With a premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March, HBO will release a documentary based on the life and works of actor Mary Tyler Moore in May 2023. The new feature, BEING MARY TYLER MOORE , directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker James Adolphus and produced by Lena Waithe, Debra Martin Chase, and Ben Selkow, narrates the personal life and professional accomplishments of the iconic actor to “highlight her groundbreaking roles and the indelible impact she had on generations of women who came after her.” With unprecedented access to Mary Tyler Moore’s vast archive, BEING MARY TYLER MOORE chronicles the screen icon whose storied career spanned sixty years.
Moore’s career broke boundaries in different eras, most notably in her comedic roles as Laura Petrie in the ‘60s sitcom, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and as single career woman Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the ‘70s, both of which put her at the forefront of female representation on television and cemented her as a role model for independent working women. Acknowledging that much of herself was woven into her sunny characters, she nevertheless struggled behind the scenes, dealing privately with immeasurable tragedy in her personal life, some of which was echoed in her portrayal of a grieving mother in the 1980 film “Ordinary People,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.
In the last thirty-five years of her life, Moore went through a transformative period of self discovery, moving to New York City, finding true love, and going on to become an impactful global advocate for diabetes research. The HBO documentary film BEING MARY TYLER MOORE documents the life of a complex artist who shifted the dynamics of how women were portrayed on television, had far reaching influence on the business through her own production company, and helped affect great change through her work as International Chairman of JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).
Dr. Robert Levine, Mary Tyler Moore’s widowed husband, was reading Vanity Fair the morning he discovered Lena Waithe within the pages professing her love and admiration for Mary. He was surprised that a young, brilliant, Black woman held Mary in such regard. Robert immediately connected with Lena, and within hours of their meeting, Robert felt sure that Lena was the best person to produce the first documentary film about his late wife, Mary Tyler Moore.
In the beginning, Lena and Robert’s trust inspired me to pursue the project, but Mary encouraged me to make this film over time. We assume a White woman born in 1936 and a Black man born in 1978 would have very little in common. But from the opening pages of Mary’s autobiography, "After All," it was clear that her different aspirations mirrored my own. It was also clear that her ambitions and successes in life were also met with tragedy and partly influenced by traumatic experiences. To love Mary Tyler Moore, to love anyone, requires patience, openness, and understanding. To many, Mary is a heroine. However, I believe to truly love and understand her is to look beyond the veil and accept that she, like all of us, had to navigate the world carrying a lifetime’s worth of burden that comes from simply living.
BEING MARY TYLER MOORE is a testament. With the help of her loving husband, Robert, her friends, and colleagues, the film reveals America’s sweetheart was more human than most of us ever imagined. BEING MARY TYLER MOORE shows the pedestal Mary was placed upon, one she never felt comfortable standing upon. We love Mary for embodying the modern woman on television and defining a vision of womanhood that continues to inspire generations. BEING MARY TYLER MOORE honors that legacy by sharing her brilliant and nuanced life story.
DEBUTS 2023 ON HBO
SXSW Screening Schedule
Monday, March 13, 2023 – 6:00pm at ZACH Theatre
Wednesday, March 15, 2023 – 7:00pm at Alamo Lamar D
Being Mary Tyler Moore, an HBO Original documentary, examines the extraordinary life, career, and legacy of the actress and activist. Directed by James Adolphus with Lena Waithe and Debra Martin Chase as producers, Being Mary Tyler Moore premieres May 26 on HBO and Max.
NBC's TODAY Show reports on the HBO documentary's premiere at SXSW
Lena Waithe Interview at SXSW
Lena Waithe and the filmmakers behind the documentary ‘Being Mary Tyler Moore,’ director James Adolphus, producer Debra Martin Chase and Mary's husband Dr. Robert Levine, share why they each wanted to tell the story about the TV icon and how Mary impacted them.
The Being Mary Tyler Moore documentary has received significant media attention:
NPR Correspondent David Bianculli writes "Hats off to an illuminating new documentary about Mary Tyler Moore," and he delivers his review of the HBO documentary in a 6 minute Fresh Air segment.
Mary Tyler Moore’s widower Dr. Robert Levine shares how he and the television icon first met and the love they shared until her passing in 2017. Dr. Levine also talks about how he is continuing her legacy and says, “She’s with me every day. The pain of her loss is unreconciled but I feel her love all around me.”
Savannah Walsh writes that Mary Tyler Moore Was Rarely What She Seemed on TV. Vanity Fair covers how the filmmakers behind a new HBO documentary reveal how they unfurled the legacy of a beloved yet elusive icon.
It's hard to conceive of a reality where The Mary Tyler Moore Show wasn't a pioneering television comedy hit. But the new documentary Being Mary Tyler Moorereveals that the late actress' signature CBS sitcom had a bumpy beginning that could have kept it off the airwaves altogether.