While the walls at The Carlyle don’t talk, they definitely whisper. Matthew Miele’s Always at The Carlyle brings to life the untold stories of this legendary hotel as heard from the mouths of its own employees and top clientele, including George Clooney, Anjelica Huston, Tommy Lee Jones, Vera Wang, Anthony Bourdain, Roger Federer, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Jon Hamm, Lenny Kravitz, Naomi Campbell and Elaine Stritch. Read the Q&A below to find out more about the film.
Q: WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TELL THE STORY OF THE CARLYLE?
A: This film continues a theme in my work which is focusing on why something has become iconic in our culture like The Carlyle and what about it should be celebrated and sustained as we all experience this rapidly changing world. Condoleezza Rice sums it up nicely in the film with her quote “this hotel represents the best of who we were”…and George Clooney follows that up with “it’s not just a place to lay your head.” I believe that about The Carlyle. It’s not just a hotel, it’s an aspirational place where the exceptional and the eccentric collide, congregate and celebrate.
Q: YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE HOTEL?
A: Probably Bemelmans Bar. This could be argued to be the best bar in the world. It was named after Ludwig Bemelmans, an artist (most notably of the childrens’ Madeline books) who painted the walls of the bar with his signature and whimsical characters in exchange for staying in the bar for 18 months. So what started so innocently, and ironically with a children’s book in a collage surrounding the bar, has become the most unlikely popular bar not only in New York but a destination for people from around the world.
Q: WHAT YOU MOST ENJOYED ABOUT MAKING THE FILM?
A: This was a film you start out thinking and having high hopes for when it comes to the stories you can tell and who can tell them. And over time, as in any film, you begin to temper your hopes because things might not work out as you’d hoped. I can honestly say this film never let me down with my original vision for it. I spoke with The Carlyle about who they believed would be the ideal guests and regulars who would speak to me. Obviously that list if very A – list and quite formidable, but I am thrilled to say that they all came out for the film and were happy to do it! It has such a stellar cast and I am so happy that because of their celebrity, more people will watch and discover this film.
Q: WHAT WERE SOME OF THE PRODUCTION PARTICULARS, TIME IT TOOK, ETC?
A: All told, this film took exactly four years from the time we rolled camera. Not that we filmed daily or even weekly, but my personal presence in the hotel was practically daily. I did not want to make this a ‘fly by night’ production. To really understand The Carlyle, or anything iconic, you really have to immerse yourself in the culture of it, the people, the atmosphere, the things that are not tangible. I was nervous if my camera would capture what seems to have an emotional and generational response for many people, and time will tell if it did. But what I am most proud of is that The Carlyle loves the film. From the owners to the doormen, the elevator operators to the room service staff, they all really enjoy the film and feel that it “gets” the place, which really cannot be out into words, but must be experienced.
Q: WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTERS IN THE FILM?
A: I would definitely say the employees who’ve been at The Carlyle the longest. Tommy (retired bartender), Danny (bellhop), and Dwight (concierge) together make up about 150 years of 5-star experience at the hotel between them. These guys keep the stories under lock and key, but they also are the standard bearers of the traditions that still exist at the hotel. They have truly seen it all, from presidents going back to Truman and Kennedy, to celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood, it is remarkable what they have seen and what they have to say about the hotel and society as a whole.
Q: WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST WHILE FILMING?
A: Probably the broad appeal of the hotel. It really caters to all walks of life, but moreover, all kinds of celebrated icons in their own right. From Jack Nicholson to Prince William, Roger Federer to Jackie Onassis, it really has no industry or individual it doesn’t appeal to…I actually have viewed the VIP list on a few occasions and it’s always a who’s who from tech, science, the arts, politics, etc.
Q: WHAT DO YOU HOPE FOR THE FILM?
A: This film is about legacy… I truly want a new generation to discover why this hotel is so special and celebrate why it’s iconic and continue its appeal into the future. I think it will gain in attention and word of mouth as people discover it, much like the hotel.