Lily Tomlin, Paul Weitz, Laverne Cox, Julia Garner at the Tribeca Film Festival Premiere of Grandma

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Lily Tomlin has been a force in comedy and cinema since the 1960s, appearing in such classic movies as Working Girl (1980) and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993). Now she’s back in the indie comedy Grandma, playing the eponymous role opposite rising star, Julia Garner.

Elle (Tomlin) is having a rough time. She’s just split with her girlfriend and financially, she’s struggling. But when her granddaughter Sage (Garner) comes knocking, Elle is forced to step up. Sage needs $600 for an abortion—money her grandmother simply doesn’t have. Unperturbed, the two women set out to get their hands on the cash, dropping in on old friends and exes, causing more than a little friction on the way.

Indiezone.TV caught up with the stars of the film, as well as writer and director Paul Weitz, at its New York premiere during the Tribeca Film Festival. We asked Weitz if he had always imagined Tomlin as the misanthropic Elle.

“Yeah, completely,” Weitz said. “I got to work with her when she played Tina Fey’s mom in Admission, and hanging out with her, she was so funny and so edgy.” 

He was inspired by her energy and commitment to continuously learning, and so secretly, he went away and wrote the script, tailoring it to her sensibilities. Weitz admitted to “freaking her out” when he showed Tomlin the final screenplay, but she was on board right away. 

Filmmaker Paul Weitz Wrote Grandma Just for Lily Tomlin


Though Weitz wrote the film for her, Tomlin cited the ensemble cast as its formula for generating successful humor. “There’s great people in the movie,” she said. “Every role is filled by somebody who is just right for the part.” 

She also had high praise for Weitz, proclaiming that working with him was enough reason to attract actors such as Marcia Gay Harden and Sam Elliott to the project. “All those people,” Tomlin said, “they came because of Paul.”


Lily Tomlin on Grandma’s Ensemble Act and Paul Weitz’s Appeal

Laverne Cox also walked the red carpet for Grandma. The star of Orange is the New Black plays tattoo artist Deathy in the film. Cox explained that finding the right look for the character was of utmost importance, citing an old friend as her inspiration. “I had a ball coming up with what she would look like,” she exclaimed.


Laverne Cox on Dressing Deathy, Her Role in Grandma

For Julia Garner, the subject matter was a big reason she said yes to the movie. “There’s not a lot of scripts like this,” she explained, referring to the challenging situation Sage finds herself in. Garner herself found the film’s central theme of strong women rallying around a younger woman in her hour of need a valuable message worth sending.


Julia Garner on Being Surrounded by Strong Women in Grandma


Grandma is scheduled for theatrical release on August 21, 2015, through Sony Classics Pictures.

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