Getting Freeman to come onboard was trickier for Kasdan. “First of all, we changed Morgan’s name in this film from Kurtz to Curtis,” says Kasdan referring to the fact that the Curtis character was named Kurtz in the King novel. “Stephen named Kurtz after the Marlon Brando character from Apocalypse Now and I changed that just so the audience wouldn’t be thinking about Marlon Brando, but I promised Stephen that I’d pick a name that was close and Curtis sounds a lot like Kurtz. When I sent Morgan the script, he didn’t want to do it because he thought it was too weird, until he heard I was involved and then he did it. Morgan’s great in this film. He plays this alien hunter, a professional alien hunter who, you can tell, has become a real nutcase after doing the job for so many years. He gets to Derry and he sets up base in the local shops and, as we know from other science fiction films, he basically decides that the only way to get rid of this alien virus is to wipe out everybody.”

Not only must the four childhood friends, the four reluctant heroes of Dreamcatcher, do battle with an alien entity that’s invading their very souls, they must also contend with a group of psychotic soldiers who storm Derry, planning to kill the alien parasites at any human cost. Morgan Freeman’s character, Colonel Abraham Curtis, is joined by Captain Owen Underhill, played by Tom (“The Relic”) Sizemore. According to Freeman, who’s making his first return to Stephen King territory since his Oscar nominated role in the 1994 classic The Shawshank Redemption, these guys are in serious need of a vacation. “I’m a really mean alien hunter,” says Freeman who admits that he can’t stand the freezing weather that’s plagued the Dreamcatcher shoot, despite the fact that actual snow has been hard to come by. “Curtis is very obsessed with his job, a real driven man, but too driven. It’s like you get the feeling he was a good man once and that maybe he even was in awe of the aliens, but that he saw so much horror that eventually he went totally mad. As an actor, I try to keep that inside so you just think I’m a little crazy. Basically, Curtis has been an alien hunter way too long. He’s a burnout case.”

As mentioned, Freeman initially objected to the weirdness of the Dreamcatcher storyline until his agent mentioned Lawrence Kasdan’s name. “I told my agent, ‘Why didn’t you say it was Larry Kasdan directing?’” recalls Freeman. “Yeah, I read the script the first time and it was weird and I just didn’t get any of it even though I love Stephen’s work. I just couldn’t picture myself playing a guy who’s spent the past thirty years hunting aliens. The bottom line was that Larry’s one of those great directors with whom I’d make any kind of film with.”

With its aforementioned $100 Million price tag, Dreamcatcher ranks as the most expensive Stephen King adaptation to ever hit the big screen. The cast and crew of Dreamcatcher are more than confident that this will be the most successful King film ever, both artistically and commercially. “Larry really streamlined the book,” says Jane who plays Henry, the suicidal shrink. “King’s recent books have had lots of loose ends that lead to nowhere interesting. This film gets rid of all of the garbage and keeps what’s great about the story. My character, Henry, is a typical Larry Kasdan character that you might see in “Body Heat” or “The Accidental Tourist.” Things happen to Henry and he has to negotiate everything around him. He’s a normal guy who’s very suicidal and he has this telepathic link with his friends and I spend the whole movie negotiating with all of these problems like when my friends become possessed by aliens and all of the other stuff. In the end, I decided to throw the book away and stick with the script which I think has been turned into a great film.”

Wahlberg, who plays Duddits, the mentally challenged character in the story, agrees. “I think this script was as true an adaptation as you could have,” says Wahlberg. “The essence of my character, Duddits, is captured in this film. He’s a lovable character despite his mental limitations. When Larry wrote this script, he didn’t change anything, he just took stuff out. He stayed true to the book and created a 120 page script out of 600 pages of craziness.”

Looking around the Dreamcatcher set, the atmospheric town of Derry, as described in King’s novel, is quite visible here: from the small town country store, which plays an important role in the novel, and an eerie barn which looks like it came straight out of a science fiction novel with its giant electrified gates that suggest an alien presence everywhere. There’s also, of course, a military presence in the town, led by Freeman and company, and a portable command center has been set up in the middle of the once quiet town with helicopters moving in and out. The alien virus, known in some parts as “Ripley’s fungus,” has clearly started to affect the locals.

According to Kasdan, Dreamcatcher has the same basic ingredients that have made Stephen King’s novels so successful. “This is a scary movie and the aliens are really scary, but this story is about basic elements,” says Kasdan who’s best known, as a director, for character driven efforts like the 1981 film noir thriller “Body Heat” and the 1985 western “Silverado.” “It’s about loyalty, friendship and how friends grow apart over a long period of time and how they look back at their lives with a certain sense of disappointment which is what ‘Stand by Me’ was all about. Other than that, it’s a real shocker.”

Posted on March 26, 2003 in Interviews by

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