Interview: Elaine Stritch says she’d return to the stage in a New York Minute
Elaine Stritch is back in New York — for a bit. Last April, at 88, the Broadway legend followed through on a longtime threat: She moved. It seemed an era had finally come to an end. But she’s back for now, promoting her new documentary, “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” with her trademark saltiness. (Just yesterday she dropped the f-bomb on “Today.”)
The film is an intimate — and honest — look at the actress, singer and performer, who’s perhaps known to most as Jack Donaghy’s pissy mom on “30 Rock.” As in such shows as 2001’s Tony winner “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” she bares her soul, opening up about her illnesses, her bout with alcoholism and her life, all while scaring and delighting people — sometimes the same people.
You seemed a bit down on New York City when you left and even said you don’t miss it. How does it feel being back, even if just for a visit?
I love it. It’s a place I lived for a long time, and I’m happy to be back and I’m happy to see old friends. I’m having a ball. I could tell you all my problems, but I really don’t feel like it. My favorite song has turned out to be [starts singing] “Gray skies are gonna clear up/Put on a happy face.”
What’s the experience like for you watching this documentary?
It’s revealing, and makes me happy that I was able to be that brutally honest with myself more than even other people.
Are you OK watching yourself?
Oh, it scares me to death, scares me to death. Of course, it does. Can you imagine — have you ever watched yourself perform?
How did it come about? Who bugged you to do it?
It was through my hairdresser.
Did they have to do much begging to get you to do it?
I’m open to talking to anybody, and it thrills me that I bring people together. I love the fact that it happened.
There have been conflicting reports that you’ve retired. What’s the official word?
No, I’m not at all. I’d do a good play in a New York Minute, as they say. OK?
How do you keep busy living in Birmingham, Michigan?
I sleep most of the time. I’ve had a lot of operations lately, and got my insides cleaned out, or I’m about to.
So you’re just relaxing?
It’s my favorite thing in the world to do. I’ll tell you, I’m tired, and I have every right to be tired. And I’m not embarrassed about it. I always think, “Oh god, you must work every day and earn your keep,” and it’s a lot of bulls—. I mean that! I want to sit and relax and laugh and I’m very happy about it — to sit back and get paid a few bucks.
You joined Twitter last weekend. You only have two tweets so far. How are you finding it?
Honesty, I haven’t been awake long enough to know what it’s like. Somebody just convinced me to join Twitter, so I said, “Alright, I will!” So I joined it. I don’t feel any different. It’s the only advice I’ve ever taken from anybody. I don’t know if it costs money, or if it doesn’t cost money. I don’t know what the hell it is!
You’ve made a few movies. Not many people ask you about them.
I know they don’t. They’re scared to death to ask me! I made a couple very interesting films — not big, successful movies.
One of those is “Providence,” the 1977 art film by Alain Resnais with you and John Gielgud, Elaine Burstyn and Dirk Bogarde.
Thank you so much for saying that! I love that movie. I thought we all did a good job in that movie. And I loved Dirk Bogarde like he was my brother. He was such a dear person and such a brilliant actor. And he treated me like nine million bucks.
What was your experience of making that film?
Just working with fine actors. Working with John Gielgud, working with John Gielgud, working with John Gielgud, working with John Gielgud. [Laughs] Terrific, terrific, terrific. And Alain Resnais, brilliant director. They were all great, great.
In the documentary, you’re shown allowing yourself, after over 20 years, one drink a day. You still at that?
More or less, yes. More is better than the less. [Laughs] No, I’m doing fine with that. I don’t have the urge to drink more. The few that I have taste awful good.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge