Dog days pull Lawrence Kasdan out of movie dry spell 

click to enlarge Film veterans: Lawrence Kasdan directs Diane Keaton on the set of “Darling Companion,” an indie film about a family whose dog disappears in the mountains. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Film veterans: Lawrence Kasdan directs Diane Keaton on the set of “Darling Companion,” an indie film about a family whose dog disappears in the mountains.

Lawrence Kasdan’s latest offering, “Darling Companion,” represents the end of a nine-year dry spell.

Things were not always so dire.

Kasdan, on the phone to promote the film, takes a moment to explain the rush of good luck that launched his career.

Working in advertising, writing screenplays on the side for seven years, he finally sold “The Bodyguard,” a film that wasn’t made for decades.

Still, on the strength of that victory, he sold another, “Continental Divide,” a John Belushi romantic comedy that had Steven Spielberg as a producer. That sale led to a job writing “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which led to a rewrite on “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Concurrently, Kasdan made his unforgettable directorial debut, “Body Heat.” A hot streak followed, with “The Big Chill” and “The Accidental Tourist” nominated for best picture Oscars.

But today, Kasdan says, “They’re not looking to make personal films, films about human comedy or drama.”

Despite its large roster of big stars (including Kevin Kline, Diane Keaton and Dianne Wiest), who are required to pre-sell the movie overseas, the indie “Darling Companion” has a minimal $5 million budget.

Kasdan says, “It’s a tough economy. It’s a very difficult situation.”

Still, he was able to make the personal movie he envisioned, about a family whose dog disappears during a getaway in the mountains. On their search for him, the characters learn something about themselves and each other.

The story is based on something that actually happened to Kasdan and his wife, Meg, who helped write the screenplay, as she did on the Oscar-nominated “Grand Canyon.”

“It’s an easy back and forth,” he says of his writing partner. “When we disagree, it’s usually the one that feels more strongly that triumphs in that moment.”

Kasdan was pleased to cast Kline, an actor with whom he has worked six times. He says, “I like talking to him. We understand each other, and that has only increased.”

Still, even through drastic changes in the movie business and his career, Kasdan remains optimistic.

“There will always be good movies,” he says. “Even in the best of times, it was hard to get a green light. It’s amazing that I was able to make 10 movies in the studio system.”

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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