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by Nigel M Smith
April 19, 2013 5:14 PM
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Tribeca: Elaine Stritch On (Not) Wearing Pants, Being Hungover With James Gandolfini and Hating The Title of Her New Documentary


Was Chiemi's pitch to document your life a hard sell on you?

ES: I have no idea. I'm not selling.

Were you gung-ho to do it from your first meeting?

ES: I didn't want to do it. I did not want to walk around New York and talk about myself. I'll tell you the truth, I don't. And that's what I was more or less pushed to do for a couple of years; that's what a documentary takes. It also takes telling the truth -- that's very difficult. And I managed to do it. I don't like the documentary much but I think it's very good.

Why don't you like it?

ES: I think it's a downer. But I do like it because it's telling the truth and what's the point of doing a documentary if you don't tell the truth? A documentary is a step beyond drama; it's what's really going on.

So are you excited about the Tribeca premiere then or not so much?

ES: I'm always excited about something that's opening to the public. I wish Chiemi well with it and I hope it makes some money for my own sake and for her sake certainly. Absolutely, I just want it to be a success. I don't want anything that I do not to be a success. And I'm talented enough to promote that and have that happen so I hope it happens.

CK: What did you think of the film, Nigel?

ES: He's sitting here, isn't he. So that proves something.

Did you set up any kind of boundaries before going to camera, Elaine?

ES: No, I didn't. I just sat down and told the truth to every question they asked me. And that takes guts and it takes initiative and it takes a terrifying amount of energy to tell the truth. About your life? Come on!

"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me."

Chiemi, in the press notes you make no qualms about revealing the fact that prior to making the doc, you weren't that familiar with Elaine's work. What made you the right person to document her life?

CK: Well, I don't know if I am. I just knew that when I was introduced to who she was and I started researching her, I just couldn't believe that more people in the world didn't know about her. I think that Elaine is just such a singular character and such a singular talent that how could there not be more of her out there? And so really that was my quest.

How has your relationship evolved since first meeting via the hairdresser to today?

ES: Well, someone expresses a desire to do a documentary on you which means they have more interest beyond a certain point -- then you pay attention to them. So I paid attention and I liked what I saw in Chiemi, and she had a way of talking to me about my life that was simpatico and fine. It worked out fine.

I don't have many fears about who knows what about me.

I can tell that from watching you.

ES: That's why I agreed with her title, when she called it "Shoot Me"... except she doesn't call it a documentary. I'd like her to call it a documentary but she didn't call it a documentary and I'm angry at her because of it. "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, A Documentary": that's funny to me. To explain to the audience what it is because they don't need an explanation, they know what it is. Apparently she doesn't agree with me so I really don't give a shit what she thinks anymore. That's the end of that. You know what I mean? That's what I think the name of it should be. It should say "a documentary" at the end of the title.

"I don't have many fears about who knows what about me." -- Stritch

CK: I think, for me, when we first started to meet, it was incredibly intimidating just because she's such a figure in the world and in the theater world. But then as we got to know each other... one thing that I think that you don't see about her is that she's an incredibly generous friend. And I was going through an awful lot in my life when I started the film. And she could probably tell you more about me and my life and my parents and my relationship than my own mother.

ES: Well, the load was coming this way and I'm a good listener and I have a great deal of simpatico for people when they're in trouble. Especially when they're along the lines that I have been in, in my life. So that they profit by my experience I hope.

CK: Well, I mean there's really nowhere where you haven't been in your life, so let's be honest.

ES: That's about it.

CK: I mean, if you're looking for someone to talk to who's been everywhere you've been and beyond, I think you couldn't probably ask for a better ear or a support. I think Elaine is very supportive of people's independence and their ability to just make a decision that's not pressured by outside influences. I think that's something you don't see in the film that was definitely part of our relationship. And I appreciate it very much because it was a hard time and I felt like I had a real friend in her.


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