Grey Gardens with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange
Worth staying in this Saturday night!
-The Betty Editors
“My mother gave me a completely priceless life.”
– “Little Edie” Beale, 1917-2002
Two filmmakers by the names of Albert and David Maysles went on a rather odd excursion back in the early 1970s; these men explored the wacky world of two women who both went by the name of Edie Bouvier Beale (known later on to the masses as “Big Edie” and “Little Edie”). The glamorous icing on the princess cake: The Edies were related to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. The Maysles spent six weeks with the duo; their documentary was entitled Grey Gardens. The day-to-day depiction of the women sprung them from the depths of obscurity to veritable cult status. The most recent episode in their legacy is the HBO film that goes by the same title, starring ever-talented Drew Barrymore and vet actor Jessica Lange. Grey Gardens debuts this Saturday April 18, at 8 pm (ET/PT) – talk about must-see TV!
What are we most looking forward to? It’s a toss up between Drew Barrymore in age makeup and all the fabulous costumes. The story of “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” is told over the span of 40 years and depicts glamorous and lavish lifestyles the codependent mother-daughter duo led prior to the making of the Maysles’ documentary, as well as the circumstances that led to their demise as pioneering socialistas of the time.
Former wild-child turned media mogul Drew Barrymore had been a fan of the documentary for years and had a copy in her library. (We’d love to see what else she has in her library!)
“When I read his script, I flipped out,” she said, “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.”
The actress, not exactly known for her dramatic chops, did whatever it took to play this complex character–a task made even more challenging by the time-span of the movie.
“I’ve never studied so hard to be a character in my life,” says Barrymore.
She met with documentarian Albert Maysles and asked him “five thousand” questions, as she puts it. 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.”
Despite her offbeat taste in clothing by today’s standards, “Little Edie” is considered by many to have been a trend-setter. Her 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.
“She was one of the most innovative icons that fashion has ever seen,” says Barrymore.
The Bettys can’t wait to see Drew Barrymore in wacky age makeup and fab-u-lous and lavish clothing, not to mention the divine Jessica Lange. Sorry fellas, we’re staying in this Saturday night.
Photo Credits: Peter Stranks/HBO