The Unexpected Actor Who Helped Donnie Darko To Get Made

In an interview with GamesRadar+ for the 20th anniversary of “Donnie Darko,” Kelly explained the process of how the film went from a wild idea in his head to one of the most beloved cult classic films. He credits two actors who finally got the film greenlit after a year of Kelly pitching the script. One was Jason Schwartzman, who had just come off of his starring role in “Rushmore.” In fact, Kelly says that Schwartzman was initially supposed to play Donnie. “I owe him an enormous debt. I don’t think I’d have a career if it weren’t for Jason and his support. I think Jake would say the same,” Kelly said. Due to a scheduling conflict, Schwartzman couldn’t take on the role. 

And Schwartzman is responsible for bringing another major actor into the “Donnie Darko” orbit — Drew Barrymore. His agent brought the film to Barrymore’s producing partner Nancy Juvonen. From then on, not only did Barrymore have a role in the film, but her company Flower Films produced it. Kelly added that it was Barrymore’s office where he first met Gyllenhaal, who he knew would be his Donnie “within 30 seconds” of meeting him. 

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