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Elaine Stritch On (Not) Wearing Pants and Hating the Title of Her New Documentary

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | /Bent February 22, 2014 at 9:40AM

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, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and opens this Friday (it's also available to view On Demand).
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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, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and opens this Friday (it's also available to view On Demand).

[Note: This interview was originally published on Indiewire during the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.]

I got a chance to sit down with Stritch and Chiemi at the actress' former 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: Shoot Me"
"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"

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.

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

ES: No pants?

You don't accumulate pants.

ES: I don't understand.

You don't wear 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.

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!

"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"

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.

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

Chiemi, you have your hairdresser to thank for bringing you two together, 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."