The Tribeca Film Festival opened on Wednesday night at the Beacon Theatre with an odd pairing: the premiere of the 40th anniversary “Saturday Night Live” documentary “Live From New York!” followed by a short concert from Ludacris, who had nothing to do with the movie.
The film features interviews from four decades of “SNL” cast members and hosts, including Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Fallon, Andy Samberg, Seth Meyers, Will Ferrell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who called “SNL” a “sexist institution” onscreen) and Molly Shannon, all of whom were suspiciously absent from the festivities. Former vice president Al Gore is also interviewed in the doc, talking about how he found Darrell Hammond’s impersonation of him funny during the 2000 election.
The smattering of current “SNL” cast members in attendance included Beck Bennett, Bobby Moynihan, Leslie Jones, Sasheer Zamata and Kate McKinnon, as well as executive producer Lorne Michaels and former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Tribeca Film Festival founder Jane Rosenthal, who joined Robert De Niro on the red carpet, said that a variety of factors go into the festival’s opening night selection, which has had a mixed track record in recent years. “It depends on what’s available, honestly,” Rosenthal said, adding that “SNL” is an important New York institution. “When you look at how ‘SNL’ has impacted our culture over the past 40 years, they’ve also helped us get through the harshest times, whether it’s been the recession or the city healing in the post-9/11 world. We feel there’s a great deal of kinsmanship.”
The movie was shot in only 10 months, as the filmmakers scrambled to book interviews. Producer J.L. Pomeroy said that after 1,001 attempts to contact Bill Murray, they finally heard back from him— just as the film had locked. “I’m pretty confident Bill still thinks he’s going to be interviewed,” Pomeroy said. “He said, ‘Can you put me in the blooper reel?’” Added director Bao Nguyen: “It’s hard to get hold of Bill Murray.”
Once the movie ended, Ludacris took the stage of the Beacon Theatre, where he tried to deliver a set, only to see the venue quickly empty as many in the audience — confused by his connection to the night — fled for the door. “Are you still with me?” Ludacris asked the thinning crowd. “I got a lot of hit songs.” He also criticized the theater’s acoustics. “We’re trying to get the sound right,” he said after several songs. “This is a professional show.” He ended his performance abruptly, without an encore.
The after-party was held at Tavern on the Green.