Donnie Darko producer Adam Fields opened up with details about how Drew Barrymore’s casting helped reshape the film and get it off the ground.
Producer Adam Fields revealed new details on how to cast Drew Barrymore for Donnie darko changed the movie and her role as English teacher Karen Pomeroy. Set in October 1988, the story centers on the titular teenager as he escapes from being crushed to death by a jet engine with the help of the mysterious and monstrous rabbit figure Frank, who warns that the world will end in 28 days. The film features a cast with Jake Gyllenhaal in the central role alongside Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Noah Wyle, and Seth Rogen.
After three years of developing the mind-blowing project and selling it to producers, writer-director Richard Kelly finally raised enough money for the production. Initially, Jason Schwartzman led the ensemble cast until he had to retire due to scheduling problems. Making its premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews from critics, Kelly was finally able to sell the film for a theatrical release to Newmarket Films with the help of Barrymore, rising filmmaker Christopher Nolan, and his wife, Emma Thomas. . It was a huge success upon home release, with initial DVD sales exceeding $ 10 million.
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In an interview with Screen Rant to discuss the 20th anniversary of the cult hit, Fields recalled that when Schwartzman and Malone first signed the film, it helped spark the interest of a variety of talents in Hollywood to be a part of the project, namely , Barrymore. . When the ET star signed on for the film, not only did it help the production go up “an extra million dollars“but it also saw Kelly reshape her character to better suit Barrymore, who was very eager to join.
“The Drew Barrymore part was written for an older teacher who was about to gain tenure and retire. His dilemma was, ‘if I support this, I could lose my tenure.’ And then when Drew took it and wanted to be in it, Richard traded it in for a younger, newer teacher. Richard said, “I’ll make her younger!” And the name Drew, I think, gave us an extra million dollars. “
While it might have been interesting to see who Kelly would have cast as Karen if she had been kept as an older character, the decision to change gears for Barrymore was ultimately the right decision. Dedicated as she was, Karen was a very complex character, appropriately temperamental and unafraid of challenging the status quo of the small Midwestern town. Seeing this person in a younger character in his 20s added a more intriguing layer for viewers on his diverse roster of characters. Named after Barrymore with enough star power to help better fund the project to achieve Kelly’s vision for the film.
Twenty years later and Donnie darko It remains one of the most underrated and most celebrated cult classics, even if its direct-to-video sequel nearly derails the prestige of its predecessor. Although Kelly hasn’t sat in the director’s chair for the past 12 years, he’s reportedly developing a proper follow-up to the Gyllenhaal-directed story and a biopic of Twilight zone creator and host Rod Serling.
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