Whether he’s reporting from the other side of the world, ringing in the New Year by giggling alongside brassy comic Kathy Griffin or sitting across from (and challenging) presidential hopeful Donald Trump, we’ve gotten to know CNN’s Anderson Cooper through his work.
Admirably, given his fame, Cooper isn’t one to want to be the center of the story. For example, even when he publicly came out in 2012, there were definitely headlines, but he didn’t make it a mission to stand in the spotlight. That’s all changing as Cooper is opening up his life by letting cameras eavesdrop as he interviews his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt, a public figure since birth thanks to her famously wealthy family, sat down across from her son, and what happened was a conversation that proves fascinating to watch, but also sends a lesson to everyone who can still talk to their parents—to actually talk to them.
The title of the Liz Garbus-directed documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper“ sends the message that there’s still time to ask the questions and find out more about the people (or person) who brought you into the world.
In January, Garbus and Vanderbilt were present at the TCA winter press tour while Cooper was via satellite, and they all talked about the making of the film and the meaning behind it. Here are five quotes from that panel that spell out why this documentary is much more than just a window into the lives of the rich and famous, and how it actually reflects back on us.
“It was kind of surreal”: For Cooper, who has interviewed seemingly everyone and traveled the world, sitting down with his mother to interview her was a different experience. “It was kind of surreal. I mean, we all have relationships with our parents that change as they age and we age, but oftentimes we don’t change the way we talk to our parents when we’re with our parents. I think that’s kind of one of the messages of this film.” In fact, the title of the film is more than just a title, but a bit of advice to everyone from Cooper. “This idea of leaving nothing left unsaid is something that I feel really strongly about. My dad died when I was 10. My mom’s father died when she was 15 months old. We both grew up with this fantasy that there was a letter out there somewhere—an idle letter from my dad somewhere out there and that she had a letter from her father out there, and both of us still kind of secretly believe that letter will someday show up.”
“Her birth made headlines”: Being born into a wealthy family put Vanderbilt in the public eye from day one. “I think my mom,” Cooper said, “has been in the public eye really longer than anybody else alive. My mom will turn 92 in February. Her birth made headlines. When she was 10, she was the subject of a really extraordinary custody battle. It was called ‘the trial of the century’ long before the O.J. Simpson trial was called ‘the trial of the century.’ And her entire life has played out on a very brightly lit stage, and I think this film…the idea really behind it is, you may know her name, but you really don’t know who she is or what her story is.”
“I do think nothing has been left unsaid”: Cooper shared that in doing this documentary he was able to know his mother in a way he hadn’t before. “I think everybody in this room probably would like to have a new way of talking with your parent, and there’s always questions you want to ask. You kind of think, ‘Well, I’ll wait one day. I’ll ask it some other time,’ and then it’s too late. I think it can be awkward and painful, particularly when it’s being filmed, but I am so happy with the documentary…I’m a different person than I was when I started this film. And I realize how much like my mom I am, which I never, ever would have believed.” Cooper also revealed he and his mother have written a book that will continue the documentary’s conversation.
“She’s been cool with it from the get-go”: Cooper, who publicly came out in 2012, shared some history that during the infamous custody battle his mother was involved in, Vanderbilt’s mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, “was accused of being a lesbian at the height of the Depression, at the height of this custody battle. It was so shocking and so disturbing, the court was shut down. Reporters were banned. And people knew something—it was worse than a murder, almost, back in 1932.” As for his mother finding out he was gay? “I grew up with so many gay friends of my mom’s in our house. I knew she would be fine with it. So for me, I came out in high school to my friends. I came out in college to my mom. And, you know, she’s been cool with it from the get‑go.”
“It’s made me a better daughter to my mother”: Director Liz Garbus shared what she learned from filming this compelling conversation between mother and son and admitted, “As a witness to this process, I think that it’s made me a better daughter to my mother. I think there’s something very large that we can all take away from this. And that’s a very profound gift that Anderson and Gloria have given us.” Asked if she approached the subject matter any differently, Garbus said she didn’t, but added, “part of the film-making process here was to allow Gloria and Anderson to have those conversations. That was really the heart of the film. So, I approached it the way I approach all of my films, which is what is the heart, what is the soul of this story? And the heart and soul of the story is really their relationship, which then folds open into history.”
“Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper" airs Saturday at 9 pm on HBO. It will air on April 30 on CNN.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.