Isotope films founder Chiemi Karasawa ("Love, Etc"; Emmy-winning "The Betrayal"), who is directing the film, has been capturing Stritch's public and personal life since February 2011. The goal is to complete filming by the end of this year and to begin rolling out the yet-to-be-titled documentary at festivals by summer 2012. "It's a question of who wants to premiere it when we are ready," Karasawa told Playbill.com.
"We basically were connected through our hairdresser," Karasawa laughed. "A dear friend of mine owns the salon. For six months Piet, our hairdresser, would say to me, 'You must make a film about Elaine Stritch.'"
Karasawa courted Stritch for several months during her Broadway engagement in A Little Night Music. "I became fascinated by her as a creature, as a subject and as a performer," Karasawa said. "I found myself with her in the dressing room at A Little Night Music and she politely said, 'No, I'm exhausted and I don't know when I'll want to resurface. But you can call me in the spring.'"
Stritch, whose career on and off-stage has been documented in the DA Pennebaker film "Original Cast Album – Company," as well as "Follies In Concert" and her Tony and Emmy-winning one-woman show At Liberty, spoke of her initial reluctance to allow cameras to follow her throughout her daily routine and rehearsals.
"It's a little frightening for people to get into your life that much, but I don't have anything to hide," she told Playbill.com. "So, I'm open. There's no point in doing a documentary unless you absolutely deliver the 100 percent truth. Energy-wise it's very hard work." Karasawa and her crew have followed Stritch from her residence at the Carlyle Hotel, throughout Manhattan, to rehearsals for her Carlyle show At Home at the Carlyle: Singin' Sondheim... Again. Why Not?, on stage during her recent Town Hall appearance and at a recent concert engagement in her hometown of Detroit, MI.
"It's very comforting, very relaxing and very exhilarating because they support me," Stritch said of performing for Detroit audiences. The documentary also captures Stritch's family, who were in attendance for the intimate concerts.
The untitled documentary will also include a host of theatre vets who have worked with Stritch, including At Liberty collaborator George C. Wolfe, Company and Show Boat director Hal Prince and Tony-winning actress Cherry Jones. Karasawa is in the process of gathering additional interviews with columnist Liz Smith, James Gandolfini, Tony winner Ellen Barkin and Tony winner Bernadette Peters, who co-starred in A Little Night Music with Stritch.
"There's so much that I never expected to capture," Karasawa said. "I think what people have to say about her is going to be really interesting. Not just as a performer, but this woman is a survivor. She's survived a lifetime of career ups and downs, alcoholism, which she's extremely candid about, the loss of her husband – all these challenges. She's an incredibly pure spirit. There will never be anyone like her."
Click here to read Playbill.com's feature "Leading Ladies of Broadway Propose a Toast to Elaine Stritch."