THE BIG CHILL
Glenn Close, Meg Tilly and other stars of the 1983 hit share their favorite memories and on-set pranks.
Iremember the first day going to the set,” Meg Tilly says of heading to work on 1983’s now-iconic college friendship movie The Big Chill. “I was driving a beat-up Pinto because that was all I could afford. I went to the gate, introduced myself and the guard looked at me and my car and dismissed me. I was mortified!” After finding a parking spot and a pay phone — this was the early ’80s, remember — she called the set and William Hurt picked up. “I started to cry,” she tells Closer. “But Bill came to my rescue, jumped in my car and took me under his wing.”
That act of friendship fell right in line with all that followed. The Big Chill is now the same age as the group of Baby Boomers depicted in the film when it was released 35 years ago. And much like their characters — University of Michigan alums who come together for the funeral of one of their own — the actors, who are now mostly in their 60s and 70s, recall their time filming with nostalgia. “I still see all of us in the kitchen dancing around,” says Meg, 58. “There was always food, good comrades, and all of these memories come flooding back.”
Friendship was at the core of the movie, but “it’s not a particularly rose-colored version of it,” says director Lawrence Kasdan, whose wife, Meg, curated the music for the soundtrack filled with 1960s hits. “It’s what really happens,” he adds.
“People rub each other wrong, but the friendship survives and helps you deal with the world.” And in making the film, Kasdan wanted the actors to really become friends. “We had a month’s rehearsal,” JoBeth Williams marvels to Closer. “And during shooting in South Carolina, Larry insisted that we all show up every day, whether or not we were shooting any scenes.”
It worked. “I have a slew of golden memories,” says Jeff Goldblum, who’s kept in touch with everyone. “I just had a great time.” While JoBeth says there weren’t any on-set romances, “most of us hung out together in the evenings playing charades and Trivial Pursuit,” which Meg says “got very competitive.”
Things also got goofy. On Halloween, Kevin Klein and Jeff came as “sheiks in their bedsheets,” JoBeth recalls. And at the Bring Change to Mind Revels & Revelations Fundraiser in New York City recently, Glenn Close told Closer, “Mary Kay [Place] and JoBeth and I went to Kmart and bought the biggest bras and panties we could find and hung them on the fan in Jeff and Kevin’s house, and they didn’t notice until they turned on the fan!”
“We all became friends and had so much fun!” — JoBeth Williams
JOY TO THE WORLD
The film was a surprise hit. “No one knew it was going to be successful,” Meg says. It earned nearly $60 million at the box office in 1983, but JoBeth says, “It was extremely hard to get made. Seven studios turned it down” because there was “too much talking and too little action!”
What’s more, Glenn, following The World According to Garp, didn’t want to play a mother figure again. She preferred Mary Kay’s single attorney. “I liked that she was a working girl,” Glenn says. But Kasdan convinced her. And ultimately, as Tom Berenger says, the movie became “one of those things that everybody can identify with.”
Now, all the actors look back fondly. “It was like a bubble of time in a special place,” says Meg. Adds JoBeth, it was “exhilarating,” and “remains one of my favorite films to shoot.” And while in 1983 there was never talk of a sequel, Glenn tells Closer, “It would be wonderful!”
But until then, they have their memories. “It was an extraordinary experience to have challenging work that also made you laugh,” Glenn says. “We can look back and say that was a very special time.”
— Lisa Chambers, with reporting by Lexi Ciccone and Ilyssa Panitz
Many of the original cast reunited in Toronto in 2013 for a 30th anniversarycelebration of the film.