A Prairie Home Companion
Tim Russell (Al, Stage Manager), Sue Scott (Donna, Makeup Lady) and Meryl Streep (Yolanda Johnson) share a laugh at the movie premiere's press conference for Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion.
Star Night, Star Bright
The Fitzgerald Theater was awash in starlight on May 3, 2006, as St. Paul hosted a Hollywood-style premiere for the Midwest debut of “A Prairie Home Companion,” the Robert Altman film based on Garrison Keillor’s long-running radio show that was filmed at the Fitzgerald Theater and Mickey’s Diner last summer in Minnesota’s capital city.
Co-stars Sue Scott, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Tim Russell at the movie premiere of Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Press Conference
Tim Russell and Sue Scott’s movie premiere day started with a press conference with Garrison Keillor, director Robert Altman and fellow cast members Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, John C. Reilly, Virginia Madsen, Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep.
The stars of Robert Altman's latest film were reunited before the press conference. Tim Russell said of the behind-the-scenes moment, “We gathered before the day’s press conference, reconnecting with the other stars as they entered. Kevin Kline, sporting a new grey beard, commented on my new salt and pepper beard. If the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame ever leave the box, we’re ready to jump in. Right behind Kevin was Lindsay Lohan. I started to reintroduce myself when Lindsay said ‘I know who you are’ and gave me an air kiss on both cheeks. It was all very continental. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin were delightful, as were John C. Reilly and Virginia Madsen. They had a stack of 'A Prairie Home Companion' movie posters to sign and Meryl used her Sharpie to black out Lily’s teeth. Lily laughed as their ‘Johnson Girls’ chemistry continued in full force.
The press conference gave me an opportunity to say how my parents, had they still been alive, would have been so proud to see me in the company of such superb talent. My mother would have been especially thrilled since she was sort of a show biz junkie and encouraged my grade school habit of watching Jack Parr and Johnny Carson. I was probably the only kid in 5th grade that had a working knowledge of the foibles of Alexander King and Oscar Levant.”
“Millions of Characters in You”
At the “A Prairie Home Companion” movie press conference, Sue Scott was asked how she felt about sitting next to Meryl Streep, “one of the greatest living actresses in Hollywood.”
Sue answered that she was “tickled pink” and went on to say that it was “a big thrill” and wonderful to work with all of her co-stars in the Altman film when Meryl Streep chimed in “it was great for us because they’re the real thing. We’re just pretending.” Streep added that she had an image of Sue Scott in her mind before she met her - “because you have millions of characters in you” that Sue was going to be six feet tall. The mutual admiration continued until Meryl Streep gave a blushing and laughing Sue Scott a big kiss.
Faces for Radio?
Tim Russell, who is an entertainment editor for WCCO Radio in addition to performing regularly as a character voice actor on “A Prairie Home Companion,” was asked about the future of radio. Russell joked: “Well, being employed in radio at the present time, I hope the future is bright.”
Later in the day, the Highland Park Marching Band led a parade with the film’s stars, the film’s producers and Garrison Keillor and Robert Altman riding in white horse-drawn carriages from Rice Park to the Fitzgerald Theater. Fans lined the parade route to blow kisses and wave signs.
Sue Scott got a big kick out of all the people who came to watch the parade, "I loved it. To see all our friends and fans lining the streets calling out our names and waving, that was lots of fun."
Meryl Streep was heard saying that she had not had so much fun in a parade since she was a homecoming queen.
Tim Russell did not kiss his carriage’s horse as Lindsay Lohan had upon arriving at the red carpet of the Fitzgerald Theater, but he did enjoy his carriage ride with his wife Judy, co-stars Sue Scott and Tom Keith, and their spouses.
The Red Carpet
Large crowds of fans and paparazzi toting cameras attempted to snap photos of Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep as they walked the Oscar-style red carpet into the Fitzgerald Theater.
Sue Scott explained, "We got out of our carriage and a few minutes later there was this huge cheer as Lindsay's carriage had arrived. Tim (Russell), Tom (Keith) and I had a great time making our way up the red carpet and being asked to stop periodically to talk with reporters about our roles in the Altman film."
Local fans lined both sides of the red carpet. Many had been waiting for hours to get the best chance of glimpsing the Hollywood stars. "They were quite enthusiastic to put it mildly. Very un-Minnesotan. Which I thought was great! And, why not? You don't have this kind of star power in town everyday!" remarked Sue Scott.
Before the screening of "A Prairie Home Companion," director Robert Altman introduced the cast members. As Sue Scott explained, "He said he was going to introduce us alphabetically and then he began with 'Sue Scott.' I ran out and asked him which alphabet was he referring to! We all came out one by one. Some made comments (Tim did a wonderful George Bush quickie into the mic: 'Robert Altman is the 'decider'...') and others like actor John C. Reilly showed off a little and did rope tricks for the crowd.”
"Nobody's going to understand this movie. You won't know what it's about, and that's good," was Mr. Altman's comment to the invitation-only audience in the Fitzgerald Theater.
Tim Russell commented, "The premiere was a big success. The screening was so boisterous at the beginning I don’t think many people heard that it was Sue, Tom Keith and I doing the character voices in the opening title sequence. Meryl Streep sat behind Sue (Scott) and me and we heard her say to Lily Tomlin ‘Listen, that’s Sue and Tim.’ Everyone loved the film and the applause at the end was deafening."
After the screening of "A Prairie Home Companion," it was time to move the party to the Landmark Center.
Sue shared, "We were met at the door by waiters carrying countless trays of beautiful finger food and wine. A combo of musicians played delightful party music. At one point, Garrison (Keillor) went up to the stage and sang with the band, joined by Robin and Linda Williams and Rich Dworsky at the piano. He even got the crowd all riled up singing the ‘Minnesota Rouser’ together. For me it felt like an opening night, a class reunion and my wedding reception all wrapped up in one. There were so many wonderful people to greet and talk to and it was great to reunite with some of the crew from the movie shoot. We hadn't seen many of those folks since we wrapped last August. Tim and I heard some lovely comments about the movie and our roles in it. All in all it was a magical evening, which ended for my husband, Ron, and I with a late night bite to eat at the St. Paul Grill with Robin and Linda Williams and Garrison and his wife, Jenny."
For Tim Russell, "The party was so big that I missed seeing half the people I knew. It was great to see NBC news anchor Brian Williams. He was there with his wife Jane, a fan of the radio show, and daughter Allison, an intern on the production. My wife Judy and I had a great time, took lots of pictures, and collected a ton of memories. It was a truly memorable night."
View a clip of Sue Scott with Kevin Kline and John C. Reilly in Robert Altman's film A Prairie Home Companion.
Click photos to enlarge.
Watch Sue Scott and Meryl Streep at the “A Prairie Home Companion” movie press conference.