The meaning and relevance of the film's "immediate family" title references the main story element in the movie by which if husband Michael Spector (James Woods) and wife Linda Spector (Glenn Close) adopt a baby they will then have an "immediate family".
The film's production notes state: "Screenwriter Barbara Benedek was struck that so many of her friends who had waited until their mid-3Os to have children were encountering difficulties. Lawrence Kasdan, who had wanted to sponsor a solo Benedek screenplay since they worked together on The Big Chill (1983) script, agreed with Benedek that the concept of a professional couple struggling to have a child had great potential."
Screenwriter Barbara Benedek was struck that so many of her friends who had waited until their mid thirties to have children and were encountering difficulties. Lawrence Kasdan, who had wanted to sponsor a solo Benedek screenplay since they worked together on The Big Chill (1983) script, agreed with Benedek that the concept of a professional couple struggling to have a child had great potential. "What's most remarkable about Barbara's work is her ability to write comedy that tries to understand everybody's reasons, and has no villains," said Kasdan.
Director Jonathan Kaplan's response to the movie's completed script written by screenwriter Barbara Benedek was immediate. He said: "I thought it was perceptive, subtle and honest. What's uplifting is that it demonstrates how people of differing ages and experiences can find a common bond and ultimately bring out the best in each other".
For the pivotal role of Linda Spector, the production team set its sights on actress Glenn Close, who had previously collaborated with director Lawrence Kasdan and screenwriter Barbara Benedek on the 1983 Columbia hit The Big Chill (1983). Close said: "I liked the idea of getting back to a basically sympathetic role. Having come off _Fatal Attraction_ and Dangerous Liaisons (1988), I wanted to do something on the healing side of life. Immediate Family (1989) is a movie about two couples who try their best to make some extremely difficult decisions. They know that whatever they decide, they're going to have to live with it for the rest of their lives".
Tapped as producers of the film were Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford. "We'd never been offered a picture before that we hadn't developed ourselves," said Sanford. "But when we read the screenplay and saw what it was about, we thought it was something we could actually have initiated on our own." Pillsbury said, "We were referred to as the crying producers because every time Barbara Benedek showed us a new scene, we cried. But the script is also very funny. Our feeling is, even in the most tragic moments, human beings are funny".
Oscar-nominated actor James Woods joined the cast of Immediate Family (1989) as Michael, Linda's supportive husband. Woods said: "I like the gentleness of the guy and he's also a bit of a comedian. Linda and Michael are both brave people who handle their pain two different ways, Linda through a kind of quiet dignity, and Michael through a caring flipness. He's sort of the cheerleader, and when he does let his guard down, it's rather touching".
Actress Mary Stuart Masterson played Lucy Moore, the pregnant teenager who offers a ray of hope for Linda and Michael. Masterson said: "Lucy has made a really courageous choice for herself. She struggles very hard to be strong and to do what she believes is right".
The character of Sam, Lucy Moore (Mary Stuart Masterson)'s boyfriend, and the father of her baby, is portrayed by Kevin Dillon. Producer Midge Sanford said director "Jonathan Kaplan had Kevin in mind for Sam long before we ever auditioned him". Producer Sarah Pillsbury noted "when he finally read for the part, it was phenomenal. We were completely unprepared for the warmth and tenderness he was able to bring to the role". Kevin Dillon added that "Sam has a hard time showing his feelings but he's crazy about Lucy and has a great big heart. He's just not ready for the situation that Lucy and he are in".
Central to Immediate Family (1989) was the delicate and complicated relationship that develops between the Spectors and Lucy (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Sam (Kevin Dillon). Director Jonathan Kaplan said: "When these characters meet, they're all at very low points in their lives. They belong to two very different cultures, and there's a twenty year age difference. While the Spectors appear to have everything that Lucy wants including security and stability, she has the ability to do what they cannot: She can create life. Screenwriter Barbara Benedek noted: "You have to love someone to think that they could raise your child. And, correspondingly, you have to love someone to bring them into your family". Producer Midge Sanford added: "I believe that people will feel very torn about the situation. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Spectors could have what they so desperately want? But isn't it sad that Lucy's circumstances are such that she may not be able to keep this baby right now in her life?".
Scenic Vancouver in Canada was also the shooting site of director Jonathan Kaplan's then recent earlier picture The Accused (1988), and in Immediate Family (1989) stood in for Seattle, home to the characters Michael Spector (James Woods) and Linda Spector (Glenn Close). Many key members of the film's cast and crew were drawn from the talent pool that had developed in this coastal Canadian city.
Producer Midge Sanford has said of this film: "We'd [Sanford and Sarah Pillsbury] never been offered a picture before that we hadn't developed ourselves. But when we read the screenplay and saw what it was about, we thought it was something we could actually have initiated on our own."
Producer Sarah Pillsbury has said of this film: "We were referred to as the crying producers because every time [screenwriter] Barbara Benedek showed us a new scene, we cried. But the script is also very funny. Our feeling is, even in the most tragic moments, human beings are funny."