the unforgettable elaine stritch

what director chiemi karasawa learned from the late (great) performer while filming elaine’s 2014 life portrait, “elaine stritch: shoot me”
August 14, 2014  |   column: DELIBERATE POLISH

i first met elaine…”while at the hairdresser on 57th street! i had only a small idea of her work from films and 30 rock, but i went home and fell down the rabbit hole on the internet reading all about her incredible history as a performer and personality.”

researching turned into filming when…”i became obsessed with making a candid documentary about her life. i wanted to bring elaine to a larger audience, and to tell a new generation what an incredible role model she was. little did i know what it would entail!”

what surprised me the most was…”her vulnerability. she had massive insecurities about performing. her surprise and delight that her audiences adored her always impressed me. she cared about everything. at the end of filming, she said ‘what you want to make of this film is none of my business, it’s your movie.’ and then, ultimately she had a million things to say about it!”

friendship, to elaine, was…”curious and inquisitive. she was always asking about people, musing about relationships and trying to solve problems. she took time for people she cared about—especially her family and fans and became an incredibly supportive and loyal friend.”

the most important thing she taught me is…”to always ask for what you want, on any level. elaine did not live her life from the backseat. she was incredibly brave and never allowed herself to be overlooked. she had no patience for nonsense, but she had a lot of class.”

i’ll never forget the night of the premiere…”at the tribeca film festival. back when when we had screened the first cut, she suggested a list of changes—from funnier shots to more wardrobe switches. the night of the premiere she sat in the audience and watched the film with 500 people. they laughed, cried and gave a thunderous standing ovation. she was on cloud nine. as we made our way to the podium, she grabbed my arm and said ‘thank you, chiemi. those changes made all the difference!’ of course, i hadn’t changed a thing. what changed was her perception of the film.”

 (elaine stritch: shoot me will soon be re-released in los angeles and new york. check local listings for details.)

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