News Column

Director, Elaine Stritch bond during filming of doc about the octogenarian actress

August 4, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 04--Elaine Stritch tells it like it is. So does director Chiemi Karasawa, who chronicles the Broadway legend in "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me."

A screening of the documentary Friday night at the Traverse City Film Festival drew Stritch, the 89-year-old actress who recently moved back to her metro Detroit hometown, and Karasawa to the Michigan event.

The movie takes a frank, fond look at the octogenarian actress with the big personality who has conquered everything from Sondheim musicals to NBC's "30 Rock" sitcom. It follows her as she embarks on a club tour that made a stop at Detroit's Music Hall.

Earlier this week, Karasawa spoke by phone and described how she met Stritch about three years ago because they happened to go to the same hairdresser in New York.

"I had worked with her for a day on a movie called 'Romance & Cigarettes' and I just remember she was this hurricane of a lady," recalled the documentary filmmaker, who previously was a script supervisor. When Karasawa spotted Stritch at the salon, her hairdresser said, "You should be making a documentary about her."

That led to Karasawa shooting more than 100 hours of footage over a year and a half for the 80-minute documentary. In the process, the director and the star developed a strong bond.

"She's as close to me as I am to a relative. She's a very dear friend," said Karasawa, who talks to Stritch often by phone and visited her in metro Detroit in July.

Documenting Stritch's day-to-day life as a woman in her 80s living alone and independently in New York City and maintaining a high-profile entertainment career was compelling to Karasawa.

"I find that the way she approaches aging is refreshing and inspiring, because she's still having epiphanies about herself."

For highlights of Stritch's appearance at a question-and-answer session moderated by festival founder Michael Moore, go to the TCFF website.

One of the quotable Stritch quotes you'll find there? When asked if she's on Twitter, she said, "I don't even know what that is. And it's a lousy title."

Contact Julie Hinds at 313-222-6427 or jhinds@freepress.com.

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