One of the big questions many have coming away from Lisa D’Apolito’s mesmerizing feature documentary Love, Gilda which kicked off Tribeca on Wednesday is why Gilda Radner Saturday Night Live peers Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and even Father Guido Sarducci (aka Don Novello) aren’t interviewed in the movie.
Truth be told D’Apolito did in fact reach out to all of Radner’s peers -well over 100 names- however, some never responded. No hard feelings, D’Apolito gets it.
“It’s hard for everybody (to talk about Radner),” says the director, “People loved her so much and to talk about her, was very painful because it brought back that loss. I totally understand why people didn’t want to be in it. It’s personal.”
Of those SNL folks who worked with Radner in the doc are her writing partner Alan Zweibel, SNL producer Lorne Michaels, Martin Short (who was in Godspell with Radner), Chevy Chase, and Laraine Newman.
What’s striking about the doc is how D’Apolito gets into Radner’s ID, and how much of the film is narrated by the late comedienne. Much of that stems from the 32-hour audio archives which Gilda’s brother Michael Radner provided to D’Apolito including a chemo-therapy short that the comedienne made. Radner’s audio files are from when she was writing her autobiography It’s Always Something. D’Apolito found her way to making the doc as she helmed many of the videos for Radner’s fundraising non-profit for cancer patients Gilda’s Club.
Before Radner’s husband Gene Wilder passed in August 2016, D’Apolito spent a day with him about a year before he died. Wilder is not in the doc out of respect for the fact that he was ill in the last year of his life. “You can tell why Gilda loved him. People say he wasn’t funny, but he was funny,” says D’Apolito.
“He told me all kinds of great stories, he said he couldn’t live with her and couldn’t live without her. I think that kind of sums up their relationship,” says the director.
Love, Gilda continually underscores how Radner was a pioneer for female empowerment in comedy. “Gilda felt equal to men,” says D’Apolito, “She could be up there with John Belushi and all these guys and if it wasn’t working her way, she’d would find a way to make it work.”
The CNN Films doc will air in early 2019.