Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
04/01/1996 at 01:00 AM EST
AFFAIR TO REMEMBER
PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR Randal Kleiser, 49, knows all about the confetti and tears falling throughout his just-released It's My Party. In the film a young man (Eric Roberts), dying of virulent, painful AIDS-related brain lesions, invites over friends and family, including his parents, for a two-day farewell bash. The guests know that when the party ends, the host will kill himself.
The story is painfully autobiographical. Three years ago architectural designer Harry Stein, then 39, held a similar party for himself at his Los Angeles home. Kleiser, who had once been Stein's lover, left the house right before Stein overdosed on pills. "The mood was like a wake, except the dead person was among us," recalls Kleiser, who had met Stein in 1982 and was with him for eight years. "It was part laughter and remembrance and sadness at knowing he was going to be gone."
Kleiser filmed much of Party at his home in L.A. and even used the mutt, Opala, that had once belonged to the couple. For support, he cast actors from his previous films, including Olivia Newton-John (Grease), Christopher Atkins (The Blue Lagoon) and Gregory Harrison (The Gathering, a 1977 TV movie). All worked for scale. Needless to say, the set was emotionally charged. "Half the people knew the people at the actual party," says Harrison, who plays the Kleiser role in Party. "At one point, I looked over and saw tears going down Randal's face."
Kleiser says the re-created weekend, though dramatized somewhat, was "very painful and therapeutic." But, he adds, "I'm happy now. I think it's the best film I've made."