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Poor, haunted 'Grey Gardens' could strike Emmy gold

March 16, 2009 |  6:08 pm

After "Grey Gardens" debuts on HBO on April 18, expect it to be a major player at the Emmys. Not only will it be a front-runner to win best TV movie, it'll probably reap acting noms for Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore as "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Beale, the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Perhaps even Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jackie.


The two Edies were a combative mother-daughter duo who lived a pathetic life of faded aristocratic glory in a crumbling, raccoon-infested mansion in East Hampton, N.Y., that was nearly shut down and razed by the local health department in the 1970s. Their plight was exposed by the National Enquirer and New York magazine, and their home was rescued by Jackie and her sister Lee Radziwill. The two Edies' story and personal oddities were captured vividly in a 1975 documentary that's become a cult classic.

In 2006, the documentary was adapted into a stage musical that debuted at Playwrights Horizons in New York and then transferred to the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway, where it ran for 308 performances, closing in July 2008. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2007, winning three: best actress (Christine Ebersole as Little Edie Beale), featured actress (Mary Louise Wilson as Edith Bouvier Beale ) and costumes. It lost best musical to "Spring Awakening."

The HBO telefilm is a new dramatic adaptation of the original documentary.

Portraying Little Edie was such a traumatic experience for Drew Barrymore that she told W magazine it reminded her of her stint in rehab and prompted her to go into seclusion for six months.

While portraying the role, Barrymore said, "I thought, 'I'm afraid beyond anything I've ever known. I'm miserable, I'm scared, I feel sick all the time.' And I was like, 'Good! At least I have somewhere to put it.' "

Photo and video: HBO


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