Saturday Night Live has produced so many wonderful talents through the years, but none as distinctively fascinating and entertaining as the hilarious Gilda Radner. Not only was Radner one of the original SNL cast members, but she cherished a life of laughter and delighted in making others feel good till her last cancer days.
Through years of fundraising and being heavily involved in Gilda’s Club, a cancer support community; Producer/Director Lisa D’Apolito became more passionate about sharing the adorned story of Radner to the public. D’Apolito’s Emmy nominated documentary Love, Gilda captures the very essence of Gilda Radner with a heartfelt connection through love and comedy.
The story and the point of view in Love, Gilda naturally flows incorporating a multifaceted dimensionality. The director explained, “I knew she was somebody who was looking for love; she loved people and wanted to be loved by people. I always kept that as the core story. In her outward life, she just wanted to love and be loved. In her inner story, basically based from her childhood, being a chubby child, and not being enough. I think even when she became famous, all her insecurities kicked in.”
“Another point that was important in terms of story was to show that Gilda’s inner life had a lot going on. When looking at her, we see this big smiling Gilda; but underneath it all, there were a lot of insecurities that I felt were relatable to those people who were famous or not. She had an inert storyline. We tried different structures, but I felt all the keys were in childhood. If we knew what childhood was like, it would carry through the rest of her story.”
The film interlaced an imaginative way of utilizing Gilda’s personal writings from her journals through the use of animation. “I was really lucky in the sense that I had her journals. I got to get to know Gilda in her inner voice and wanted to have that inner voice in the film, but I never wanted anyone to read her really emotional stories when she wrote to her mother about her miscarriage. That was using animation and music to tell that part of her story. Our animator did a great job and it really is Gilda’s writing. There were a lot of times the animator had to find letters, numbers, or piece things together,” said D’Apolito.
The audio narration played a driving force throughout the documentary truly being the actual voice of Gilda Radner sharing her own story, but that process was a complicated one. “The challenge was putting together the audio story so that Gilda could tell her story and a lot of the tapes were damaged. We had to go and find interviews that Gilda had done with journalists, so it was a lot of tracking down. Even up until we were in post-production and we were in the audio room, no one was sure it was going to work of her being able to tell her story. Dominic Bartolini painfully restored so much of the audio. There were some great stories that we had to lose because the audio was so bad. It sounds different at times because some are from her audio book. It’s from 18 different sources of audio,” the filmmaker clarified.
The music is another powerful component that encompassed an array of emotions, which is also nominated for an Emmy award. D’Apolito praised, “I have to say our composer Miriam Cutler really brought another level to Gilda’s voice. My favorite parts in the film is when she scored the music to the animated letters and the animated inner thoughts of Gilda, especially her balance of the fun of Gilda and the seriousness. It was a really wonderful collaboration.”
The documentary also featured a plethora of comedians talking about the influence from Gilda. A sample size includes the likes of Chevy Chase, Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Martin Short. “In terms of the modern-day comedians, I felt like they could all read something about fame because I thought it was something that they could identify with themselves. We had a really long list of comedians inspired by Gilda, which is pretty long. Everyone was great and they really loved Gilda,” proclaimed the director.
Love, Gilda is nominated for the 2019 Emmy categories of ‘Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special’ and ‘Outstanding Music Composition For a Documentary Series Or Special (Original Dramatic Score)’ from composer Miriam Cutler. Lisa D’Apolito’s documentary highlights original hand writings from Gilda’s journal, visually fluid animations, authentic audio recordings of Gilda’s actual voice, a beautiful harmonious musical score, and a multitude of guest testimonies from past SNL members and actors. The story of Gilda Radner is fashioned elegantly within Love, Gilda.
“She really had a unique legacy that was both comedy and in the world of cancer. There aren’t many stories like Gilda out there. My goal was always to introduce her to new and younger audiences because her story holds up over time.”