At 94, Norman Lear Is Unstoppable
"When you spend a day with the legendary producer Norman Lear, it’s hard not to think about old age. At 93 — soon to be 94 — the man has the telltale signs of a human on the brink of his centennial: The wrinkles that have taken up residence on his face show no interest in vacating the premises. Under the iconic hat, most of the hair is gone. And, occasionally he needs to sit down — for just a sec.
But if hanging out with Norman Lear makes you ponder your own mortality, you can be pretty sure he’s not thinking about it. With an almost grotesquely packed schedule and penchant for saying “to be continued” instead of “goodbye,” Mr. Lear has got a lot of other things on his mind that do not include “the end” — like a production meeting for his new 13-part series, or lunch. (He loves lunch.)
We spent most of 2015 directing “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.” During production, Mr. Lear, whose birth predates television (though he went on to revolutionize it) artfully dodged any questions we posed about aging and death.
But as we went deeper, we learned that his approach is the result of a deep concern with the way our country sees the elderly — or rather, the way we choose not to see them at all. For five years, Mr. Lear has been shopping a comic series called “Guess Who Died,” which takes place in a retirement community — but he has not been able to sell it. Mr. Lear knows the series is funny. He’s convinced that Madison Avenue’s fixation with the lithe and intoxicating 18-29 demographic has torpedoed his chances to get a few old faces on the tube.
As we watched, we were mesmerized by the parade of actors that came through the door to audition. Mostly septo- or octogenarians, none of them exhibited the nerves or the vanity we’ve come to expect from hopeful thespians. Instead they read their lines with a humor and emotional nuance that was deeply felt and wonderfully lived-in. Suddenly, there in that casting room, I saw my grandmother again, then my favorite uncle and my chatty neighbor down the hall — all real people who walk among us, have so much to offer and are ready for their close up. All we need to do is look." - Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady via New York Times