andrew Benson, an old friend of Peter. Now a writer in America.
  • Hugh Laurie as Roger Charleston, a jingle writer, and husband of Mary. Went to university with Peter.
  • Imelda Staunton as Mary Charleston, a jingle writer, and wife of Roger. Went to university with Peter.
  • Emma Thompson as Maggie Chester, an eccentric publisher. Went to university with Peter.
  • Alphonsia Emmanuel as Sarah Johnson, a fashion designer. Went to university with Peter.
  • Rita Rudner as Carol Benson, an actress, and Andrew's American wife.
  • Tony Slattery as Brian, Sarah's already-married boyfriend.
  • Phyllida Law as Vera, the long-serving housekeeper for Peter.
  • Alex Lowe as Paul, Vera's son.


Most of the cast are actually old university friends or have previously collaborated in other films. Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery attended Cambridge University and had been members of the Cambridge Footlights, a student comedy troupe similar to the one portrayed in the film, at the same time. Co-writer Martin Bergman (husband of co-writer/star Rita Rudner) also attended Cambridge and was also a member of the Footlights.

Prior to filming, Fry and Laurie were already a successful double act with TV series A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. At the time the film was made, Branagh was married to Thompson, who had also dated Laurie during their university days. Phyllida Law is Thompson's mother and along with Richard Briers, Imelda Staunton and Alex Lowe appeared with Branagh and Thompson in Branagh's adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing the following year. More than a decade later Fry, Law and Slattery would appear together in the ITV series Kingdom.


The soundtrack featured many artists from the 1980s, including Tears for Fears (whose song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" was heard over the opening credits of the film), Eric Clapton, The Pretenders, Kiri Te Kanawa and Bruce Springsteen.

The soundtrack album did not, however, feature the cast's rendition of the Jerome Kern standard "The Way You Look Tonight", as performed in the film nor the song, 'Orpheus on the Underground', by John Hudson, which features at the beginning and end of the film.


Box office

Peter's Friends grossed over $4 million in the United States,[3] and in 1992 alone, it grossed £3.1 million in the U.K.[2]

Critical response

Peter's Friends was well received by most critics and currently holds a 71% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews.[4]

Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, described the film as "more or less predictable", but awarded it three-and-a-half stars, stating, "The structure of Peter's Friends is not blazingly original - The Big Chill comes instantly to mind - but a movie like this succeeds in its particulars. If the dialogue is witty, if the characters are convincingly funny or sad, if there is the right bittersweet nostalgia and the sense that someone is likely to burst into "Those Were the Days," then it doesn't matter that we've seen the formula before. This is a new weekend with new friends."[5]

Conversely, online critic James Berardinelli spoke poorly of the film, giving it two-and-a-half out of a possible four stars and stating, "At its best, Peter's Friends is warm, touching, and funny. At its worst, it's annoying and preachy. Fortunately, there are a few more moments in the former category than in the latter." While praising Branagh's direction and performances by the cast, Berardinelli attributed most of his discontent to the film's screenplay, concluding, "This is Branagh's worst effort to date and shows, if nothing else, that no matter how talented the director and his cast, he still needs a decent screenplay. And that, ultimately, is where Peter's Friends falls short."[6]


Peter's Friends was nominated for a Goya Award and won two Evening Standard British Film Awards. It also ranked in eighth place on the National Board of Review's Top Ten 1992 films.

Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
Peter Sellers Award for Comedy Kenneth Branagh Won
Goya Awards Best European Film Kenneth Branagh Nominated


  1. Peter's Friends at Box Office Mojo
  2. Ilott, Terry (17 June 2013). Budgets and Markets: A Study of the Budgeting of European Films. Routledge. ISBN 9781135102678. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  3. Branagh, Kenneth (25 December 1992), Peter's Friends, retrieved 10 April 2016
  4. "Peter's Friends". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  5. Ebert, Roger (25 December 1992). "Peter's Friends". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  6. Berardinelli, James. "Peter's Friends". ReelViews. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
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