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DARLING COMPANION

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." Empty Nesters

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 Mumford.

"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 production atmosphere."

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