In a funny, moving and distinctly mind-bending journey through suburban America, one extraordinary but disenchanted teenager is about to take Time’s Arrow for a ride.
October 2nd, 1988: just another ordinary day in Donnie Darko’s teen-aged existence. He’s taken his medication, watched Dukakis and Bush debate, and had dinner with the family. Then comes an outrageous accident. Out of the blue, a 2,000 pound jet engine plummets from the sky and crashes into Donnie’s bedroom, obliterating it. Luckily, Donnie isn’t in bed. Or is it luck? As Donnie begins to explore what it means to still be alive, and in short order to be in love, he uncovers secrets of the universe that give him a tempting power to alter time and destiny.
From 26 year-old first-time writer-director Richard Kelly comes the provocative Donnie Darko, a genre-busting fable that blasts the American suburban drama into a wildly imaginative realm of time travel, alternative universes and the manipulation of one’s fate. But at the core of Donnie Darko is the simple story of a boy trying to make a stand in a lonely, chaotic world -- and discovering that every little thing he does counts on a cosmic scale.
Seen at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Donnie Darko became one of the festival’s most talked-about and debated films, praised for blending sci-fi fantasy with an original vision of a modern suburbia teetering on the edge of dread and disaster. The question became: what is Donnie Darko? Is it a look back at the underbelly of the Ferris Bueller and Back to the Future era? Or is it a wild journey into multiple realities and multiple outcomes? Is it the story of an increasingly cynical, hypocritical society on a crash-course with apocalypse? Or is it a fairy-tale about a teen hero who changes the world around him? Is this the cosmic death knell of the Reagan Era, or a portrait of a troubled community redeemed by the hand of God?
The surprising answer is that Donnie Darko is all of these -- a deep inquiry into the recent past and the possibilities for the future all wrapped up in the story of a teenager unlike any you’ve met before. Writer/director Richard Kelly purposefully wanted Donnie Darko to be vast enough to mean different things to different people. But he offers this guidance for the mind-blowing ride ahead: “Maybe it's the story of Holden Caulfield, resurrected in 1988 by the spirit of Phillip K. Dick, who was always spinning yarns about schizophrenia and drug abuse breaking the barriers of space and time. Or it’s a black comedy foreshadowing the impact of the 1988 presidential election, which is really the best way to explain it. But first and foremost, I wanted the film to be a piece of social satire that needs to be experienced and digested several times."
Donnie Darko is a Richard Kelly film starring Jake Gyllenhaal (“October Sky”), Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze and Noah Wyle. The producers are Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen and Adam Fields. Drew Barrymore, Hunt Lowry and Casey LaScala are executive producers, along with Will Tyrer, Chris J. Ball and Aaron Ryder.
So then, who is Donnie Darko? That’s a question to which even Donnie Darko himself is seeking an answer. For Richard Kelly, the answer is “a kid from a village named Middlesex who has a lot of big problems and a lot of big ideas -- and in 1988 he embarks on a journey that lasts 28 days and causes quite a stir.”
Says young Jake Gyllenhaal, who delved deep into the unsettling mind of Donnie Darko to take on the tour de force role: “Donnie’s a teenager like a lot of teenagers who starts out completely unsure of where he fits in the world, or if he fits at all. But through an incredible experience he comes to truly understand who he really is and the effect he has on other people, which takes him on a fantastic journey through dreams, sadness, comedy and madness.”
Donnie Darko might be off-the-charts in intelligence but he also has some off-the-wall problems: he sleepwalks, he has hallucinations and he’s being followed around by Frank, an eerie, demonic presence. Yet these are the least of his troubles. The real crux of his existence is the terrifying world around him -- a 1980s reality besotted by pop culture, material excess, fundamentalism, encroaching cynicism, prescription drugs and hypocrisy. Yet the amazing thing is that Donnie becomes an entirely unexpected hero of these strange times.
Donnie Darko writer/director Richard Kelly was 13 in 1988 and grew up in the thick of the angst, loneliness and underlying dreams of his generation -- a generation that, unlike those of the 60s and 70s, has yet to really be explored in cinema. Thus when Kelly emerged from USC ready to write his first screenplay, he decided to thrust his main character, Donnie Darko, right into the heart of this world, with a twist. He gave Donnie a distinctive reason -- a chaotic near-death experience -- to try to understand the secrets and lies surrounding him . . . and perhaps the power to alter them.
For executive producer Casey La Scala, this unique look back at the 1980s mindset -- the period when hyper-individualism came into fashion in America -- was very revealing. “I think that sometime in the past 20 years, kids really started having to be more adult,” he says. “And this is a movie that reflects that world, a world in which as Richard says you have to save yourself because your parents aren’t going to. You have to figure out what you believe and how to resist the pressures of society and how to follow your dreams on your own. This is the world of Donnie Darko and it’s unlike any of the teen films out there.”
La Scala continues: “The 80s were all about consumption but in terms of the family unit, the question became what’s more important: being able to communicate or getting a nice new Mercedes? I think Donnie Darko brings out how the family dynamic was really hurt by the quest for material happiness.”
Adds executive producer Hunt Lowry: “Richard Kelly really took a lot from his own experiences growing up in the 80s and that added something very true to a script that is both a coming-of-age journey and a sci-fi fantasy about time portals. He really captured the path people were heading down and the choices that face us even now.”
From the beginning, Richard Kelly wanted Donnie Darko to break boundaries – in a very entertaining way. “People were always telling me that there are no original ideas left, so I tried to challenge that,” he says. “I tried to come up with a story that twists and turns and brings different genre elements together in a way that can’t be classified but is consistently intriguing.”
Kelly knew he was going out onto the edge -- but he also wanted to ground his story in recognizable, relatable characters straight out of the poignancy and confusion of real life. “The characters in Donnie Darko are all based on archetypes of real people, people that you know, people that you grew up with, and people that beat the shit out of you in high school,” Kelly observes. “That’s where the heart of the story lies.”
Kelly believed so strongly in the blending of elements in his script that he refused to turn it into a more straight-ahead teen romance or sci-fi thriller, despite immediate offers to buy his script if he would do so. Instead, he held out for the chance to bring his full vision of Donnie Darko to the screen.
The final script for Donnie Darko was a lot of things – a crackling satire, a teen fantasy turned macabre nightmare, a head-spinning ride through the physics of time. But most of all it struck close readers as an indelible portrait of post-Reagan America, a world in which innocence itself seemed lost in time. Two people who were immediately struck by the power of Richard Kelly’s vision were Drew Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen of Flower Films.
“I was truly freaked out by Donnie Darko because it was so smart,” Juvonen says. “So many scripts are formulaic and predictable, but this script took risk after risk after incredible risk and still kept you in suspense, constantly drawing you in with more questions than answers. I thought it was a rare find.”
She continues: “To me, it was a really different sort of coming-of-age story about a really smart kid who is coming to a place here he really believes that anything is possible and that he can make a difference by making his own decisions and doing things the way he sees them. I think it’s inspiring because it asks you to question who you are and what you’re doing here. It pushes your imagination to places you might not otherwise go.”
Barrymore says she too was “blown away.” “Reading the script provoked not only a lot of questions but deep emotions,” she recalls. “The script really captured that burning desire to figure out life’s mysteries and the idea that there’s always this underlying possibility for you to follow another path and make a change. It was a real hero’s journey. But most of all, it was clear right away that Richard had something extraordinary inside him and was going to make a wonderful, original movie.”
Barrymore adored the depth of Donnie Darko but it was ultimately something else that sealed her profound attraction to it. She explains: “Donnie Darko isn’t just philosophical and poetic; it’s also very real and very funny and moves with the lightness and accessibility of a comedy. Even though he goes into alternate worlds and questions the rules of the universe, Donnie Darko’s experiences at school, with his girlfriend, with his family and in his dreams seem incredibly true to life. And that’s what makes you follow him.”
Ultimately, it was Barrymore and Juvonen’s excitement about the project that got it off the ground with Kelly’s vision intact. Says producer Sean McKittrick, who has collaborated with Richard Kelly since their college days: “Drew Barrymore was our godsend. If it wasn’t for her talent as an actress and producer this movie wouldn’t have been made. I think Flower Films really understood that this look at the 80s will be extremely interesting to both those of us who lived through it as well as to kids coming of age right now in a world only slightly different.”
Throughout the process of making Donnie Darko, everyone involved become more and more enveloped in the story’s many layers. Says Nancy Juvonen: “One thing we realized pretty quickly is that this is one of those rare movies that will keep getting more and more interesting on repeated viewings. It’s very precise and complicated and follows an intriguing logic. In the end, everything hooks up to everything else.”
Sums up Sean McKittrick: “Every moment in this story is there for a reason, every little character and every set piece is there for a reason. There’s not a shot in the film that doesn’t mean something. You’re sent on a 28 day journey where you’re basically torn in 100 different directions but it all winds up back in one spot – and you have to decide for yourself what you’ve experienced.”
Because Donnie Darko is so many different things – hero, nutcase, threat, rebel, lover, prodigy – to so many different people, finding an actor who could handle the different facets of the role, while still being a very believable teenager, was absolutely key to the project’s genesis. Although the filmmakers began with extensive auditions, the process came to a grinding halt when they saw Jake Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal was a shock not least of all because he had previously won acclaim for an entirely different sort of performance in the uplifting October Sky. But there was no doubt that Gyllenhaal understood Donnie Darko in an instinctual way and caught all the nuances of both his humor and his darker conflicts. “The fact that we found Jake and that Jake is Donnie Darko, I mean really is this character, was incredible,” says Drew Barrymore. “Jake is subtle and amusing and spiritual and has so much going on inside him that he takes you right into Donnie’s world. The fact that he became part of this movie just makes me really believe in and appreciate the workings of fate.”
Continues Nancy Juvonen: “Jake really is able to ride that line between being a teenager questioning authority and bending the rules and being an adult -- which is exactly where Donnie Darko is at. He’s got that wise-beyond-his-years quality. Without him, we couldn’t have made as entertaining and as complex of a movie.”
Gyllenhaal, who in addition to his acting career is studying Eastern Religion at Columbia University, was profoundly moved by Richard Kelly’s probing script. “To me what made it so exciting is that it isn’t all happening on the surface,” he says. “You’re caught up in it and entertained but you could just as easily read it two or three more times and get a deeper and deeper understanding of everything that’s going on. It’s really unique because it’s a movie that you can’t wait to get to the end of so you can discover what it means for yourself. I think it will be an individual experience for everyone who sees it.”
He continues: “Even Donnie Darko’s name makes you question who he is. It sounds like he could be a super hero or a porn star or somebody’s idea of a joke, but then there is a reality to it, too. He has a little bit of all of that in him.” The 80s setting also intrigued Gyllenhaal, even though he was just a little kid during that era. “I think the story reflects both the recent past and the present and shows us a little bit of how we got to where we are today,” he says.
Gyllenhaal was drawn not only to the character of Donnie Darko but to the tapestry of people whose lives his character touches. “I really like that every single character in the film is ultimately redeemable,” he says.
Chief among the people Donnie Darko touches is Gretchen Ross, the new girl in town who is carrying a darkly disturbing past of her own. Gretchen is played by 16 year-old Jena Malone, who is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after actresses of her generation, and will next appear with Kevin Kline in another look beneath the surface of American suburbia: Life as a House.
Malone says that she “completely fell in love with the script” and describes the film as a “part sci-fi adventure, part hot teen romance and part original look at life and destiny.” Her own character held a particular fascination for her because of her unconventional connection with Donnie Darko. “I really like Gretchen because although she and Donnie become boyfriend and girlfriend it’s not this whole cute thing and it’s not what you would expect. It’s really intense and they both have really big problems,” she says.
Malone surmises that Gretchen falls so quickly for Donnie because he’s “the type of person you can tell everything to and who can relate to your worst problems on a really deep level. He’s sensitive, he’s funny and of course he’s pretty good looking.” “But,” she adds, “Gretchen also sees him not sleeping and going wild at school and going through these events that seem very weird and random, and she starts to wonder just what’s going on with him.”
As for audience members who are also a bit concerned about just where Donnie Darko is heading, Malone has a word of advice: “Sit back and go with it. You’re about to go on a journey into a really wild mind.”
Then there are Donnie Darko’s loving but disconcertingly ineffective parents -- who watch helplessly as Donnie is nearly killed by a plummeting jet engine. Donnie’s Dukakis-despising dad Eddie Darko is played by veteran character actor Holmes Osborne and his bewildered mother Rose Darko is played by two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell.
McDonnell joined the cast of Donnie Darko because she says the script “took my breath away. It was such an uncanny combination of tragedy and extraordinary uplift. It’s the kind of movie you can’t stop talking about, that challenges you to really think about things.” She says of Richard Kelly: “Reading the script, I felt like there was a 150 year-old spirit inside this 20-something kid. He knows what’s going on inside young people but he has a really sophisticated way of getting to it. He has an incredible amount to offer.”
McDonnell particularly liked the multi-dimensionality of Rose Darko, who isn’t just a cardboard cut-out suburban mom but a smart, passionate parent who sees her son going through something larger than she can grasp. “What’s going on inside Donnie is really beyond anything Rose and Eddie can hope to control or understand,” she explains. “However well intentioned we are as parents, the train has run away without us. So the question for them is: how do you handle it when you love someone more than life yet you can’t protect them?”
Says producer Casey La Scala: “Mary brought a whole new element to the character of Rose Darko and really brought the character to life in a way that makes her moving and real.”
To play one of Donnie Darko’s favorite teachers, the controversial, open-minded English teacher Ms. Pomeroy, the filmmakers looked among their own. Drew Barrymore took on the role in an unusual but exciting departure for her. “I love Ms. Pomeroy,” she admits, “but it’s very different for me to be so contained and mature. She’s a woman who has a profound love of literature and really wants to share that with kids and I just love that about her. I love that she’s this sort of 80s hippy who is smart and calm and idealistic. And like Donnie, she wants to be truthful and get to the heart of what life’s all about.”
She continues: “The thing that’s important about Ms Pomeroy is that she really gets Donnie. Isn’t that what we all wanted from our teachers -- to find one who really understands you and believes in you? Ms. Pomeroy is one of the few people who is really happy that Donnie is out there questioning the rules and laws of the universe.”
Less happy about Donnie’s inquisitive an curious nature is Jim Cunningham, the fundamentalist guru who has divided the world into two principals – love and fear – while getting filthy rich. In a true role reversal, the darkly comic Cunningham is played by heartthrob Patrick Swayze. “Patrick really got the joke of Jim Cunningham but he added something really special to the role,” notes Nancy Juvonen. “He came in an incredible shark skin suit and a bouffant pompadour so hair sprayed that it couldn’t even move in a hurricane and it was clear that he was absolutely devoted to capturing this creepy but charismatic fellow. We felt so lucky to have him at a point when he’s pushing the envelope in his career.”
Swayze even allowed the production to shoot Cunningham’s slimy infomercials on his own ranch to give them an authentic look. Says Richard Kelly: “Patrick was incredibly generous and had a great sense of humor throughout his work. I think people are going to gain a new appreciation of his talents through this role.”
Another influential character in Donnie Darko’s life is his shrink, Dr. Lilian Thurman, a hypnotherapist with a penchant for writing prescriptions. The role marks the most recent screen incarnation of Katharine Ross, best known for her unforgettable roles in two Oscar-winning classics: The Graduate and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Ross takes on few screen roles but she was drawn to Richard Kelly’s script, which stunned her with its complexity. “I thought it was funny, intelligent, touching and surprising from start to finish,” she says. “And I liked my role because I get to hear everything that happens to Donnie, including his deepest secrets.”
Ross had a blast playing a psychiatrist but the real draw for her was the chance to work with such a young and enthusiastic cast and crew. “I think it’s incredibly exciting to work with people just starting out because they’re so energetic and so innovative. I mean the people making this movie are the future of filmmaking,” she observes. For Jake Gyllenhaal, it was an equal thrill to work with Ross. “To work with this great actress who was part of The Graduate and Butch Cassidy-- which are just two staple movies for me -- and who has such a tremendous aura was amazing,” he says.
Rounding out Donnie Darko’s family are his two sisters Samantha, who is played by child actress Daveigh Chase, and Elizabeth, who is played by Jake Gyllenhaal’s real-life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal. “I thought it would be pretty interesting to play brother and sister,” admits Maggie, whose career is just as accomplished as her brother’s. “But this was also a really interesting script that was hard to pass up. I loved the idea of playing high school kids in the 80s, and I loved the idea that it’s about all the connections between growing up and philosophy and time travel. It’s got a love story, comedy and many surprises and I think the reactions to it will be equally complex.”
On the set, Maggie was blown away by her brother’s complete transformation into the mysterious Donnie Darko. “He really gave a risky, passionate, intense performance,” she says. “It was the perfect part for him. Growing up, Jake and I always talked about wanting to make interesting, daring movies, and it’s really fun to be a part of this one together.”
Finally, the cast is completed by James Duvall, who plays the mysterious apparition Frank. “Frank is really Donnie Darko’s guide,” explains Duvall, “the one who helps him find his fate and his destiny. He might be an alter ego, or another person, or a hallucination, but that’s really up to people to decide for themselves.”
Donnie Darko was shot entirely in the city of Los Angeles, yet creates a stark, eerie, Americana look that could be Any City in Anywhere USA. There are no palm trees in sight, despite the fact that Long Beach stands in for Donnie Darko’s nondescript neighborhood somewhere in the state of Virginia.
From the outset Richard Kelly wanted the film to be as unique a visual experience as it is an emotional and intellectual experience, so he brought in award-winning cinematographer Steven Poster (A.S.C.). Together, the two decided to shoot the film in widescreen anamorphic to highlight the bizarre nature of Donnie’s world and his unrelenting visions.
Steven Poster explains: “Here we were going to be telling a story far outside the boundaries of reality, so we were freed to use a different canvass than usual. It might be unusual to shoot in wide screen for a movie of this subject and this size, but this is an unusual movie!”
Although Poster has worked on everything from action adventure thrillers to comedies, he was drawn to the freshness of Richard Kelly’s offbeat fable -- and to Kelly’s passion for visual storytelling. “I read the script and fell in love,” he says, echoing the sentiments of others in the cast and crew. “It just made me want to talk to this director and ask him a lot of questions. What I found is that Richard is extremely clear about his vision. He’s very definite about his creative decisions but he tells you what he wants and then lets you go for it.”
Poster also oversaw the CGI work that creates the wormhole trails Donnie Darko follows into the future. Ultimately Poster and Kelly opted away from the trendier high-tech styles popular in contemporary cinema -- such as skip bleaching -- and opted for a more spare, straight-forward visual style that emphasizes the meaning-laden imagery of each frame. “I think we decided that the film itself is so unusual, we didn’t need anything way out there visually. We wanted to find the best way to tell the story with powerful images that stand on their own.”
Poster and Kelly also collaborated closely with production designer Alexander Hammond and costume designer April Ferry to give the film an authentic 80s feel. “The lifestyles of the 80s inform every part of the film,” notes Poster, “and we wanted that to come out not only in the surroundings but in the textures and colors on the screen. There is a sense of being at a particular place in time but also a sense of timeless mystery.”
Ultimately, Richard Kelly hopes the aura of mystery will linger far into the audiences’ future. “I wanted Donnie Darko to provide some answers but also to leave you with some questions,” he says. “I’ve always thought the best movies are the ones that you talk about and think about long after the ride home.”
ABOUT THE CAST
Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko)
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Donnie Darko, a disaffected 80s teen who unsuspectingly becomes a time-travel hero, with a performance that invites audiences into a compelling inner world. Gyllenhaal has already been lauded as one of the most promising young actors in Hollywood today, following his moving performance in October Sky, in which he played Homer Hickman, Jr., a gifted West Virginian teen who seemed destined to repeat his father’s harsh life in the coal mines until he turned his attention towards rockets and the skies.
In another departure – this time into romantic comedy – he is currently starring in Walt Disney ‘s Bubble Boy with Swoosie Kurtz and Marley Shelton. His forthcoming films include Miguel Areta’s The Good Girl, opposite Jennifer Aniston, in which he plays a troubled young man who thinks he’s Holden Caulfield, and Brad Silberling’s Baby’s in Black, an unlikely love story in which he stars with Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon and Holly Hunter. Additional upcoming projects include a role in the Untitled Nicole Hollofeener comedy with Catherine Keener and Brenda Blethyn, and Highway, in which he stars with Jared Leto and Selma Blair in the story of a pilgrimage to Seattle in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death.
Gyllenhaal’s previous credits include the films Josh and S.A.M. and Dangerous Woman with Debra Winger. He also played Billy Crystal’s son in the hit film City Slickers and Robin William’s son in the highly acclaimed “Bop Gun” episode of the television series “Homicide.”
Jena Malone (Gretchen Ross)
16 year-old Jena Malone stars as Gretchen Ross, the new girl in town with a dark past. Malone will also appear this fall in Irwin Winkler’s Life as a House starring with Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas and Hayden Christensen.
Malone is already being recognized as one of her generation’s most promising screen talents. She has received rave reviews from critics for her efforts in such popular films as Stepmom, Contact and For Love of the Game. Her other film credits include The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Cheaters and Book of Stars.
Born in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Malone has amassed an impressive list of credits in a very short time. Her television movies include such high-profile and acclaimed dramas as “Hope,” for which she garnered a Golden Globe Award nomination, “The Ballad of Lucy Whipple,” “Ellen Foster,” “Hidden in America” and “Bastard Out of Carolina.” She has also made guest appearances on the television series “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Chicago Hope.”
Drew Barrymore (Ms. Karen Pomeroy/Executive Producer)
Drew Barrymore, who plays the sensitive English teacher Ms. Karen Pomeroy, was instrumental in getting Donnie Darko made.
Barrymore was first introduced to audiences at the age of six in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extraterrestrial and has since appeared in thirty feature films. Most recently, she starred with Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu in the runaway summer hit Charlie’s Angels, which was produced by Barrymore’s Flower Films. She will next be seen in Penny Marshall’s Riding in Cars with Boys for producer James L. Brooks.
Barrymore starred in and executive produced the hit romantic comedy Never Been Kissed, directed by Raja Gosnell. She also starred in Andy Tennant’s Ever After with Angelica Huston, Home Fries for director Dean Parisot, The Wedding Singe with Adam Sandler and Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. Barrymore also infamously appeared in Wes Craven’s horror spoof Scream.
Other film credits include Firestarter, Irreconcilable Differences, for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Gun Crazy, for which she was nominated for another Golden Globe, Poison Ivy, Bad Girls, Boys on the Side, Mad Love and Batman Forever.
Mary McDonnell (Rose Darko)
Mary McDonnell is Rose Darko, a suburban mom trying to understand her son’s mysterious inner life, which takes a disturbing turn after he’s nearly killed in a freak home accident. McDonnell has been widely renowned for her work on stage, film and television. She has twice been nominated for Academy Award and Golden Globe Awards for her memorable performances in Dances With Wolves and Passion Fish. Her diverse film roles also include Lawrence Kasdan’s Mumford and Grand Canyon, Independence Day, Mariette in Ecstasy, Blue Chips, Sneakers and John Sayles’ acclaimed period drama Matewan.
On television, McDonnell has appeared in such high-profile works as “Oh, Pioneers” for American Playhouse, TNT’s adaptation of Arthur Miller’s “The American Clock,” Showtime’s “Evidence of Blood” and the telefilms “That’s Life,” “For All Time” and “High Society.”
McDonnell has starred on Broadway in “Summer and Smoke,” “Heidi Chronicles” and “Execution of Justice.” He off-Broadway work includes “The Vagina Monologues,” “Buried Child,” “Still Life” for which she won an Obie Award, “Savage in Limbo,” “All Night Long,” “Black Angels,” “A Weekend Near Madison,” “Death of a Miner” and “National Anthem.”
Holmes Osborne (Eddie Darko)
Holmes Osborne is Donnie Darko’s dad, whose favorite pastime is complaining about Dukakis. A noted character actor, Osborne has been seen in the recent hit Bring It On, Alexander Payne’s Election, Paul Schrader’s Affliction, Antonio Banderas’ Crazy in Alabama, Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do and The Mod Squad. He will next be seen in John Woo’s Windtalkers.
Osborne’s television credits range from the acclaimed miniseries “From Earth to the Moon” and guest-starring roles on “The X Files,” “Seven Days,” “Judging Amy,” “West Wing,” The Practice,” “Dharma and Greg” and “E.R.”
Katharine Ross (Dr. Lilian Thurman)
Donnie Darko’s probing, drug-prescribing shrink is played by Katharine Ross, who has been featured in some of cinema’s most classic films. Ross starred with Dustin Hoffman and Ann Bancroft in The Graduate, for which she received a Best Actress Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award. She also appeared opposite Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with a performance that earned her a BAFTA Award.
Ross most recently appeared opposite her husband, Sam Elliott, in “Conagher” for TNT. Her credits also include Wrong is Right with Sean Connery, The Stepford Wives, The Final Countdown starring with Kirk Douglas, Hellfighters with John Wayne, The Betsy and Voyage of the Damned for which she won a second Golden Globe.
Patrick Swayze (Jim Cunningham)
Patrick Swayze does a satiric turn as Jim Cunningham, a fundamentalist self-help guru who preaches “love not fear.” Swayze first gained international attention following his memorable performance as Johnny Castle in the 1987 smash hit Dirty Dancing. He went on to become a major Hollywood star with roles in Ghost opposite Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break with Keanu Reeves, Roland Joffe’s City of Joy, Father Hood, Three Wishes, Tall Tale and Black Dog. For his performance as Miss Vide Boheme in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar he received a Golden Globe nomination. Other credits include Francis Coppola’s The Outsiders, Steel Dawn and Without a Word, which he also produced and was directed by his wife Lisa Niemi.
Swayze will next be seen as a man who discovers his wife and best friend are having an affair in the romantic comedy Wakin’ Up in Reno with Billy Bob Thornton and Charlize Theron. He also stars in the acclaimed Vietnam drama The Green Dragon directed by Tony Bui, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival with Donnie Darko, drawing accolades for Swayze.
Noah Wyle (Dr. Monnitoff)
Noah Wyle, who plays Donnie Darko’s influential science teacher Dr. Monnitoff, is best known to television viewers worldwide as Dr. John Carter on the top-rated series “ER.” His work on the show has garnered five Emmy nominations and three Golden Globe nominations. Wyle also played the maverick computer entrepreneur Steve Jobs in the Emmy-nominated movie “Pirates of Silicon Valley” for TNT.
His film credits include The Myth of Fingerprints written and directed by Bart Freundlich, which Wyle associate produced; as well as Swing Kids, A Few Good Men, Crooked Hearts and There Goes My Baby.
On stage, Wyle has appeared to rave reviews with Peter Berg in “The 24th Day” at the Coronet Theater in Los Angeles. He also serves as creative producer for the award winning Blank Theatre Company, which recently produced “The Why” at the Second Stage Company.
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Elizabeth Darko)
Donnie Darko’s Yale-bound slacker sister Elizabeth is played by Jake Gyllenhaal’s real-life sister, an accomplished actress who will next be seen in Penny Marshall’s Riding in Cars with Boys and Michael Lehmann’s 40 Days 40 Nights. Her other film credits include John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented, The Photographer and A Dangerous Woman with Debra Winger.
On television, she has appeared in the miniseries “Shake Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story,” “The Patron Saint of Liars” and “Shattered Mind.” She also appeared in the Los Angeles stage production of “Closer” at the Mark Taper.
James Duval (Frank)
The pivotal Frank is played by James Duval, who will next be seen in Doe Boy, which also premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and James Merendino’s Dogma95 film Amerikana. Duval’s work ranges from daring independent dramas to blockbuster action thrillers, and includes Gone in Sixty Seconds, The Weekend, Go, SLC Punk, Nowhere, Independence Day, The Doom Generation, How to Make the Cruelest Month, A River Made to Drown In and Totally F**Ed Up.
Beth Grant (Kittie Farmer)
Beth Grant, who plays the comically reactionary Kittie Farmer, most recently appeared in the Michael Bay’s epic Pearl Harbor. Her forthcoming projects include the baseball movie The Rookie with Dennis Quaid and the thriller Desert Saints with Keifer Sutherland and Melora Walters.
Grant is a familiar face in film and television, with a lengthy list of extremely diverse roles. She made her feature film debut with a small part in Rain Man, then went on to appear in such feature films as Flatliners, White Sands, Love Field, Speed, City Slickers II, Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael, Child’s Play II, Safe, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, A Time to Kill, A Thousand Acres, Lawn Dogs, Doctor Doolittle, Sordid Lives (starring with Delta Burke and Bonnie Bedelia) and Dance With Me, among others. Her television movies include “To Dance with Olivia,” “Norma Jean & Marilyn,” “Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story,” “Switched at Birth” and “Don’t Tell Her It’s Me.” She also starred as Thelma Wainright on the series “Delta.”
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Richard Kelly (Writer/Director)
26 year-old Richard Kelly makes his feature film directorial and screenwriting debut with Donnie Darko, a provocative, kaleidoscopic journey through 1980s suburbia with a time-traveling twist. Kelly recently graduated from the University of Southern California and previously directed two short films: The Goodbye Place and Visceral Matter. Donnie Darko was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival, where Kelly was lauded as one of the festival’s most promising new discoveries.
Sean McKittrick (Producer)
Sean McKittrick attended UCLA and shortly after graduation produced Richard Kelly’s short film, Visceral Matter. McKittrick went on to join the development staff at New Line Cinema, working under Executive Vice President Lynn Harris. He and Richard Kelly then resumed their partnership with a one-hour dramedy pilot, “The Left Coast,” for Fox. He and Kelly are currently developing several feature film projects.
Nancy Juvonen (Producer)
Nancy Juvonen founded Flower Films with partner Drew Barrymore in 1995. Their first feature, Never Been Kissed, opened to enthusiastic reviews and earned over $100 million in worldwide box office. The company recently produced the smash hit Charlie’s Angels, which has garnered over $200 million worldwide. For television, Flower produced the Emmy-nominated special “Olive, the Other Reindeer” with Matt Groening. The company has numerous projects in various stages of development.
Hunt Lowry (Executive Producer)
Hunt Lowry heads Gaylord Films and its specialty division, Pandora. As a producer, his credits include such films as Jon Turtletaub’s The Kid starring Bruce Willis; Turtletaub’s Instinct with Anthony Hopkins: Joel Schumacher’s A Time To Kill starring Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey and Ashley Judd; Jerry Zucker’s First Knight with Sean Connery and Richard Gere; and Bruce Joel Rubin’s My Life starring Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman. Lowry also produced The Last of the Mohicans directed by Michael Mann and starring Daniel Day Lewis and Madeline Stowe; Only The Lonely directed by John Hughes; Revenge starring Kevin Costner, Madeline Stowe and Anthony Quinn; as well as Career Opportunities, Get Crazy and Top Secret.
For television, Lowry served as executive producer on HBO’s “Baja Oklahoma” and network television’s “Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.” He produced the mini-series “Dream West” and his telefilms include “His Mistress,” “Wild Horses” and “Surviving” for ABC Theatre.
Casey La Scala (Executive Producer)
Casey La Scala oversees production for Gaylord Films and its specialty division, Pandora. Previously, he served as a Production Executive at Touchstone Pictures, where he supervised development and production of numerous feature film projects including Ransom, Nothing to Lose, Father of the Bride 2, Enemy of the State and Armageddon. Prior to that, he was a development executive at Carolco Pictures and a story analyst at Midnight Sun Pictures and Douglas/Reuther. La Scala also served as an assistant Story Editor at Imagine Films Entertainment.
Steven Poster (Director of Photography)
Award-winning cinematographer Steven Poster worked closely with director Richard Kelly to develop the distinctive visual world of Donnie Darko. Poster previously was nominated for an ASC Award for Best Cinematographer for his work on Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me. His other credits include Patrice Leconte’s Une Chance Sur Deaux, Rocky V, The Boy Who Could Fly, Testament, Life Stinks, Big Top Pee-wee, Cemetery Club and the upcoming Stuart Little II.
His television movies include “The Roswell Incident,” “ I’ll Take Manhattan,” “Courage” and “The Color of Justice.” Poster also filmed Madonna’s award-winning, controversial music video “Like A Prayer.” In addition, he has shot over one thousand television commercials. Poster is Vice President of both the American Society of Cinematographers and the International Cinematographer’s Guild.
Alexander Hammond (Production Designer)
Production designer Alexander Hammond brings a mythical 80s suburb to life in Donnie Darko. Hammond’s work was most recently seen in Rod Lurie’s The Contender starring Joan Allen, Gary Oldman and Jeff Bridges. His credits as an art director include Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me and Lost and Found. Hammond’s forthcoming features include Viva Las Nowhere directed by Jason Bloom and Four Dogs Playing Poker directed by Paul Rachman. Among his other credits are Let The Devil Wear Black, October 22, Back to Even, Self Storage and Dry Spell.
April Ferry (Costume Designer)
April Ferry has established an incredibly diverse array of costume designing credits, for both film and television. She received an Oscar nomination for her work on Maverick starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster and her recent work includes John Herzfeld’s stylish action drama Fifteen Minutes, the submarine thriller U-571 and Robert Iscove’s teen comedy Boys and Girls. Among Ferry’s design credits are Brokedown Palace, Playing By Heart, Flubber; Shadow Conspiracy; The Associate, Little Giants, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Free Willy, Beethoven's 2nd, Unlawful Entry, The Babe, Radio Flyer and Almost an Angel.
Ferry's credits for television include John Herzfeld’s “Don King: Only in America” and “The Rockford Files.” In addition, she received an Emmy nomination for her costume designs for “My Name Is Bill W.”
Eric Strand (Editor)
Eric Strand’s most recent credits include John Woo’s Misson: Impossible 2, Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon 4 and Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea. His previous editing credits include Keoni Waxman’s Countdown and The Hunted. Strand also donated his time to edit a short entitled Glory Girl for Martha Cotton at the “Director’s Workshop for Women” at the AFI. He also served as Additional Film Editor on the John Hughes film She’s Having a Baby and The Experts. As an assistant editor, his credits include Gremlins, Staying Alive, Firestarter, To Live and Die in L.A., Eddie Murphy RAW, White Palace, Hand That Rocks the Cradle, I’ll Do Anything and Cutthroat Island.
For television, Strand has served as an assistant editor on “Hill Street Blues” and the television film “Stagecoach,” both of which were nominated for Eddy Awards for Best Editing. He also edited World War II archive footage for the "War and Remembrance" miniseries, edited the series “Over My Dead Body” and co-edited the movie-of-the-week "Troubleshooters."
Sam Bauer (Editor)
Sam Bauer previously edited Richard Kelly’s short film Visceral Matter. Prior to that, he worked as a freelance editor at local commercial houses including Imaginary Forces where he worked on campaigns for Cadillac and Morgan Stanley. Bauer also recently edited a music video for the band Nashville Pussy.
Michael Andrews (Composer)
Michael Andrews’ work last appeared in the independent feature Zero Effect, directed by Jake Kasdan, for which his band, “Greyboy All-Star,” provided the score. His other credits include the feature film A Time For Dancing and the television series “Freaks and Geeks.”