10 Memorable Facts About The Big Chill

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

If you trace back the origin of every movie of the modern era where adult friends hang out and strive to find personal profundity within stifling middle-class banalities, you’ll hit pay dirt in 1983. The Big Chill, Lawrence Kasdan’s serious comedy (funny drama?), features one of the best ensembles of the past half-century slogging through midlife crises.

Named a cultural artifact the first day it hit theaters, decades later it’s now considered both a hilarious, potent examination of a disillusioned group who grew from free love into “Greed is good” and a bougie whine of Baby Boomer privilege.

In celebration of The Big Chill’s 35th anniversary, here are 10 facts about having too much sex, friendship, and fun to handle.

1. EVERY STUDIO WANTED LAWRENCE KASDAN, BUT NOT HIS MOVIE.

After writing The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lawrence Kasdan got a chance to direct his own script with 1981's Body Heat. After its success, a lot of studios wanted to draft him onto their teams, but when he said he wanted to make a dialogue-heavy ensemble movie about complicated old relationships clashing after a mutual friend’s suicide, they weren’t super keen. In fact, no one wanted it.

2. KASDAN WROTE IT WITH HIS LAWYER’S WIFE.

Barbara Benedek had written a handful of episodes for a handful of TV shows when Kasdan—who was represented by Benedek’s husband—called her up and asked out of the blue to write a script together. "I didn’t know enough to say anything other than 'Sure!'" Benedek told Entertainment Weekly in 1998. "He wanted to collaborate with a woman, and he thought I was funny." Obviously, "Sure!" is the only correct answer when Kasdan asks that question. In 1984, they scored a joint Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

3. KEVIN COSTNER PLAYS A DEAD BODY.

The entire movie revolves around the suicide of Alex Marshall, an unseen college friend linking all the other characters together. Alex was originally in the film for one scene, but Kasdan cut it, effectively removing a young Kevin Costner from the movie except for one sequence where he lies motionless as Alex’s body is prepped for the funeral.

4. COSTNER ALMOST APPEARED IN THE FILM WITH A METAPHORICAL TURKEY.

Costner’s cut flashback scene is famously part of the movie’s lore because of how famous he became. There’s no known surviving copy of the scene, but luckily we have Jeff Goldblum to describe it for us. The scene involves the college era crew eating Thanksgiving together and Alex considering whether he can cut into a perfect, whole turkey—which Goldblum described as “poetical and metaphorical”—with a large knife. The turkey was, of course, a symbol for the untouched, unchallenged lives the young, success track kids have experienced with an added somber note echoing how we know he will end his life in the future.

5. THE CAST COOKED A MEAL TOGETHER TO PREPARE FOR FILMING.

Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams in The Big Chill (1983)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Watching the cast of The Big Chill onscreen, it feels like they’ve all been friends forever. That’s the greatest triumph of the acting. The fictional bond was solidified by a lengthy rehearsal in which Kasdan told Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams to cook a meal together in character so they’d have a common goal with different jobs to do.

“I chose to leave at that point,” Kasdan told TCM. “And for five hours they remained in character without any authority figure, without any director to tell them if they were behaving or reacting in the correct way according to the writer’s or director’s ideas."

6. THE CHARACTERS WERE BASED ON PEOPLE KASDAN MET WHILE LIVING IN A CO-OP.

The co-writer/director drew from his experience boarding at the Eugene V. Debs Cooperative House at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to color in the characters who, for the weekend, are essentially living a co-op experience.

"I think that all these characters are conglomerations of things in [me and Benedek] and things we’ve seen in our friends,” Kasdan said.

7. IT CONTRIBUTED TO GLENN CLOSE MAKING SOME ACTING HISTORY.

Glenn Close in The Big Chill (1983)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Everyone’s obsessed with EGOTing, but with an Oscar nomination for The Big Chill, a Tony nomination (and win) for The Real Thing, and an Emmy nomination for Something About Amelia, Close became the first actress to score all three major acting award nominations in a single calendar year. That’s a feat even fewer people have pulled off than the EGOT. Bob Fosse did it with directing and choreography in 1973, and Jason Robards became the first actor to do it in 1978. Unfortunately, she didn’t win the Oscar—and never has, despite six nominations (so far).

8. CLOSE WAS HUMBLE ABOUT BEING SINGLED OUT OF THE ENSEMBLE FOR AN OSCAR NOD.

Despite making history, Close had a level head about her Academy Award recognition because she was part of an ensemble. "I think my crying-in-the-shower scene had something to do with it," she recently told Entertainment Weekly. "Hollywood loves to see naked. Naked or dead."

9. AN OCTOPUS ACTS AS A SUBTLE SYMBOL.

Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger, and William Hurt in The Big Chill (1983)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

If we only saw an octopus once in the movie, it might be a happy accident, but there are at least two times that a soft-bodied cephalopod appears on a TV screen in the massive home the friends are sharing. You don’t have to dig too deeply to see the connection: eight limbs, eight friends, all interconnected and living (for the time we spend with them) as a single unit.

10. THE KASDAN FAMILY MAKES A CAMEO. 

Kasdan didn’t have to look far for some of the bit roles in the movie. His adolescent sons, Jonathan and Jake, each made their acting debuts in the movie. Jonathan played Harold (Kline) and Sarah’s (Close) son, and Jake played a young fan seeking TV action star Sam’s (Tom Berenger) autograph. Both have gone on to careers as writer/directors. Kasdan’s wife Meg played a flight attendant. In 1992, she would go on to earn an Oscar nomination for co-writing Grand Canyon with her husband.

The Elder Wand from Harry Potter Will Be Surprisingly Important in Fantastic Beasts 2

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

For about a year now, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has been using an image of the Elder Wand in promotional teases, as pointed out by The Ringer. You surely remember the instrument—which is said to be the most powerful wand to have ever existed in JK Rowling's Wizarding World—from the original Harry Potter series. So just how important will it be to the Fantastic Beasts sequel? Extremely.

According to Pottermore, the Elder Wand (also known as the Deathstick or "The Wand of Destiny") is the most sought after of the three Deathly Hallows. According to "The Tale of the Three Brothers," a fairy tale often told to wizard children, the Elder Wand was given to Antioch Peverell by Death himself. Whoever was able to reunite the wand with the other two Deathly Hallows—the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility—would become the Master of Death.

As such, the Elder Wand is extremely dangerous—and can be made even more so, depending on the intentions of the wizard who possesses it. As Dumbledore once ​said in The Tales of Beedle the Bard, "Those who are knowledgeable about wandlore will agree that wands do indeed absorb the expertise of those who use them."

So how does all of this connect to Fantastic Beasts? While in disguise in the first Fantastic Beasts movie, Gellert Grindelwald didn't carry the Elder Wand—though we know from previous installments that he had acquired it by the time the first movie takes place. Grindelwald stole the wand from Mykew Gregorovitch, stunning the wizard to gain the allegiance of the Elder Wand, sometime before 1926. But while promotional stills indicate that Grindelwald will have physical possession of the wand in this second movie, which witch or wizard has the wand's allegiance is less clear—after all, Newt Scamander captured Grindelwald at the end of the first film, and Tina Goldstein disarmed him.

However, we know from the Harry Potter series that Dumbledore takes possession of the Elder Wand after a duel in 1945, which is the same year the Fantastic Beasts series will end (so it's pretty safe to assume that Dumbledore and Grindelwald will face off in the series' fifth and final film). And Dumbledore's own words about how he came to possess the wand in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are also particularly telling. "I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not to boast of it, and not to kill with it," he stated in the novel. "I was permitted to tame and to use it, because I took it, not for gain, but to save others from it."

We'll have to wait until this weekend to see how it all plays out in The Crimes of Grindelwald, but this is one story that will take several more installments to tell.

Simon Pegg Says New Star Wars Films Are Missing George Lucas's Imagination

John Phillips, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures
John Phillips, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

While many Star Wars fans were unimpressed with the most recent film in the Luke Skywalker saga, The Last Jedi, even those viewers would likely agree that the most recent slate of entries into the Star Wars franchise are much better than the prequel series ... right? Well, it might not be so black and white.

Simon Pegg, who appeared in The Force Awakens as Unkar Plutt, had previously slammed the prequels, specifically ​calling The Phantom Menace a "jumped-up firework display of a toy advert." But now he seems to have come to a new conclusion: Star Wars needs George Lucas.

"I must admit, watching the last Star Wars film [The Last Jedi], the overriding feeling I got when I came out was, 'I miss George Lucas,'" Pegg confessed on The Adam Buxton Podcast. "For all the complaining that I'd done about him in the prequels, there was something amazing about his imagination."

Pegg also shared the story of how he once met Lucas at the premiere of Revenge of the Sith, and that the legendary filmmaker gave him some advice.

"He was talking to Ron Howard and I think he'd seen Shaun of the Dead  because he immediately went, 'Oh hey, Shaun of the Dead!,' and shook my hand," Pegg recalled. "And George Lucas immediately changed his demeanor."

"Don't be making the same film that you made 30 years ago 30 years from now," Lucas told Pegg, according to the actor.

Of all the complaints about The Last Jedi, from Rey's parentage reveal to Luke abandoning the Force, the lack of George Lucas is not quite a popular criticism. But we are glad to know his influence is missed—by at least one person.

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