Director Sucsy toiled for years on doc adaptation
Michael Sucsy’s Cinderella story is now complete with six Emmy statues to decorate “Grey Gradens.”The tyro scribe-helmer was the driving force behind HBO’s dramatic take on the eccentric mother-and-daughter pair who were captured in “Grey Gardens,” the 1975 docu by the Maysles brothers that has become a pop culture touchstone. The story of the wildly eccentric, impoverished one-time socialites Big and Little Edie Beale was the most unlikely inspiration for a Tony-winning musical and now, an Emmy-winning telepic. Sucsy became enamored with the Maysles’ documentary after catching it on cable nearly a decade ago. He made it his mission to look up information about the mother and daughter who were close kin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Sucsy was doing grunt work in film and TV and attending Art Center College of Design, but he was determined to tell the Beales’ story on film, particularly their early years in the 1930s and ’40s. He spent several years working on the screenplay adaptation after he uncovered a treasure trove of Little Edie’s journals and correspondence through his research. Although Sucsy had only minimal experience directing commercials, when “Grey Gardens” wound up in development at HBO there was never any question that he would direct the telepic — even after it landed no less than Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore for the leads. In all, “Grey Gardens” earned wins for telepic and acting nods for Lange and Ken Howard, who played Big Edie’s estranged husband. The success of “Grey Gardens” has, of course, jumpstarted the multihyphenate’s career. He’s at work on a range of projects and is attached to helm “The Goree Girls,” a 1940s-set musical about a group of femme prisoners who form a country-and-western group. In accepting the telepic honor Sunday, Sucsy quoted a passage from one of Little Edie’s journals that might as well have been about his own experience with the telepic. “To love is to nourish with hope. We live for another who is living for us. And each must breathe hope into another,” he said.