DETROIT—Sitting side-by-side at a table in a local restaurant, they look like candidates to star in a young-guy version of “The Odd Couple.”
One is casually handsome, dressed in old jeans and a ratty sweater, bright eyed and full of enthusiasm for the world and everything in it. The other wears clothes too understated to even be remembered, and talks as if he were 30 years older than he is. In his own words, he is “endlessly pessimistic about everything.”
In the Land of Women
Adam Brody, Kristen Stewart, Makenzie Vega, Clark Gregg, Elena Anaya, Meg Ryan
(Warner Independent Pictures; US theatrical: 20 Apr 2007 (General release); 2007)
The first fellow is Adam Brody, who until a couple of months ago starred in “The O.C.,” playing a slightly awkward but adorable guy named Seth, which won him hordes of young female fans and no shortage of dubious titles, including No. 17 in the Independent Online’s 100 Sexiest Men Alive and two-time membership on Teen People’s annual accounting of the 25 Sexiest Stars under 25. Now 27, he no longer qualifies.
His friend is Jonathan Kasdan, who appeared briefly, at age 4, in a classic movie written and directed by his father, Lawrence Kasdan, titled “The Big Chill.” In a 2002 episode of “Dawson’s Creek,” where he worked as a staff writer, he was cast in the small role of “Gawky-Looking Kid.” He is now 26, making his directing debut with “In the Land of Women,” which stars Brody and opens Friday.
Brody is eager to see how the film—in which he plays a Hollywood writer who returns to Michigan to look after an ailing grandmother and get his head together after being dumped by a beautiful Hollywood actress—will be received by his fans, who perceive him as a teenager. Kasdan, on the other hand, has a more existential reaction. He’s worried that no one will come to see it at all.
“I mean, I don’t know, some serious movies seem to be starting to resonate with our generation, you know, like `Garden State.’” Kasdan stops for a minute, trying to think of another one, and gives up after citing a few failures. “I just don’t know if anyone besides Adam and me wants to see movies like `In the Land of Women.’
“Originally we were supposed to open against `The Nanny Diaries,’ which is a movie that would appeal to the same demographic, as they say, and with a lot more advertising push behind it. So if we lost to them, then we had an excuse. But then they moved `Nanny Diaries’ to later in the year, so now if we bomb, it’ll be all on us.”
Making things even more difficult for Kasdan, says Brody, is the fact that “In the Land of Women” is based on Kasdan’s own experiences. Like the character Carter Webb, Kasdan did have his heart deeply broken by a beautiful Hollywood actress who will go unnamed, and did come back to Michigan to lick his wounds and stay with his grandmother. Whether he became emotionally involved with a married older woman, played in the film by Meg Ryan, as well as her rebellious teenage daughter, played by Kristen Stewart, is probably best left unexplored.
“It’s a personal movie, yeah, but that’s the movies I grew up loving. I mean, I like great big action films as well as the next guy,” says Kasdan, citing “Casino Royale” as an example. Brody immediately interrupts to say how much he disliked “Casino Royale,” which sends the two into an extended film-geek debate, which proves mostly that a lot of their friendship is bound up in their mutual obsession with movies.
“We go to films a lot together,” says Brody.
“And we argue a lot about them,” adds Kasdan.
Unlike a lot of children with parents in the business—his mother, Meg, wrote the screenplay for “Grand Canyon,” and, to the great delight of Berry Gordy, helped kick off the Motown revival by picking classic hits by Motown artists to score “The Big Chill”—Kasdan has always wanted to go into the family business.
“My dad and mom truly, deeply love movies, and they taught me and my brother Jake to appreciate great movies from the time we were born. I don’t ever seriously remember wanting to do anything else.”
Older brother Jake made his feature directing debut with the well-received “Zero Effect” and directed episodes of the TV cult favorite “Freaks and Geeks.” His new movie “The TV Set,” loosely based on his time in the TV biz and starring David Duchovny and Sigourney Weaver, is set to open in Detroit on May 4, meaning there could be two Kasdan-directed movies on screen at the same time.
His family has never been anything but supportive, and Jon was writing screenplays long before he graduated high school and before, at age 17, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. His parents, he says, “essentially gave up the rest of their lives” to ensure that he had the best medical care and support.
Kasdan’s first paycheck as a writer was for an episode of “Freaks and Geeks,” and after that show was unceremoniously canceled, he landed a job as a staff writer on “Dawson’s Creek.” It was during that time that “In the Land of Women” began to take shape, and by 2004, he was ready to make it a reality. Meg Ryan agreed to play the suburban mother. The original setting was Franklin, Mich., but it became more nebulous when it became obvious the budget would require the film be shot in Vancouver. The only problem was, he couldn’t find his Carter Webb.
“I looked at every young actor in Hollywood,” says Kasdan, “but nobody was right. I needed someone who was attractive and clever, but who could play insecure and vulnerable, like Dustin Hoffman or Richard Dreyfuss in the 1970s, without coming off as a loser. I needed someone who has some real depth, and some soulfulness. And I couldn’t find him until I met Adam, and then I thought, `Well, there he is, that’s why I waited. That’s the guy.’ “
“I loved the script,” says Brody. “It was so smart, yet had so much heart. I showed it to my friends and they’d say, `No way a 25-year-old guy wrote that.’ It was just so full of insight into these people of all these different ages. He could just see into them. I wanted to do it bad, but there was a problem. They were ready to shoot, and I couldn’t do it.”
Brody was committed to the second season of “The O.C.,” which was looking like a major, long-running hit. (Brody says he is not unhappy the show was canceled earlier this year, negating a 7-year-contract). And he wouldn’t be done filming for eight long months.
“Then I get this call from Jon, and he says, `Don’t worry, we’re going to wait. We’re not going to make it without you.’ “
Kasdan shifted schedules to accommodate Brody. “I knew this was who I had to have. I wasn’t going to settle for anything else.”
Brody, who has two more films in the pipeline, says he has no illusions that he is on the cusp of a glorious movie career: “If it happens, great, that’s what I want. But you know, if I’m in another TV series next year, that’s OK, too. I’m young, I’ve got to learn.”
And Kasdan says even if “In the Land of Women” doesn’t hit, he’ll continue to write and hope for another opportunity to direct.
“What else am I going to do? It’s in the genes,” he says. “I’m a movie man.”