Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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Casting Coup Tuesdays: The Big Chill

The Big Chill 
Best Picture - Nominated
Best Supporting Actress, Glenn Close - Nominated
Best Original Screenplay, Barbara Benedek/Lawrence Kasdan - Nominated

Some time before eighth grade -- we were still living in the duplex, so I know it wasn't later -- The Big Chill came on AMC. Who can forget "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" playing while a sleeve was pulled over the stitches of a slashed wrist? My father identified it as a personal favorite, but was hesitant to have me watch it. I was too young, not for the sex and drugs, but for the experience of loss, regret, reunion. As my cousin Kathy would say, I had no patina. And after about ten minutes...I realized he was right.

The film takes place over one weekend. Alex (wrists and ankle played by Kevin Costner) has committed suicide, and his seven college friends reunite to mourn him, joined by his much-younger girlfriend. They look back on the past, pick it apart; they look on their present, some favorably, most with disappointment. These were college radicals, kids who protested and demonstrated and believed they were going to change things for the greater good. Only Harold, who owns the house they're staying in, seems content with his life, but his music selection is exclusively hits from the late 60s-early 70s. They're all stuck on the past, in one way or another.

I eventually watched it in college, and have revisited it once or twice in the years since. Each time I do, I pick up on something else. My feelings change, my perception shifts, and I think, "Oh, I must not have really understood it last time." Like my realization that the title was not, in fact, referring to Alex's death, but to the steady cool that comes when you're no longer young and idealistic. But I see it -- I have friends that I've known for years, friends who seem to be coasting, friends who are disappointed with where they are, friends who are doing well but want more, friends who think they were their best selves ten years ago. You're never too young for disillusionment.

Now, after all that, here's what I love about The Big Chill: it offers that introspection, but it's not so damn glum about it! Ultimately, it's about bonds and friendship, and when you get a close knit group of people together, whether it's the family God gave you or the one you formed yourself, shit gets fun. They know each other, they became themselves around each other -- they dance and get stoned and push each other's buttons and argue and make up and, yes, fuck. As Harold says, "How much sex, fun, and friendship can one man take?" It's a timeless story.

Which is why it's perfect for a Casting Coup!

Of course, the difficult thing about casting The Big Chill with today's actors is the idea of putting that story in a modern context. Timeless though the experience may be, it is a movie that's tied to the experiences of the 60s and 70s. Frankly, the 90s and 00s were neither idealistic nor radical in the same way. But, you know...it's fun. So we're doing it.

Housewife, mother of two, unhappy in her marriage -- and maybe with this weekend, she can finally close the book on Sam.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Live Action Short ("On Hope")
JoBeth Williams (Kramer vs. Kramer, Poltergeist)

My Choice:
Rosario Dawson (25th Hour, TV's Daredevil)
JoBeth kind of set the bar high as far as beautiful, fascinating woman obsessed over by an actor. So it made sense to me that Rosario take this role -- I like the way she carries herself, her natural patter with dialogue, and I think she'd look not-too-bad with my Sam.

Former radio psychologist, present drug dealer, impotent thanks to a war injury.

Originally played by: Academy Award/BAFTA Award Winner for Best Actor (Kiss of the Spider Woman), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Drama (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God) and - Musical/Comedt (Broadcast News), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Into the Wild)

William Hurt (Race, Captain America: Civil War)

My Choice:

Nate Parker (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Beyond the Lights)
I just keep thinking of the depth and quiet warmth he brought to...well, everything I've seen him in. And he showed a certain dangerous sense of fun in The Great Debaters.

Alex's much-younger girlfriend, who connects with Nick, skillfully avoids Michael's advances, and seems somewhat flung out of space.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Agnes of God)

Meg Tilly (Psycho II, The Two Jakes)

My Choice:

Ashley Benson (Spring Breakers, Elvis & Nixon)
She's youthful enough to raise eyebrows, but is also mature enough to make some of the plot turns not so creepy? Right? I'm thinking a mix of that Spring Breakers daze and Pretty Little Liars innocence (season 1 flashbacks, of course).

Made a success in the shoe business, so much so that he and his wife are able to host the weekend at one of their three properties. And you know what? He doesn't mind that he "traded in" his values.

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor/BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actor (A Fish Called Wanda), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy (Soapdish, Dave, In & Out, De-Lovely), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actor (Life as a House)

Kevin Kline (The Pirates of Penzance, Ricki and the Flash)

My Choice:

John Krasinski (It's Complicated, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi)
Like Kline, he possesses an everyman quality, can project quiet frustration, and would probably look adorable dancing around the kitchen.

Harold's wife, a doctor, who had years of tension with Alex...and, finally, a consummation. His death affects her greatly.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs) and Best Supporting Actress (The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (Dangerous Liaisons), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress (MaxieFatal Attraction, 101 DalmatiansAlbert Nobbs) and Best Original Song (Albert Nobbs), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actress (Albert Nobbs)

Glenn Close (Mars Attacks!, Evening)

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress (The Young Victoria, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Into the Woods) and Best Supporting Actress (The Devil Wears Prada), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Devil Wears Prada)

Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario)
Yes, I know, casting John Krasinski's real-life wife can seem like a stunt, but she can play calm and melancholy. I'd let her keep the accent, though.

Writer for People magazine, possibly planning on opening a club, spends the weekend attempting to "comfort" Chloe.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Live Action Short ("Little Surprises"), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Jeff Goldblum (Nashville, Jurassic Park)

My Choice: Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Actor (The Messenger), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (3:10 to Yuma)

Ben Foster (Rampart, The Finest Hours)
One forgets that he started in teen comedies, or that he gave a fun performance in 3:10 to Yuma. Let's see him have fun again.

A former criminal defense attorney who became disillusioned, left for a career in real estate law...and now wants a baby, but not a husband.

Originally played by: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Being John Malkovich)

Mary Kay Place (Captain Ron, Girl, Interrupted)

My Choice:

Mindy Kaling (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, TV's The Mindy Project)
Of everyone, I believe she would provide the freshest take on her character.

Successful television actor, and surprisingly sensitive -- or not, depending on your experience with actors.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Platoon)

Tom Berenger (Training Day, Inception)

My Choice:

Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, Foxcatcher)
To me, the natural choice for that combination of certainty and sensitivity.

Who would you cast in The Big Chill?

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Vava said...

Well, now I want to watch The Big Chill. Question: would you update it in any way, or use it as a period piece? And if updating, wold you change any careers (People magazine writer into Gawker or boingboing writer, for example)

Collinboy said...

You forgot about Richard Bowens, Karen's husband.
A little older man, like Bryan Cranston, Kevin Bacon, Kyle Chandler, or John Schneider.

Kevin Bacon and Anne Hathaway would be a very unique dynamic.

Put James Franco as Alex, because it would be crazy to him kill himself.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

@Vava: I would update it, because I think it'd be interesting to see the shift in values from the Baby Boomers to the...Gen X-ers? Is that who they are? You can hardly call them Millennial.

@C. Andrew Sanders: I can see Trai Byers as Richard, actually. Funnily, I *did* consider James Franco for Alex!