Alumni Win Big at Emmy Awards for TV Movie
September 22, 2009 – Two alumni brought home golden Emmys after their HBO film Grey Gardens nabbed six statues at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 20.
Emmy went to Michael Sucsy (SFS’95), who co-wrote, directed and produced the TV movie, along with producer Lucy Barzun Donnelly (C’95).
Sucsy studied international relations at Georgetown and went on to earn a master’s in film from the Art Center College of Design in California. Barzun Donnelly studied English at the university. The two reunited during Reunion Weekend in 2005, just around the time Sucsy was finishing up his “Grey Gardens” script and Barzun Donnelly had started her production company.
Georgetown Goes Hollywood
Grey Gardens tells the story of two reclusive relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Jessica Lange, who won an Emmy for her performance, plays Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, and Drew Barrymore plays Beale’s daughter and Kennedy Onassis’ first cousin, “Little Edie.”
The real-life mother and daughter were the subject of a 1975 documentary that showed the once-wealthy Beales living in squalor in a dilapidated house called Grey Gardens in East Hampton, N.Y. Health inspectors almost evicted the Beales before Kennedy Onassis restored the home for her aunt and cousin.
The Georgetown alumni’s film is a fictionalized account based on the documentary.
“During the six years it took to get Grey Gardens made, I was blessed to have fellow Hoya Lucy Barzun Donnelly by my side guiding and supporting my vision for the film,” Sucsy says. “I’m overwhelmed with the positive outpouring of support for our work by our fellow classmates.”
Bringing Grey Gardens to Television
Sucsy became familiar with the Grey Gardens estate after spending many summers in Long Island, N.Y.
He eventually saw the documentary in 2003, a year after Little Edie’s death, and got in touch with the lawyer of her estate. With the lawyer’s help, Sucsy was able to contact some Beale relatives. A nephew’s wife “unearthed a box containing years of Edie’s journals, piles of her poetry, scores of family photographs and dozens of typed and hand-written letters …” Sucsy wrote recently in The Huffington Post.
He also found a description of how Grey Gardens was decorated in its heyday.
“I flipped out,” Sucsy wrote in his June 18 post. “This was an incredible find. I now had access to Edie’s most inner thoughts.”
The film won six awards - Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (Lange), and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie (Ken Howard as Little Edie’s father). The film also won three other awards, one for casting, cinematography, costumes and hairstyling; another for makeup and prosthetic makeup; and a third for music composition, single-camera picture editing and sound mixing.
Sucsy says his next project is a film called Goree Girls. Jennifer Aniston is both one of the film’s producers and in the cast. A musical, the movie is set in the 1940s and involves imprisoned female country and western singers.