About The Production
Darling Companion reunites Director Lawrence Kasdan with longtime filmmaking
colleagues, showcases an ensemble of characters portrayed by some of his
favorite actors, catches some acclaimed behind-the-camera talent on a career
upswing, and introduces another whole category of leading player to the Kasdan
opus: the charismatic non-human.
Call out the Hounds
"We wanted a mixed breed to play Freeway," says Meg Kasdan, Co-Writer with
husband Lawrence of the Darling Companion script, which was based on their own
experience loving, losing, searching for and finding their beloved shelter mutt
Mac in the High Rockies. "We're prejudiced, of course, but we think mutts are
the best dogs. Our Freeways - really played by two dogs - are consummate
professionals, and their trainers are, too."
Kasey, a multi-colored Collie mix, and Kuma, his Aussie mix understudy, are
seasoned animal actors who came to the production through "Good Dog Animals,"
run by professional trainers Guin Dill and Steve Solomon.
Kasey and Kuma have life stories to rival Freeway's: they were both spotted in
shelters by trainers who recognized the right personalities, smarts, and
charisma for great onscreen canines. Kasey had been abandoned in the desert,
found with an old rope embedded into his neck (he still bears a scar). He was
found in the Las Vegas shelter while his trainer was on a shoot there.
Kuma was adopted from the South L.A. shelter when he was a just a young puppy.
The Kasdans had also adopted their cattle-dog mix, Mac, from an L.A. shelter.
Real Life and Reel Life
The filmmakers took their inspiration not only from Mac's three-week long
lost-and-found epic [see Director's Statement], but also from Meg's sister's
dramatic real-life rescue of a dog on the side of a Detroit freeway. "She pulled
over and scrambled up the embankment, just like Diane in
the movie. It's amazing how the instinct to protect an animal can galvanize
you," says Meg Kasdan. Her sister named the dog Freeway, and the name stuck to
the movie's canine character.
The involvement of an entire mountain town in the search for a dog is true,
including the participation of a friend who offered psychic clues to Mac's
whereabouts. "Just as Carmen says in the film, our friend confessed 'I've never
told you this, but I find things.' This was someone we'd known for years, so the
fact that she kept this secret made it more credible to us," says Lawrence
Kasdan. "Like Carmen, her insights were vague and she was never really right or
wrong, but she kept us going and gave us hope."
Lest a viewer take the autobiographical aspect too far, "For the record," says
Kasdan, "The characters played by Kevin and Diane are fictional. But we did
experience how intensely emotional that disappearance was. A lost dog may not
seem important, but as Beth says, 'Love is love.' Our search for Mac showed us
how people can rally their best selves. The hunt for the dog in the movie
becomes the catalyst for some emotional reckoning among the searchers."
Darling Companion, Lawrence Kasdan's eleventh feature film, can be seen as the
third of a trilogy including The Big Chill and Grand Canyon (also co-written
with Meg Kasdan). Each is a comic drama portraying ensemble casts of characters
roughly Kasdan's contemporaries, following them through their 30s (in The Big
Chill), 40s (in Grand Canyon), and now into their later mid-years after families
are grown and gone. "Diane's character has a space in her life. She's an empty
nester, and her husband is so wrapped up in work he can't understand her
feelings and loses patience with her volatile emotions," says producer Anthony
Bregman. "It's the fraying of a long marriage, the irritations that fill up the
vaccuum. That's why Freeway becomes so important to Beth and ultimately to
Joseph, too. The dog leads the people back to each other."
Friends and Family
Solid bonds are evident in the production, too. Kevin Kline stars in all three
films, and editor Carole Littleton, A.C.E., has cut nine of Kasdan's films:
"She's a wonderful collaborator and a very good friend who's totally on our
wavelength" says Meg Kasdan. Composer James Newton Howard has written the scores
for six of Kasdan's films. Actor Richard Jenkins (Russell) made his feature film
debut in Kasdan's Silverado, and Elisabeth Moss (Grace) acted in Kasdan's
"Plus," says Lawrence Kasdan, "we got to work with some of the amazing actors
we've admired for so long, like Keaton and Wiest and Sam Shepard, so it felt
like a reunion anyway."
Kasdan considers the production very fortunate in securing the participation of
director of photography Michael McDonough: "When I saw Michael's work in
Winter's Bone, which was a magnificent piece of outdoor photography, I knew he'd
be perfect to capture the magnificent Rockies landscape, the stormy weather, and
the great faces of these actors in Darling Companion." The mountain locations
include Utah's American Fork and the towns of Park City and Sundance; and in
Colorado, the town of Telluride.
The entire cast and crew worked on Darling Companion, Kasdan's first non-studio,
independent feature, for scale. "Not only all these normally highly-paid actors,
but wonderful production design and costume departments, hugely talented and
experienced professionals," says Kasdan.
"We were lucky, but it came together because all these people responded to the
story," says producer Elizabeth Redleaf. "At the end of the production, the crew
presented Lawrence with a scrapbook showing pictures of themselves with their
own dogs. It's heartening to find so much shared purpose and feeling in a movie
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