Adrienne Shelly’s husband on revisiting her life and going through her killer in new documentary: ‘I’ll by no means have closure’

Adrienne Shelly wrote, directed and acted in her final feature film, Waitress (Photo: Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Adrienne Shelly wrote, directed and acted in her ultimate function movie, Waitress (Photo: Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Adrienne Shelly’s life ended fifteen years in the past on Nov. 1, 2006, when she was murdered in her West Village workplace. But her story continues in Adrienne, a shifting documentary portrait of the late author, director and actor crafted by her husband, Andy Ostroy. Premiering on HBO on Dec. 1, the movie eschews a typical chronological construction, as an alternative shifting forwards and backwards in time because it depicts Shelly’s early profession as a ’90s indie movie favourite, her shift into writing and directing her personal tasks (together with the Sundance sensation, Waitress), her marriage to Ostroy and the household they created, and the sequence of occasions that adopted his discovery of her physique to New York City police apprehending her killer. Adrienne‘s approach makes its topic nonetheless really feel current nearly 20 years after her demise. 

According to Ostroy, that is a mirrored image of how Shelly exists for him. Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, the widower says that he is by no means sought the type of closure that some strive to achieve after a devastating loss. “I will never have closure — It’s impossible to have closure,” he explains. “I admire people who believe they can lose somebody tragically and find closure. I aspire to that, but I cannot even conceptualize that. I don’t understand the concept of closure or the five stages of grief, I’ve always wondered what happens when you’re done with stage five. Does that mean, ‘OK, I’ve moved on?’ For me, life doesn’t work that way.” 

Adrienne is consultant of how Ostroy has navigated his personal means by grief over the previous fifteen years, and the way he is sought to maintain Shelly’s reminiscence alive for his or her daughter, Sophie, who was solely two years previous when her mom died. “What I’ve done in my life is to take her death and turn it into something positive. That’s where making this documentary came from — trying to use her death in a way that has redeeming value. Otherwise, it’s just a horrible death.” 

Andy Ostroy chronicles his marriage to Adrienne Shelly within the new documentary, Adrienne (Photo: Courtesy HBO)

Ostroy confronts the disturbing particulars of his spouse’s homicide head-on within the climax of the documentary when he sits down reverse Diego Pillco, the person who took her life. Pillco was 19 on the time of his deadly encounter with Shelly, and had not too long ago arrived in New York from Ecuador, choosing up odd jobs as a building employee — and stealing cash from the locations the place he labored — as he sought to repay his money owed. 

As he recounts to Ostroy within the movie, he was within the means of robbing Shelly’s workplace when she found him and threatened to name the police. “I got behind her and covered her mouth and told her not to call the police,” Pillco recounts by an interpreter. “I lost my mind… I was choking her with my hand at the same time I was covering her mouth so she wouldn’t make noise. I took my hand off… and I saw that her lips were blue.” 

Pillco then hung Shelly’s physique within the workplace lavatory, the place Ostroy found her hours later. Police investigators initially handled her demise as a suicide case, however Ostory’s repeated objections spurred a more in-depth examination of the crime scene and in the end put them on the trail to Pillco’s residence door in Queens. Pilco pleaded responsible to first-degree manslaughter at his 2008 trial and obtained a 25-year jail sentence that can finish in 2033. 

Ostroy celebrates his spouse’s legacy in his HBO documentary, Adrienne (Photo: Courtesy HBO)

Ostroy was within the courtroom when Pillco obtained his sentence in 2008 and remarks within the documentary that, at that time, 25 years appeared like a very long time. But now — with solely a bit over a decade left till Pillco’s launch — he felt compelled to have his first face-to-face dialog along with his spouse’s killer. “The film was always intended to be three parts: life, death and aftermath,” he explains. “The part about her death was something I had always been needing to understand in more detail — what really happened the day she died. As I say in the movie, there’s only one person alive who knows what happened and that was him.”

“[The meeting] became part of the cinematic process of making the film,” Ostroy continues. “It is a fairly climactic moment, at least in my life, in the last 15 years, so I felt it would be appropriate to tie into my other thoughts about where I — in addition to others in her family — have been left by this tragedy. I was there on a mission and I achieved that mission and put it in its proper time and place.” 

During their dramatic encounter, Ostroy listens quietly as Pillco explains what occurred on Nov. 1, 2006, asking the occasional query to make clear occasions that he says Pillco lied about in earlier accounts. When it is Ostroy’s flip to talk, he presents Pillco with the final pictures of himself, Sophie and Shelly previous to her demise, after which the Shelly-less household footage that adopted. “Adrienne missed a lot,” he says by tears within the movie. “This is what [Sophie] was left with: me, just me.” 

Shelly together with her daughter, Sophie, in {a photograph} featured within the documentary, Adrienne (Photo: Courtesy HBO)

Over the years, Ostroy has notably pushed again towards these voices — together with former President Donald Trump — who would possibly attempt to seize on his spouse’s demise as an excuse to demonize unlawful immigrants. “[Trump] uses murders like Adrienne’s — though never hers specifically, fortunately — as political props,” Ostroy wrote in a 2016 New York Times column. “It’s politically expedient for xenophobic agitators like Mr. Trump to scapegoat the millions of foreigners who have come to the United States in search of a better life. But his malevolence toward immigrants runs counter to the principles on which our great nation was founded.”

At the identical time, Adrienne makes it clear that he did not go into this assembly on the lookout for, or anticipating to seek out, closure. Asked whether or not his perspective about Pillco has modified since his sentencing, he replies: “He’s in the place he should be, in my head and in the minds of her family.” And he is nonetheless wrestling with the query of how he’ll really feel when Pillco is launched 12 years from now. “I think it’s what anyone would feel: a sentence is never enough when someone killed somebody.”

Keri Russell, Shelly and Cheryl Hines on the set of Waitress (Photo: Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Ostroy additionally emphasizes that the elements of the movie that take care of Shelly’s demise should not overwhelm the passages that commemorate her life. “The point of making the film was to humanize her as more than just a victim of a murder: it’s to show the world who she was.” Since Ostroy met her within the early 2000s, after she had already moved some of the common indie film ingenues of the ’90s, he turned to her buddies and collaborators — together with director Hal Hartley — to assist him perceive who that model of Adrienne Shelly was. 

“I met Adrienne Levine, this sweet Jewish girl from Long Island,” Ostroy says. “I didn’t meet Adrienne Shelly, indie darling. I only knew the normal, real person who decided that she needed something different in her life. We came together at the right time, and that’s what made it great. We had worked out so much of our s*** before that, so we were ready to be together, have a child together and be a family.” 

One of the ’90s tales that Hartley tells Ostroy within the movie includes his and Shelly’s breakout movie, Trust, which was picked up by Miramax when Harvey Weinstein nonetheless ran the label. According to Hartley, Weinstein wished him to recut the movie so as to add a nude scene with Shelly. “I didn’t really know much about that stuff until I sat with Hal,” Ostroy says. “I had heard little snippets from her, but the thing that made Adrienne so special is that she was just a positive person, and she chose to dwell on that which she could control rather than stuff that may have happened to her that was unpleasant.” 

Shelly in her breakout movie, Hal Hartley’s Trust (Fine Line Features/ Courtesy: Everett Collection)

But Ostroy additionally says that Shelly can be inspired by the #MeToo motion that finally toppled Weinstein, together with different poisonous males within the movie business. “I think she would be like, ‘Finally — this is the kind of stuff I’ve been writing about for years.’ She was writing about women being abused and objectified and harassed when it was just life experience, and which she partly experienced herself on sets here and there. So she would be very deeply gratified to see it being at the forefront of our culture today.”

As he tracked his spouse’s profession over the course of constructing Adrienne, Ostroy says that he additionally witnessed “the maturing of an artist,” and believes her greatest work lay forward of her. “Her execution was so much more precise with Waitress, and when I look at that film, I think it would have launched her career into the stratosphere. That’s the ultimate tragedy of her death from a professional standpoint: she would’ve been one of our great voices today as a writer and director.”

Perhaps it is going to be her daughter who continues Shelly’s inventive legacy. Ostroy says that their now-teenage daughter has dabbled in filmmaking herself. “She’s in a film class in high school, and makes short films,” he says, with pleasure. “But when she talks about her career, she also talks about social work and helping people. I just want her to do whatever she wants that will make her happy, and feel like she’s contributing into this world. So whether that’s being a social worker or a filmmaker, then that’s what we’ll support. I always felt this film would be the greatest gift I could give Sophie as she develops into adulthood and reflects back on who her mother is and how she can and will be a big presence for her.” 

Adrienne premieres Dec. 1 on HBO and HBO Max