By EW Staff
Updated August 13, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Gemma Lamana
  • Movie

Before he wrote ”Mumford,” a modest comedy along the lines of ”The Big Chill” and ”The Accidental Tourist,” Kasdan spent a year trying to pitch the antithesis of ”Mumford”: a thrill ride that hinged on big stars, a deluge of F/X, and a Texas-size budget. ”I don’t know what I was thinking,” he muses now. ”I thought, ‘This process is terrible. This is not how I’ve done my best work or how I’ve had the most fun.”’

So Kasdan gave up and got back to his roots; within weeks he’d banged out ”Mumford,” about a mysterious psychologist who rolls into a bucolic hamlet and proceeds to cure everyone of their neurotic ills. ”This story just sort of leapt out,” he says. ”It was something I could make for a reasonable price, it was very personal, and it had to do with where my life was at, because it’s about second chances.”

He gave the lead role to Dean, a relatively unknown actor who’d had small parts in ”Gattaca” and ”Enemy of the State,” because ”I wanted someone who the audience didn’t know anything about,” says Kasdan. Dean’s psychologist ”has an answer for everyone’s lives,” says Davis (”Next Stop Wonderland”), who plays a chronically fatigued patient. ”He really listens to people, and he tells them the truth.”

Shot amid the vineyards of California’s Sonoma County, the production sounds like a cure-all itself. ”It was like a huge vacation,” Davis sighs. ”There are spas and mineral baths everywhere. We all just kind of soaked and ate grapes.” What won’t be so easy is marketing a film bereft of big stars or a high-concept hook. ”Larry’s films all revolve around the subtle connections between people,” Davis offers. ”But it’s not easy to put into words.” BUZZ FACTOR: 4


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