Diane Keaton and Lawrence Kasdan on the set of "Darling Companion."
Wilson Webb, Sony Pictures Classics
Kasdan goes indie
- Article by: COLIN COVERT
- Star Tribune
- May 10, 2012 - 3:10 PM
In Lawrence Kasdan's "Darling Companion," Kevin Kline plays a veteran physician who fears being put out to pasture because surgeons peak in their 40s. Visiting Minneapolis with his wife and co-writer, Meg, to publicize the film, Kasdan said Hollywood makes similar assumptions about filmmakers.
In a phenomenal streak between 1980 and 1985 Kasdan was the screenwriter of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi," and writer-director of "Body Heat," "The Big Chill" and "Silverado."
Now 63, his big studio hits are prehistory to the present generation of "very inhospitable" Hollywood dealmakers. "I don't think they would ever make any of [his directing projects] now," he said. A decade after the release of his last film, the poorly received Stephen King monster movie "Dreamcatcher," the long-sidelined Kasdan has weathered his own big chill.
The idea for the new film came from Meg, who suggested a story about a woman who loves her dog more than her husband, and her husband loses the dog. It's a far cry from the types of movies Hollywood is making now, "franchises based on branded characters and stories," Kasdan said. "It's insane. I've been in meetings where they said, 'We want to do Magic 8-Ball.' My favorite board game is Scrabble. They probably don't want to do that one."
That's why he was thrilled the elements came together for "Darling Companion," his first independent film. Minneapolis-based indie producer Werc Werk Works provided the financing. Kline, Diane Keaton, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard and Dianne Wiest slashed their usual fees to support a project they believed in.
"For what we did, you don't get paid. That's not going to work for most people," Kasdan said. But there were compensations to making a low-budget labor of love. "I can't wait to have another experience like that because it was really satisfying and fun. You have people like Wiest and Keaton coming for nothing and throwing everything they've got your way, saying, 'How can I help?'" "Winter's Bone" cinematographer Michael McDonough shot the film, and Meg Kasdan was at his side throughout the production. "You can't ask for anything more than that," he said. "Except being paid. But I didn't have any other option. How can you turn your back on an opportunity like that?
"Making a film is an enormous privilege, and you must never lose sight of that."
Kasdan earned a master's degree in education from the University of Michigan and wrote ad copy before his breakthrough, but making movies "is the only thing I've ever wanted to do. It's total fun, and you're surrounded by people who have spent their whole career learning how to pull cable and set a light, do makeup, hair or act. What could be more fun than to be surrounded by that in difficult circumstances?"
As a gesture of respect for his crew, Kasdan makes a practice of memorizing each and every name before he steps on the set. "For me it's very selfish," he said. "I want to feel everybody's working together. They're out there before I am, they're colder than I am, what few perks we had, they had less."
The characters in "Darling Companion" resist facile categories, gaining depth and new dimensions as they interact. His interest in creating roles that are more than pasteboard contrivances, Kasdan said, comes from his enduring curiosity about people.
"I find people mysterious. They are so many things. They surprise me all the time and every time I've made a snap judgment I've almost always been wrong. And if you can capture that, it can be very funny."
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