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Premieres & Events

Waitress Serves in NYC Preview

By Christopher Campbell

The Reeler joined Lincoln Center's Young Friends of Film Thursday night for an advance screening of the late Adrienne Shelly’s Waitress, a film that this writer (an enormous Hal Hartley fan whose office wall is decorated with a poster featuring Shelly) was eagerly awaiting. And though it’s been six months since Shelly’s death, I still expected to be hit with a great sadness while watching the film for the first time. But there was no time to be sad during the screening, because Waitress is such a joyous piece of cinema -- a celebration of food, love, maternity, ensemble acting and of course the wonderful talent that was Adrienne Shelly.

(L-R) Waitress producer Michael Roiff and star Keri Russell reminisce Thursday night at the Walter Reade Theater (Photo: Christopher Campbell)

Following the screening at the Walter Reade Theater, YFF hosted a Q&A with the film’s star, Keri Russell, and producer, Michael Roiff, and the celebration continued. Russell even attempted to pick out her favorite memory from working on the shoot, despite how obvious it is that the entire production was a fun experience for everyone involved. “I loved Cheryl [Hines] so much," she said. "We had so much fun together talking and telling stories. But I loved Andy Griffith too. He was just a dream to work with. I really liked wearing my waitress uniform. Is that weird?”

Russell also talked about working with Shelly, who she found to be a rare breed of actor-turned-filmmaker. “Anytime you work with directors who are actors, I feel like they don’t think there’s any magic to what you’re doing because they’ve done it," Russell said. "So they’re like, ‘Uh, yeah, don’t do that, I don’t like that.’ Whereas some other [non-actor] director would be like, ‘That’s great. What you’re doing is really great, but I was thinking…’ They’re very, like, with kid gloves. Because Adrienne is an actress, she knew exactly what she wanted and she would tell you what she wanted. And that was really nice how she was so direct.”

Roiff added that everything seen in the film is completely how Shelly envisioned it. “It’s mind-boggling how everything that’s in the script is in the movie and everything that’s in the movie is in the script,” he said. “She knew exactly what she wanted in everything. And every frame of the film has her specific imprint on it in all quadrants. But I think what was so amazing about Adrienne is that she was able to know what she wanted and be so clear, and yet everyone felt involved, everyone felt like they had ownership and she was so nice. I think that’s rare. I think usually when someone knows exactly what they want they’re a little bit hard to get along with. And she was the complete opposite.”

Part of Shelly’s specifics apparently included a precise supervision of the look of the film’s biggest stars, the pies. “There’s hundreds of pies that were made for it,” Roiff explained. “And our props department handled most of it with Adrienne overseeing it to a very, very large extent. There was a pie mistress there to make sure the pies looked good, and they were all made from food; they were all edible in that sense. Whether they were able to be eaten was a totally other question. In the scene with the spaghetti pie, Jeremy [Sisto] was not gonna have it.”

“He was going to vomit,” Russell chimed in.

“Yeah,” Roiff continued, “and so Jeremy is doing this little trick where he’s moving the food around on his plate, and he’d pick the fork up to his mouth right before he’d say a line so he could be like, ‘Oops, now I’m talking.’ But Adrienne picked up on that and so she wouldn’t cut the scene. She played it like a game of chicken and said, ‘We are going to sit here forever, mister, unless you eat your pie.’”

After the Q&A, the audience was treated to refreshments; fittingly there were a number of delicious pies. And while none of them required Shelly to be around to force feed them, I’m sure she would have loved to have been there with everyone celebrating the food and the film.

Posted at April 27, 2007 7:40 AM

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