In the drama Darling Companion, from director/co-writer/producer Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Big Chill, Silverado), Beth (Diane Keaton) and her daughter (Elisabeth Moss) take home a dog that they find on the side of the freeway, much to the ire of her husband, Joseph (Kevin Kline). Before long, the dog, aptly named Freeway, becomes a beloved member of the family. But, when the dog bounds away into the woods after a deer, everything is thrown into crisis mode and a search party forms that ultimately ends up bringing the entire family closer together.
At the film’s press day, filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan talked about what made him decide to to this as an independent film, assembling a cast of this caliber that was willing to work for scale, how limiting and liberating the process of making an indie can be, and what he loves about working with Kevin Kline. He also talked about writing and producing The Bodyguard and working with Whitney Houston, how he feels about both of his sons (Jon and Jake) going into the business, and what still keeps him making movies. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
LAWRENCE KASDAN: We did not take this to the studios. We didn’t think it would survive that. It was not susceptible to having notes about how the toilet should explode in the middle of the movie. They don’t make movies like this. Maybe they’re smart, maybe they’re not. But, we wanted to make this movie.
Were you surprised that you could assemble this cast to work for scale?
KASDAN: I think that they liked the script and they liked the other people that were involved. They were excited by each other. We had [Diane] Keaton and [Kevin] Kline, and we called up Dianne Wiest, who I’ve worshipped for 30 years. She loved the part and wanted to be there, and she liked the idea of [Richard] Jenkins playing the other part. Jenkins had worked with me 25 years ago, on Silverado. It’s a mutual thing. We were amazed that we got everybody we wanted. I put Lizzie Moss in a movie when she was 16 years old. It was really great.
Did you find the process of making an independent movie more limiting or liberating?
KASDAN: It’s both. Your resources are limited. Your time is limited. You have to move like crazy. But, there’s never enough time to make a movie, even when I’ve had 100 days to shoot. We did this in 30 days. So, you always use as much time as you’ve got. But, there’s something liberating about it, in that nobody has any trailers, everybody is there for the project, no one is doing it for the money because there is no money, and the spirit is extraordinary. It was a real group experience. Everyone is game. The actors have to be very cooperative, which they were. They’re the greatest actors in America. We let them know, at the beginning, that we were only going to do a few takes. I always said, “Do you want one more? We can always do more.” And that was enough for people. Sometimes they’d say yes, but sometimes they’d say, “No, I don’t want another one.” They’re incredibly professional, all these actors. When we were casting the sheriff, we said, “Who can we get to do this?” Our casting director said, “How about Sam Shepard?,” and we said, “Sam Shepard?! We can’t get Sam Shepard to do this movie for no money.” He jumped in a car in Kentucky, with his dog, and drove to Utah and stayed in a crappy motel room. He wouldn’t even go to a regular hotel because he was better with his dog in a motel. He just liked it. He said, “I think it’s really funny. I want to play this part.”
KASDAN: A lot of people ask us about that and they say, “How can you work with your wife? Don’t you get sick of seeing her all the time?” But, it’s been very pleasant. We wrote together for the first time on Grand Canyon, but we’d been working together before that. Meg was the music coordinator on The Big Chill. It’s been many, many years of her being deeply involved, and then we started writing together.
Are you aware of how unusual it is to have a married couple that were actually the same age as each other?
KASDAN: The thing is that there are very few movies, nowadays, where the protagonists are of this age. That’s a shame, but it’s not surprising, given what Hollywood is making. There isn’t room for 60-year-old protagonists, in those movies. Even in independent films, there aren’t that many that are based around 60-year-olds. But, in fact, the audience is that age. From 40 on is the growing segment of the audience. They’re very loyal and they like to go to the theater, too. They don’t want to watch it on TV or DVD. They actually like the theater-going experience. The problem is that, every Friday afternoon, they open up the paper and there’s not a lot of choices for them. It’s too bad that they’re not being served, and this movie will hopefully serve them, but it’s very hard to get them to the theater.
KASDAN: When we came to that part, it was right at the beginning of casting. An agent we knew suggested another actor, who we met. He was very hot off of a TV show, and I didn’t like him. I just took an immediate dislike to him. The next day, she said, “What about Mark Duplass?” I’ve seen him in The Puffy Chair, and I’ve seen his movies, but I would never have thought of him because he doesn’t make regular movies that much. I said, “Sure, we’ll meet him.” They said he had read the script and he really wanted to play this part. So, he came and we met, and I thought he would be the first of 20 guys that we would meet, but we never met anybody else. There was something so intriguing about him. You haven’t seen his quality a lot. He’s great with [Richard] Jenkins. He has that quality that makes him believable as a young doctor. And, we didn’t meet anybody else.
What do you love about working with Kevin Kline?
KASDAN: I met him casting Body Heat and I didn’t use him, but I thought, “I’ve gotta work with this guy.” When I next did The Big Chill, I thought, “He’s gotta be in this group.” He can do anything. He’s an athlete. He was a great rider in Silverado and he handled the guns really well. If you’ve ever seen him on stage, you know he’s an athlete. He’s one of the funniest people on earth. He’s pure pleasure to work with. He’s a great dramatic actor. When I see him in the morning, I’m happy he’s there. It’s a real benefit, when you’re making movies, to arrive and see people you like.
KASDAN: Terrible. Her story is unbelievably tragic and the details become worse and worse, as time goes on. I knew Whitney, but I didn’t know her well. I wrote and produced that movie, but I didn’t direct it. She was very sweet. She was already a gigantic singing star, but there was no diva in her and there was no entourage. She was very vulnerable about acting. She had never acted before. To his credit, Kevin [Costner] was very good with her. He was very supportive of her, and he helped her along with the part. My experience with her was all good. Everything horrible that followed was not evident, at that time. That was 1991, when we made that movie. You could not have guessed that things would go so horribly wrong.
Did you have any qualms about your two sons going into the business?
KASDAN: They both dropped out of college after one year, which was a big disappointment to us. The younger one went to Tisch Film School in New York, and the other one went to Hampshire, which is a very liberal arts school in Massachusetts, and then UC Santa Cruz. They both were writing already, so they dropped out. One came to work on one of my movies, and never went back. He directed his own movie at 22. That’s Jake. And then, the younger one dropped out and immediately got a job writing television. So, it’s hard to complain. We never even really supported them. They cut loose. We’re very proud of them, and they’re good kids, which was the main thing. We’re very close. They’re the first people that read our stuff, and we read theirs.
With such a long resume, what keeps you going?
KASDAN: When you get to be 63, you’ll find that you feel very much as you did when you were 30, 35 and 40, and the question of, “Why keep going?,” never comes up. It never occurs to you. It’s still fun. You think, “I’m very much in the middle of my life.” Any one of us could drop dead tomorrow, so it never occurs to you that you should give it up. What occurs to you is, “Is there a place in movies for me? Can I still get movies made?” I don’t think I can get movies made in Hollywood. I hope I’m wrong, but there’s so few movies they’re making that I want to see, so I doubt that I’m the guy that’s going to direct them.