Susan Lacy Interview: ‘Very Ralph’ director
“It was a harder film to make, for me, because I’m not really a fashion person,” confesses Susan Lacy about her recent documentary “Very Ralph,” which explores the life and career of American fashion designer Ralph Lauren. The film is Lacy’s third documentary for HBO, following acclaimed profiles of Steven Spielberg and Jane Fonda. Lacy, a 14-time Emmy winner for creating and producing the long-running PBS docuseries “American Masters,” explains the challenges of making the film as well as the importance of establishing a trusting relationship with her subjects. Watch our exclusive video interview with Lacy above.
When HBO first came to Lacy with the idea for a film about Lauren, the director wasn’t sure how she would tackle it, particularly because of her own knowledge gap when it came to fashion. As she began to learn more about the designer, she began to see the appeal of Lauren’s vision. “This is a man who understood something about America, and it spoke to him as a young man,” she explains. “He brought the love of the things that he loved– primarily from the movies — and said ‘I want to have that and I can’t buy that, so I think I’ll make it.'”
Lacy insists on meeting her subjects privately before agreeing profile them, a process which helps establish a level of trust so that the filmmaker can make an honest portrait of the subject. Lacy recalls her first private meeting with Lauren as being surprisingly easy. “I think we both surprised each other at how real we both were,” she recalls. “I wasn’t trying to impress him in any way and he wasn’t trying to impress me. We got so personal so quickly.” Lacy also makes clear that she is never out to “get” her subjects, but instead takes an authentic look at her subject’s life and work. “I think there’s a certain comfort level that I’m not out to get somebody, but I also am out for truth.”
Lacy believes that Lauren’s legacy is his ability to give the public a taste of some version of the American Dream. She hopes that the film captures that unique aspect of Lauren. “I’m really hoping that people get that there is an underlying idea behind this film,” she says, “which is really about the potency of the American Dream and how somebody captured that and sold it to the whole world.