For the HBO non-musical film, Drew Barrymore stars as "Little" Edie Beale, with Academy Award-winning actress Jessica Lange as "Big" Edie Beale. The film also feature Tony nominee Malcolm Gets as George Gould Strong, Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Ken Howard as Phelan Beale, Daniel Baldwin as Julius Krug, as well as Arye Gross and Justin Louis, as documentary filmmakers Albert and David Maysles, respectively.
Sucsy directs his screenplay, which was co-written with Patricia Rozema. Original documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles served as a creative consultant and is among the executive producers of the new film. Akin to its musical counterpart, the HBO film of "Grey Gardens" examines the early years of the Beale women, tracing their lives from wealthy socialites to recluses living in squalor. The film also incorporates several musical moments from the era.
The lavishly designed film features costumes by Catherine Marie Thomas, make-up by Bill Corso and a full-scale re-creation of Grey Gardens designed by Kalina Ivanov, based on the original architectural plans for the East Hampton home. The film's attention to detail extends through original curtain swatches obtained from the home's current owner, Sally Quinn, as well as the use of a small box that was salvaged from the original Beale home, which is incorporated into one of the final scenes of the film.
Integrating re-created scenes from the Maysles' 1975 documentary, HBO's "Grey Gardens" uses the documentary to frame the sprawling piece that begins with Little Edie as an 18-year-old debutante in the 1930s through her years as a struggling actress in Manhattan in the 1950s and her subsequent return to Grey Gardens at the insistence of her father. The film also captures the family following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the 1960s and ultimately depicts Big Edie and Little Edie in the 1970s when the dilapidated Grey Gardens has become overrun with cats and raccoons. It is at this moment that the Maysles brothers arrive to shoot their documentary for six weeks in the summer of 1973. The film also offers highlights of Little Edie's cabaret debut at Reno Sweeney.
"Big Edie and Little Edie are very difficult women to inhabit. The challenge to get them right sets the bar very high," said director and screenwriter Sucsy in a statement. "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 continued. "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."
The Maysles' documentary also served as inspiration for the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical Grey Gardens, penned by Michael Korie, Scott Frankel and Doug Wright. Actresses Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson both won Tony Awards for their work. The musical, which has become a popular work for regional theatres, is also the subject of an Albert Maysles documentary.
Additional broadcasts on HBO are scheduled for April 18 at 12:35 AM, April 19 at 6 PM, April 21 at 10:45 AM and 7:15 PM, April 26 at 2 PM and midnight, April 30 at 12:30 and 8:30 PM, May 2 at 8 AM and 4:30 PM, May 7 at noon and 9 PM and April 13 at 5:30 PM and 4:40 AM. HBO2 will broadcast "Grey Gardens" April 23 at 9:15 AM and 8 PM.
For more information visit hbo.com/films/greygardens.