I recently had a chance to speak with actor Kevin Kline and writer/director Lawrence Kasdan of the upcoming film Darling Companion about a family who loses their adopted dog and ends up finding their way in the search to bring him home. Kevin Kline began his career on Broadway, winning two Tony Awards for On the Twentieth Century and the New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Pirates of Penzance and he made his film debut in 1982’s Sophie’s Choice. He went on to star in a string of successful roles over the years appearing in films such as: The Big Chill, Chaplin, In & Out, De-Lovely, Cyrano de Bergerac, and he won an Oscar for his performance in the classic A Fish Called Wanda. Lawrence Kasdan wrote some of the biggest blockbuster films of all time such as: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi and went on to produce and direct his own films, scoring Oscar nominations for films such as: The Big Chill, Grand Canyon, and The Accidental Tourist. In addition to appearing in small roles in some of her husband Lawrence’s biggest films, Meg Kasdan co-wrote and produced the films Grand Canyon and Darling Companion. Kline and the Kasdan’s have a close personal relationship and have worked together 6 times since the 1980’s.
Here, I talk with Kevin Kline.
Kevin, you’re famous for declining a number of roles in films. Do you ever have a role that you regret declining?
Oh sure, but I don’t regret. I’ve seen roles I’ve turned down, yeah, being very successful and that’s fine and I’m happy. That wasn’t why I turned it down, not because I didn’t think it would be successful. I just didn’t think it was something I wanted to do at that time. Either I had done something similar or I just got a funny vibe from the director. There’s a lot and the reason why this movie was such a joy to do is because of the decision “is this someone I want to spend 2 months or 3 months of very intensive rather intimate time with?” Aside from their directing style or another actor, it’s not just the script. The script is paramount, but then what’s the processing going to be? Is it going to be fun to go to work every day or is it going to be drudgery?
You won an Oscar and two Tony awards and you’ve also been nominated for an Emmy. I know you have a musical past. I believe you studied piano and had a musical family. Would you ever consider doing an album, because I think you’re good money for the E.G.O.T.?
The E.G.O.T., winning the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and the Tony award. There are 11 people who have done it and I think you could be 12 because you can sing.
Well, I’ve sung but I’ve always preferred to play characters who sang rather than sing. It’s funny, when I did my first musical, I didn’t know but at the time if you’re staring in a musical, this was a long time ago, this was 1978 and there were all these cabarets going “we’d love you to come and do you’re cabaret act,” a cabaret act? I found out a lot of these Broadway performers, they have a cabaret act ready to go, they have a compendium of songs that are ready. I said I know one Randy Newman song from beginning to end. It would be a very short set so I think I will pass, but the prospect of doing cabaret- you’re naked! That’s like doing stand up comedy, that’s pure singing and I do not have the chops for that. I’ve done it for benefits and things like that, played the piano and sung a little ditty, but an album? I would say no.
I talk with Lawrence & Meg Kasdan.
Lawrence, you have written some of the best screenplays in film history without question and I just wanted to ask how did you get your start and what your process is like for writing?
Lawrence: Well thank you. I got my start when I was 14 years old, I saw Lawrence of Arabia, I was already in love with movies but when I saw Lawrence of Arabia I thought, this is all I want to do and everything from that moment on was focused on getting to direct movies and took another 20 years to do.
Meg: Well, no, not really.
Lawrence: Yeah, I guess 16 years before I was actually directing, but I thought the way for me to become a director was to write. In my family there was a lot of writing and I was writing theater at college and I started writing screenplays and just kept writing them and they didn’t sell for 7 years but then they did start to sell. The second one that sold was sold to Stephen Spielberg and he introduced me to George Lucas and they wanted me to write Raider’s of the Lost Ark. Once that started, everything speeded up. Then I went right into The Empire Strikes Back and when that was over people said will you write stuff for them and I said no, I’m going to direct and that’s how Body Heat happened.
And what is your process like when you are writing?
Lawrence: My process, unfortunately it always starts, I say unfortunately because it always starts with character and not narrative and then you have to find the story and put the characters in it.
As a family, you both write and your sons have been very successful writing as well. Is there a family philosophy? I mean, you guys all work in the same medium, it’s really rare to have so many people who are so successful in the same thing from the same family.
Lawrence: We have no family philosophy, we have been very supportive. We have a family motto but I don’t think I’m going to repeat it.
Really, now I have to know what it is?
Lawrence: You can say it Meg, I’m not going to say it.
Meg: It’s “don’t let the assholes get you down.”
Well, that’s perfect, thanks so much!