Friday evening’s screening of The Big Chill seemed to promise an honest chance at reflecting on nostalgia, with the notable baby-boomer melodrama and its famous rock and roll soundtrack, not only up on the big screen but followed by a Q&A with director Lawrence Kasdan and actor Kevin Kline, who has appeared in a half dozen Kasdan films and is notoriously publicity shy. However, Hollywood Reporter journalist Scott Feinberg, who moderated the after-film rap, took the discussion into more general turf, turning the talk into a retrospective of the entire Kline/Kasdan collaboration (“It sounds like a law firm,” he nervously quipped), quickly becoming a mutual admiration society.
Not that that was so bad. “When I met him, I liked him,” said Kline of Kasdan, director of Body Heat and writer of Empire Strikes Back. “His wife was with him at the meeting,” he said. “Nobody brings their wives to meetings. He was just this guy I could talk to.” Later when asked what effects the film might have had on the world, Kline was modestly content to describe the process. “I’m just an actor. I just remember how fun it was to make.”
Kasdan’s most surprising behind-the-scenes scoop turned out to be yet another story of studio myopia. Apparently, this film, which made fortunes for everybody, including seven million copies of the soundtrack sold, had to be pitched 16 times before Columbia grudgingly agreed to make it, with the insistence of Marcia Nasatirr, “an old leftie,” as Larry termed her. Even on the day it was released, Kasdan had no great expectations and went out to dinner with some studio folk and there learned a line was forming around the corner at the Avco theater in Westwood. The rest of the nation followed.
Kasdan, who claims that the biggest influencer on the film was Renoir’s Rules of the Game, “a house in the country as structure,” of which he readily admits Chill is a “pale reflection,” also admitted it had solid autobiographical elements based on his own years at Ann Arbor during the late 1960s. He always felt that the film reflected something delusional about his g-g-generation. “We protested the war. Then the war ended. We thought, ‘Okay, we did that.’”