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Tribeca: Elaine Stritch On (Not) Wearing Pants, Being Hungover With James Gandolfini and Hating The Title of Her New Documentary

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire April 19, 2013 at 5:14PM

Tribeca: Elaine Stritch On (Not) Wearing Pants, Being Hungover With James Gandolfini and Hating The Title of Her New Documentary
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"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"
Tribeca "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"

It's not often that documentary subjects admit to disliking the films about them -- especially in the presence of their directors. Then again, Elaine Stritch isn't known as a gal who plays by the books. The uncompromising Tony and Emmy Award-winning legend is profiled in producer Chiemi Karasawa's directorial debut "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me," an uproarious and highly entertaining peek into the life of the 88-year-old Broadway star that doesn't shy away from chronicling her struggle with alcoholism and diabetes. The film, which includes interviews with Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Hal Prince, Alec Baldwin and others, premieres tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival.

I got a chance to sit down with Stritch and Chiemi at the actress' residence, the famed Carlyle Hotel, to discuss the year-long process of making the film, how a hairdresser brought them together, and Stritch's fondness for wearing tights over pants any day.

You're moving out of the Carlyle and away from New York soon after the film premieres. Coincidence?

Elaine Stritch: Not really, it just happened to work out that way. I have to collect an award, the Niederlander award, in Detroit on the 28th and so it happened to work out that way. Chiemi was opening her documentary so it all oddly enough worked out. And I had to stay for 28 interviews with my producer so it kind of all fell into place... it doesn't seem to be doing that now because we're hit with all the pressures of moving and packing. I've done quite well, actually. You live in a hotel for a long time and you adopt what happens in a hotel. You don't accumulate a lot of stuff 'cause you don't have a lot of room and I love that -- the fact that I don't have a lot of stuff. If I entertain, I come down here in the hotel. I don't accumulate clothes and books.

"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"
"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"

Well, you don't have to worry about packing pants.

ES: No pants?

You don't accumulate pants.

ES: I don't understand.

Given that you don't wear a lot of pants. I was trying to make a joke.

ES: I don't know what you mean. I'd like to get the joke.

Chiemi Karasawa: No, because you're famous for wearing your tights and your men's shirts.

ES: Oh, tights!

And for not wearing pants. That's all I was trying to say.

ES: I honest to God don't know what you're talking about. I wear slacks. I'm quite serious, I don't understand what you're talking about.

CK: Because whenever you perform you wear tights.

ES: I wear tights!

CK: And so people consider that you don't wear pants.

ES: But I don't call tights pants.

CK: That's what he's saying.

I was saying you're not going to be bringing a lot of pants to your new home given that you don't wear them.

ES: I see, OK. Alright, let's press on.

"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"

So I need your hairdresser, Chiemi. He was the one to inspire you to make this movie, correct?

CK: I mean, it really kind of happened at Bartali. We have the same hairdresser. He had talked to me and he said you should make a documentary about Elaine Stritch.

ES: Almost everything starts with your hairdresser. I can offer that as a quote.

CK: He's a guy actually that doesn't speak very much.

ES: No, he doesn't, you're absolutely right.

CK: So when he says something, you listen to him.

ES: Yes, it's really true. And he's a darling guy, just adorable.

You two had met before though right?

ES: Not before the hairdressers, no.

CK: Elaine wouldn't remember but we actually worked on the set when she was doing "Romance & Cigarettes."

ES: I broke my ankle and I also worked with James Gandolfini hungover. So as much as I love him, that was not my day. So I don't remember meeting anyone, nor did I want to.

CK: Yeah, it was very brief.

ES: I just did my job and I understand I did it well. And I was grateful for the movie because I love John Turturro [the film's writer/director] and I love, love, love James Gandolfini, but not on a bad day. He's got more good days than bad days now. I'm very proud of him, he's doing fine. Just had an new baby girl and he's so excited about that and so am I. I think he's one of the finest actors that ever lived.

This article is related to: Tribeca Film Festival, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, Interviews






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