The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival kicked off on an emotional note Wednesday night in New York City as Tina Fey paid tribute to original Saturday Night Live cast member Gilda Radner at the world premiere of Lisa D’Apolito’s charming documentary about the life and legacy of the comedic trailblazer.
Taking the stage at the Beacon Theatre following a brief word from festival co-founders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, Fey — a self-proclaimed student of Radner’s comedy who walked in the departed performer’s footsteps as one of SNL’s foremost female players — introduced Love, Gilda as an enchanting portrait of a woman making a name for herself in a bygone era.
“I think we all grow up romanticizing the era in which we were children,” Fey said. “I was born in 1970s, so for me, ’70s New York, with the birth of Saturday Night Live and people in really high jeans and corduroy jackets — just no hair products of any kind [going] to a disco — that, to me, was the epitome of adult glamour and everything I wanted out of life. So I didn’t just watch Lisa’s film, I wanted to crawl into it.”
Fey later teared up when discussing the impact Radner’s work as part of SNL’s inaugural cast had on her and future breakout stars of the variety sketch show, namely Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler.
“[She was] so authentically herself and so regular in so many ways. She was not a piece of casting, she was who she was on TV. We all saw that and said, ‘I want to do that, and it’s possible because I see her doing that,’” Fey said. “It was an early example for me of how important representation is, for everyone from every walk of life. Gilda was our equivalent of Michelle Obama. And that is why Lisa’s film feels like a miracle to me: It felt like I was getting to spend time with someone that I never knew, that I very much would have wanted to spend time with.”
She then joked about the way she consumed the film for the first time.
“I watched it on a link on my phone in 10- or 15-minute segments over the last couple of days — just what every filmmaker wants to hear — during taxi rides and subway rides, rebooting it at the stops where there was Wi-Fi,” she explained. “And I realized I was parceling it out [not just] because it’s very emotional for me because we all know how it ends, but because I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want the film to end. And I think you will feel that way too.”
Though Fey doesn’t appear in Love, Gilda, Rudolph and Poehler do, reading aloud several excerpts from Radner’s personal diaries alongside Melissa McCarthy, Bill Hader, and Cecily Strong. The film, which traces Radner’s life from her early childhood through to her 1989 death from ovarian cancer, also features rare audio recordings from Radner’s personal collection as well as interviews with Chevy Chase, Lorne Michaels, and Radner’s brother, Michael.
The Tribeca Film Festival runs through April 29. Watch EW’s exclusive clip from Love, Gilda here.