How Lawrence Kasdan Truly Feels About The Idea Of A Big Chill Sequel

"The Big Chill" was something of a cultural phenomenon when it was released back in 1983. This dramedy from writer/director Lawrence Kasdan had a simple premise. A bunch of old college friends come together after the tragic death of one of their pals. They reminisce about old times, struggle figure out what they want their futures to be, drudge up complicated romantic feelings, and try to understand why their friend would take his own life. You hear a premise like that, and you cannot imagine something like that tapping itself into the cultural zeitgeist the way it did. The movie was a box office smash, taking in over $56 million at the box office (over $167 million adjusted for inflation), and earned three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It launched so many actors in the first few years of their career, like Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, and more, into a whole new strata of stardom. The soundtrack, filled with rock, R&B, and pop music of the 1960s and '70s, became possibly even more legendary, as it's now a six-time Platinum record.

You have a success like that, and Hollywood inevitably wants to capitalize on it and make a sequel. That follow-up never happened. They did try to adapt the movie as a television series called "Hometown," which ended after just nine episodes in 1985. It seemed reasonable to put that film to bed and let people enjoy the picture that turns 40 next year. But we live in the world of the legacy sequel now. "Top Gun" can get a sequel nearly 40 years later and become a box office juggernaut. The 1980s nostalgia has run rampant through Hollywood, so why not have another crack at "The Big Chill" now? Well, Lawrence Kasdan isn't too keen on that notion.

'A terrible idea'

Lawrence Kasdan has just directed "Light & Magic" for Disney+, a documentary series about the legendary visual effects house Industrial Light & Magic. In speaking with /Film's own Ethan Anderton about the series and his career, Kasdan was quick to express his displeasure of a sequel to "The Big Chill" being made, saying, "Well, the studio very much wanted [that]. They still want to do it. I think it's a terrible idea."

Outside of the creative misstep that would be, one reason to no longer do a followup to the film would be that we recently lost one of the stars in William Hurt. He is the only cast member of "The Big Chill" to have passed, and he was fairly crucial to that first movie in its examination of depression. Hurt was also a frequent collaborator of Lawrence Kasdan's, and I imagine returning to that cast of characters without him would feel empty. The filmmaker said of Hurt:

"But Bill was in four of my movies, and I loved Bill. He was not an easy person, but he was a great actor. We met when we were both very young, and we were doing our first movies. He was a great person to work with, and he had his problems and he had troubles, but I respected him enormously. And the work he did with me on 'Body Heat' and 'Big Chill' and 'Accidental Tourist' ... he's great."

If you were to do "The Big Chill: Bigger and Chillier" now, it would have to be in the shadow of William Hurt's death, and that was already what the first movie was about. So I'm not sure what you could really mine out of that premise in a way that feels necessary or new.

What else do you need to see from these people?

Look, I know "The Big Chill" is a major touchpoint for the entire Baby Boomer generation. There are certainly elements of the movie I enjoy, particularly on a comedic level. But revisiting this collection of upper middle class Reaganites in today's landscape would be rather insufferable. The first film is meant to be something of a satire of these kinds of people, but the biting commentary from Kasdan and co-writer Barbara Benedek is nowhere near as sharp as it needs to be. Like "Forrest Gump" after it, which is also ostensibly supposed to be a satire of conservative American culture, "The Big Chill" can't help but be incredibly sentimental, which completely overpowers any cynicism the movie might have.

"The Big Chill" became a phenomenon because people fell in love with these characters and actors. The soundtrack of golden oldies became an anthem for that generation and not an indictment of people being stuck in the past. Lawrence Kasdan's film is not poorly made by any stretch, but very little of what that movie goes for comes off as charming today. "The Big Chill" already features a bunch of incredibly privileged people in their 30s looking back at their lives and wondering what they've done with it. Now they would be in their 70s, and they would all probably be doing the exact same thing. I agree with Kasdan that a sequel would be a terrible idea, not because I think "The Big Chill" is terrible (though I'm admittedly not a big fan) but because there's nowhere for these characters to go.