[03/25/09 - 12:27 PM]
Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange Star in HBO Films' Grey Gardens, Debuting April 18
Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange topline the film, from director Michael Sucsy.

[via press release from HBO]



Malcolm Gets And Daniel Baldwin Co-Star, With Ken Howard And Jeanne Tripplehorn; Directed By Michael Sucsy From A Story By Michael Sucsy And Teleplay By Michael Sucsy And Patricia Rozema; Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Rachael Horovitz And Michael Sucsy Executive Produce; David Coatsworth Produces


"My mother gave me a completely priceless life." -- "Little Edie" Beale, 1917-2002

In 1973, filmmakers Albert and David Maysles entered the strange world of "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, two charming eccentrics who were relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Spending six weeks with the reclusive mother and daughter who chose to live in squalor and almost total isolation in a decaying, 28-room mansion in East Hampton, the Maysles captured their day-to-day life in its raw, uncensored, captivatingly honest moments for a documentary entitled "Grey Gardens." Little did anyone know that the 100-minute documentary would catapult the two women from virtual obscurity to cult status as their legacy grew in depth and stature over the years.

Thirty-five years later, using the documentary as a framework, director-writer Michael Sucsy's original story for GREY GARDENS offers a wry, behind-the-scenes look at the Beales and their unique mother-daughter bond. Told over the span of four decades, the film focuses on their glamorous and well-heeled lives long before the making of the documentary and on the circumstances behind their riches-to-rags story.

Drew Barrymore stars as "Little Edie" and Jessica Lange stars as "Big Edie" in GREY GARDENS, debuting SATURDAY, APRIL 18 at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT). Directed by Michael Sucsy from a story by Sucsy and teleplay by Sucsy and Patricia Rozema, this HBO Films production recounts the early years of the mother-daughter duo, as well as chronicling the making of the iconic documentary by the Maysles brothers. Malcolm Gets and Daniel Baldwin co-star, with Ken Howard and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Rachael Horovitz and Michael Sucsy are executive producers; David Coatsworth produces.

Other HBO playdates: April 18 (12:35 a.m.), 19 (6:00 p.m.), 21 (10:45 a.m., 7:15 p.m.), 26 (2:00 p.m., midnight) and 30 (12:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.), and May 2 (8:00 a.m., 4:30 p.m.), 7 (noon, 9:00 p.m.) and 13 (5:30 p.m., 4:40 a.m.)

HBO2 playdates: April 23 (9:15 a.m., 8:00 p.m.) and May 3 (8:45 a.m., 8:00 p.m.), 11 (5:15 p.m.), 16 (4:15 p.m.), 19 (10:15 a.m., 12:30 a.m.) and 29 (6:15 p.m.)

Director-writer Michael Sucsy first watched the Maysles' documentary in 2003 and was instantly captivated by the story of "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Beale. The documentary covers just six weeks, and Sucsy was eager to know what had transpired before the Maysles' film.

"Because I'm inherently curious, I just had to find out more," explains Sucsy. "The documentary referenced other people and I wanted to know the who and why�and how these other characters fit into the lives of these two eccentric recluses. I just knew there was a bigger movie here, and there were questions I wanted to know the answers to."

The story of the Beales seemed to be ripe for the telling. Coincidentally, at the same time Sucsy began developing the script for GREY GARDENS with executive producer Lucy Barzun Donnelly, the Broadway musical of the same name started to take form, though neither project was initially aware of the other. Independent of both projects was executive producer Rachael Horovitz, whose longtime appreciation for the documentary inspired her to develop it as a film with Albert Maysles. Even Jessica Lange had an eye for the story, as she so loved the documentary she had considered developing it as a film project herself, years before Sucsy approached her to play "Big Edie."

Comments Horovitz, "My mother and I were serious fans of the documentary. We never missed an airing when it was on TV. I was amazed to learn that no one had optioned the doc to do a narrative film. I was just starting to look for a writer when I heard about Michael and Lucy's project."

Sucsy, Donnelly and Horovitz ultimately joined forces in their efforts to bring the story of the Beale women to screen, making the documentary a more prominent element in the film. Albert Maysles was brought on board as an advisor to the production and the final script was submitted to him for his feedback.

Explains executive producer Lucy Barzun Donnelly, "Once it was decided to bring in the documentary as the sort of framing device for the movie, that led to so many more story lines and elements that transformed the narrative and added to it in a wonderful way."

Intent on filling in the years preceding the documentary, Sucsy began his tireless research � on the Internet, in libraries studying microfilm, tracking down "Little Edie"'s death certificate, which led to the estate attorney and in turn to surviving relatives, and other sources of inspiration. He was amazed and excited to be given access to all of the journals, letters, poetry, private papers and personal photographs of "Little Edie."

Sucsy moved to San Francisco for a summer and worked closely with family members as he scoured the materials; he also spoke with friends, neighbors and various people who came in contact with the Beales, and reviewed transcripts of interviews with them. One friend would refer him to another and then to another and so on in a domino effect. One such discovery was Eleanor Gaynor, "Little Edie"'s best childhood friend from East Hampton. Sucsy found her in her 80s, living in Poughkeepsie, NY and corresponded with her via fax machine until she passed away. Upon her death, her grandson turned over another undiscovered trunk of photographs of the youthful "Little Edie" to Sucsy.

"Everybody had a little piece of their story, and it was my job to bring all those pieces together," says Sucsy.

These previously undiscovered archives, interviews and other research formed the basis for Sucsy's original drafts of the script. Later, when co-writer Patricia Rozema came on board, he supplied her with volumes of primary source materials, all neatly encased in a five-inch-thick three-ring binder. Rozema was thrilled to have so much research to cull from, and became as dedicated as Sucsy to maintaining the historical accuracy of the story.

In contrast to the Maysles' documentary, which spans six weeks in the life of the Beales in 1973, when they were 77 and 56, Sucsy's story covers 40 years. The action begins in the mid-1930s, when "Little Edie" was a beautiful 18-year-old debutante with dreams of being an actress and a dancer, and her equally beautiful mother, "Big Edie," enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle in East Hampton, defying convention amidst the social royalty, as she sang in public and threw decadent parties � things not done in the Beales' social set. The story then follows "Little Edie" in the �50s to New York City, where she tries to launch her acting career and carries on an affair with a married man � Julius "Cap" Krug (Daniel Baldwin), former Secretary of the Interior � only to be forced to return to Grey Gardens by her disapproving father (Ken Howard). Next, the Beales are shown in the �60s as they deal with a death in the family � that of President John F. Kennedy. The last decade of the story focuses on the �70s � when the reclusive mother and daughter, living in squalor, are financially rescued by Jackie Kennedy Onassis (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Niece to "Big Edie" and cousin to "Little Edie," Jackie pays to repair the decaying mansion, keeping them from being evicted by the health department. At this time the Maysles first capture the Beales on camera, at the invitation of Jackie's sister, Lee Radziwill. A year later, the Maysles (Arye Gross, Justin Louis) return to Grey Gardens for six weeks to film their historic documentary.

Drew Barrymore had been a fan of the documentary for years and had a copy in her library. She had already recognized the cult phenomenon it had created when she received Michael Sucsy's script.

"When I read his script, I flipped out," exclaims Barrymore. "I thought it was one of the best scripts I'd ever read in my life. Seeing the women's journey, seeing a love story not between a man and a woman, but between a mother and daughter, seemed so epic to me and yet so claustrophobically personal. They lived in a sort of fantasy world and turned a blind eye to the conditions in which they lived. Having each other was enough to survive the madness that went on in that house, was enough to let everything else fall by the wayside and not matter."

Passionate to play "Little Edie," Barrymore re-watched the documentary, devoted herself to research and put together a binder of annotated information. Binder in hand, she went to convince Sucsy that, although it was unlike any other role she had played before, she "would go to the ends of the earth to play this woman."

"I've never studied so hard to be a character in my life," says Barrymore, who immersed herself completely in her role. She met with Albert Maysles and asked him "five thousand" questions, as she puts it. She took dialect lessons for months; worked with a choreographer for two dance sequences; wore different teeth, contact lenses and different skin (on average, she spent three hours every day having the makeup and prosthetics applied); and adopted a different mentality. The disciplined Barrymore shut herself off from her friends, BlackBerry, cell phone and laptop for three months, choosing instead to read the same books that Edie refers to in the documentary and read Edie's personal journals at night. Barrymore made it a point to read issues of the New York Times from the 1930s to the 1970s every day, in the chronological order "Little Edie" would have read them.

"She was so isolated and wanted desperately to break free of the cage she had put herself in," explains Barrymore. "I felt that I wouldn't understand her unless I put myself in that cage."

Jessica Lange used the documentary as a daily tool during filming to study the character of "Big Edie." "What the filmmakers did with the original documentary in the portrait of these two women was so fascinating, so haunting in a way," says Lange. "You fall in love with these two women who are so eccentric, so extraordinary and out of the realm of people that you know."

Lange worked with dialect coach Howard Samuelsohn and studied the "Grey Gardens" DVD night and day to catch the cadence in "Big Edie"'s voice and her peculiar mannerisms, making it easier for her to slide into the character. She met Albert Maysles and watched a more recent film of his entitled "The Beales of Grey Gardens," a collection of outtakes from the original six weeks of filming that Maysles assembled into an accompanying documentary.

The part of "Big Edie" required Lange to sing several musical numbers, a challenge she met full-on, with no reservations or fear, although she does not consider herself a singer. "If I was going to do this part, I was going to do it recklessly," says Lange. "I was not going to be intimidated or inhibited by anything, because I felt that would be untrue to the character." Lange gives credit to Bob Garrett, her "really great coach," who made her believe she could sing. For her rendition of the song at the end of the film, when "Big Edie" is in her 70s, Lange had the perfect blueprint of that performance, taken from the documentary, and could study all its details. For the songs she sings in the 1930s, Lange had to imagine the style Edie might have used back then and chose a warbling kind of soprano.

As Lange says, "There was a lot to keep track of," as "Big Edie" aged from 38 to 77. In addition to learning singing and dancing routines, Lange had to adapt to the aging of her character and how that would affect the look and feel of the makeup and prosthetics.

"You have to do all this stuff with aging, you know," says Lange. "You have to think about what happens to the lips. What happens to the muscular structure of the face as everything begins to sag? Where is the voice placed when you're in your 70s, rather than your 30s? And on top of all that, we have an accent to do!" Lange praises her support team of makeup, prosthetics, hair, wardrobe, choreography, dialect and singing coaches, all of whom turned the actress into "Big Edie" Beale.

Spanning four decades, GREY GARDENS required a variety of looks and ages for the actors, as well as the house itself. Sucsy's four years of intense research accumulated precise information, materials, photos and design concepts that enabled him to share his vision of the film with the cast and various department heads.

Costume designer Catherine Marie Thomas credits the thousands of photographs that Sucsy compiled for helping steer her in the right direction. Some costumes were vintage pieces, while some were copied using vintage fabrics. The �70s garments were originals from various thrift shops and vintage stores. The iconic bathing suit that Barrymore wears in the film was borrowed from a fan of the documentary and is from the same dye lot as the original suit that "Little Edie" wore.

Despite her offbeat taste in clothing by today's standards, "Little Edie" is considered by many to have been a trend-setter. Her creative use of everyday pieces evolved into a unique look that has a style of its own.

"Little Edie"'s fanciful display of scarves and head wraps hid a skin condition called alopecia, which resulted in her hair loss. By the late �50s, she never wore her hair uncovered. Her improvisational use of sweaters, pants or skirts tied and knotted on her head and decorated with a broach became "Little Edie"'s signature look. Various fashion magazines have paid tribute to her, dedicating page after page to fashion layouts that feature designer versions of those revolutionary costumes.

"She was one of the most innovative icons that fashion has ever seen," says Barrymore. "Isn't it interesting that she lived inside a house and never wanted the world to see her? Yet, when the Maysles came along with their documentary, they put her fashion out there into the world, and it was beyond anything we can comprehend."

In explaining one of her favorite looks to the Maysles on camera, the real "Little Edie" said, "This is the best thing to wear for today, you understand. Because I don't like women in skirts and the best thing is to wear pantyhose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. Then you have the pants under the skirt and then you can pull the stockings up over the pants underneath the skirt. And you can always take off the skirt and use it as a cape. So I think this is the best costume for today."

The house in GREY GARDENS takes on a personality of its own, becoming the third character in the story. The extraordinary task of presenting the East Hampton mansion in all its early grandeur and later squalor, from the 1930s to the 1970s, fell to talented production designer Kalina Ivanov.

"It's all about the house," explains Ivanov. "These women refused to leave their house and it had a huge impact on their lives. It was very important that we got the house historically accurate and that we truly created the spirit of the house."

Working closely with Sucsy and using the ground plans of the original house, Ivanov was able to start with the correct architectural foundation. Whereas most films will put the second story of a house set on the same floor as the first for shooting purposes, the filmmakers thought it was important to capture the flow of the house as it had been originally and opted to use a two-story set.

Ivanov cites three important elements that repeat in the film over and over again. The first is the exterior porch and how the house looked from the outside; the second is the yellow bedroom where the Beales spent most of their time; and the third is the staircase where "Little Edie" does her famous dance with the American flag. The interior rooms were built on a stage, while the exterior of the house was built in a field near Toronto � with each of those sets going through four distinct looks � in the �30s, the �50s, 1971 (pre-clean-up) and 1973 (post-clean-up). Extensive set changes and re-dressing, greens, scenic painting and construction were required on these sets four different times.

Ivanov's attention to period detail is particularly evident in the scenes in the yellow bedroom, the most-filmed room in the documentary. The production design team duplicated and built the beds exactly like the originals, copied the mirror and the portrait, and used older pieces of furniture. Leaving no stone unturned, Ivanov even made sure the labels on the cat food cans, of which there are many in the film, were correct for the time.

The herculean efforts of the cast and crew were not wasted on Sucsy, who says, "What an amazing cast! �Big Edie' and �Little Edie' are very difficult women to inhabit. The challenge to get them right sets the bar very high. Both Drew and Jessica not only met, but exceeded, my expectations. With the hours and hours spent with dialect lessons, and singing lessons and the hours they spent in makeup every day, they just completely threw themselves into preparing for these roles. And the supporting actors � Jeanne and Daniel and Ken. To see actors come in and breathe life into these characters that are based on real people has been such a thrill.

"To see other people dedicate themselves as hard to this project as I've been working on it was overwhelmingly gratifying," he adds. "To see the crew come together to make the whole process as accurate as possible�the painstaking detail of the art department and the wardrobe department, the authentic sets and costumes, the details from the doorknobs to the moldings to the number of stairs to the number of diamond paned windows to the size of house�the outfits for the Edies, the props, the jewelry, all that�it is truly fantastic."

Albert and David Maysles screened the first cut of their documentary for the Beales at Grey Gardens on a makeshift screen hung on the wall. "Little Edie" paced around nervously a bit afterwards, then turned to the brothers and enthusiastically raved about the film, seeing it as her opportunity to relaunch her performing career. As seen in this film, the brothers hosted "Little Edie" at the film's New York premiere in 1976, where she received a standing ovation. Thirty years later, Albert Maysles released "The Beales of Grey Gardens," a film that included previously unreleased footage shot for the original documentary.

Commenting on HBO's GREY GARDENS, Albert Maysles says, "What's interesting about the film is that it takes you back so you get a peek at what their life was." Asked how "Little Edie" and "Big Edie" would like this new film, he replies with a smile, "That, of course, is the ultimate question in evaluating the film. What would Edie and her mother think of it? I think they would like it!"


Drew Barrymore ("Little Edie" Beale) has amassed an impressive list of films as an actress and producer, and recently added director to her credits. Behind the camera, she is enjoying success as a producer under her own Flower Films banner, with such hits as "Never Been Kissed," "Charlie's Angels" and "50 First Dates." In addition to producing the films, Barrymore joined Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu to star in both "Charlie's Angels" and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle." She has starred in a wide variety of other films, including "Music & Lyrics," "Fever Pitch," "50 First Dates," "Lucky You," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "Riding in Cars with Boys," "Never Been Kissed," which marked Barrymore's producing debut, "Home Fries," "The Wedding Singer," "Firestarter" and "Irreconcilable Differences," for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her other film credits include "Stephen King's Cat's Eye," "Far from Home," "Poison Ivy," "Guncrazy," for which she also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress, "Bad Girls," Herb Ross' "Boys on the Side," "Mad Love," "Batman Forever," Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You," Wes Craven's "Scream," "Altered States" and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," featuring the scene-stealing performance that launched her career. Barrymore was most recently heard in "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," where she voiced the pampered pooch Chloe. In addition to GREY GARDENS, Barrymore has three other films releasing in 2009: "He's Just Not That Into You," "Everybody's Fine" and her feature film directorial debut "Whip It!," starring Ellen Page.

Jessica Lange ("Big Edie" Beale), a two-time Academy Award� winner, made her film debut in "King Kong," winning a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture. She received dual Academy Award� and Golden Globe nominations in the same year for "Frances" and Sydney Pollack's "Tootsie," for which she took home the Oscar� for Supporting Actress. In 1994, Lange won her first Oscar� for Best Actress in "Blue Sky." Her other films include "Country," for which she earned Oscar� and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role, plus "Sweet Dreams" and "Music Box," both of which garnered her Academy Award� nominations, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for "Music Box." Among Lange's other films are "Cape Fear," "Losing Isaiah," "Rob Roy," "Big Fish," "Broken Flowers," "Don't Come Knocking" and, most recently, "Bonneville." In 1996 she received her first Emmy� nomination for the TV adaptation of "A Streetcar Named Desire," playing Blanche DuBois. Lange's other TV credits include HBO Films' "Normal," for which she received Emmy� and Golden Globe nominations, and a recent remake of "Sybil."

Malcolm Gets (George "Gould" Strong) has appeared in such films as "Sex and the City," "Little Boy Blues," "Adam & Steve," "Love in the Time of Money," "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" and "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle." His TV credits include "Caroline in the City," "Remember WENN" and "Law & Order."

Daniel Baldwin's (Julius "Cap" Krug) film credits include "Shadowheart," "Final Move," "Sidekick," "Trees Lounge," "Mulholland Falls," "Vampire" and "Born on the Fourth of July." Among his upcoming films are "Nine Dead," "Ashley's Ashes," "The Truth Is Always Complicated" and "The Adventures of Belvis Bash." Baldwin's long list of TV credits includes "The Closer," "Touched by an Angel," "NYPD Blue," "The Outer Limits," "Family of Cops" and "Homicide: Life on the Streets."

Ken Howard (Phelan Beale) has a formidable list of film and TV credits. Among his feature films are "Michael Clayton," "In Her Shoes," "Rambo," "The Net" and "Clear and Present Danger." His upcoming films include "A Numbers Game," "The Beacon" and "2:13." Howard's long list of TV credits includes "Eli Stone," "Brothers & Sisters," "Cane," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Ghost Whisperer," "The Office," "Crossing Jordan," HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Arli$$," "The Practice," "The West Wing" and "Murder, She Wrote." He starred in the tile role of "The White Shadow" for three years, winning an Emmy� for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming � Performers for the episode "The Body Human: Facts for Boys."

Jeanne Tripplehorn (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) is a cast regular on the HBO series "Big Love." She will next be seen on the big screen in "Winged Creature" and will soon start production on Tim Allen's directorial debut "Crazy on the Outside." Tripplehorn's other feature film credits include Sydney Pollack's "The Firm," "Mickey Blue Eyes," "Sliding Doors," "Waterworld," "Relative Values," "The Night We Never Met," "Very Bad Things," "Timecode," "Abbie!" and "�Til There Was You." She made her motion picture debut in Paul Verhoven's "Basic Instinct" opposite Michael Douglas. Tripplehorn's other credits include the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of William Faulkner's "Old Man" and "Perfect Tribute."

Arye Gross (Albert Maysles) has appeared in such films as "Minority Report," "Gone in Sixty Seconds" and the upcoming "Harvest." He has also appeared in numerous TV shows, including HBO's "Six Feet Under," "Burn Notice," "Numbers," "Cold Case," "The Riches," "Law & Order: SVU," "Medium," "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

Justin Louis' (David Maysles) films include "Saw IV" and "Saw V," "Shooter" and "Dawn of the Dead." He starred in the TV miniseries "The Andromeda Strain," and has appeared on such TV shows as "CSI: Miami," "24" and "ER."


Michael Sucsy (director/writer/executive producer) makes his directorial debut with GREY GARDENS. After earning a Masters of Fine Arts in film from the prestigious Art Center College of Design, Sucsy began directing commercials. Dubbed one of the industry's crop of new directors to watch by Shoot! Magazine, he was subsequently nominated for the Young Director of the Year Award, given in conjunction with the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Sucsy's extensive film production experience during and prior to grad school includes "The One," "The Siege," "Deep Impact," "Godzilla," "Jungle 2 Jungle," "The Shadow Conspiracy" and "Mars Attacks!" He is also a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Lucy Barzun Donnelly (executive producer) served as producer on "The Go-Getter" and was co-producer on "Pieces of April." She also worked on "Rubberheart," "Austin Powers: Goldmember" and the TV productions "Making Life Beautiful" and "Shakespeare in Love and on Film."

Rachael Horovitz' (executive producer) feature film producing credits include "About Schmidt," "State and Main" and "Next Stop, Wonderland." She recently returned to independent producing after spending a decade as a senior production executive at Revolution Studios and New Line Cinema, where she was oversaw projects with such filmmakers as Wes Anderson, Bernardo Bertolucci, Michel Gondry and Alexander Payne. In addition to GREY GARDENS, Horovitz has produced the long-form TV films "Final Cut," a documentary based on Steven Bach's famed United Artists memoir, and "Samantha," the first filmed adaptation of the popular American Girl series. Active in New York City causes throughout her working life, she co-founded The Cinema School, a select public high school opening in September, earlier this year.

David Coatsworth (producer) recently won an Emmy� Award as a producer on the award-winning HBO miniseries "John Adams." He was executive producer on "Man of the Year," "The In-Laws," "The 6th Day" and "Dick." His other producing credits include "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Underworld: Evolution," "Welcome to Mooseport" and "The Tuxedo." In addition, his TV credits include "The Crossing" and "Spenser: Small Vices," as well as HBO's "Sugartime" and "Gotti," for which he earned an Emmy� nomination.

Patricia Rozema (writer) most recently directed the HBO Films feature "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl." She has written and directed such films as "Mansfield Park," "When Night Is Falling," "White Room" and "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing." Rozema won an Emmy� Award in 1998 for Outstanding Classical Music-Dance Program for "Yo-Yo Ma: Inspired by Bach." Her TV credits also include The Beckett Project's "Happy Days," as well as the pilot and additional episodes of the HBO series "Tell Me You Love Me."

  [march 2009]  


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