Nancy Pelosi Haven’t seen her daughter’s new documentary about her yet. In fact, documentaries Alexandra Pelosi says she never actually asked the outgoing Speaker’s permission to film her. “This is not allowed,” Alexandra told me via Zoom from New York City. She has never signed a release. She added, “As someone who has wonderfully made her own career, I’m sure it will be hard for her to see what she looks like with her own daughter…. What will she do, sue her daughter? She won’t sue me.”
“I hope. I hope.”
Alexandra has been documenting Washington and politics for many years. Pelosi in the house—Alexandra’s 14th documentary for HBO, to be released December 13—follows her mother over three decades, from Nancy’s historic election as the first female Speaker in 2007 to count votes for the Affordable Care Act and draft articles for Donald Trumpfirst, and then the second impeachment. Some exclusive footage of Alexandra has been viewed. She was with Nancy on January 6 when rioters ransacked the capital. The jarring footage from that day, where Nancy is seen phoning senior officials while hiding somewhere on Capitol Hill, aired on CNN and at the committee hearing on January 6 back in October.
Nancy announced last month that she would step down as her leader in January, but will remain in Congress when Democrats move back into the minority. “I think it’s a good civics lesson if nothing else,” Alexandra said—one “would be in Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnellhobby to watch.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Alexandra talks about the development of this multi-year project, why her mother’s resignation was “the best day of my life”, the attack on her father, Paul Pelosi, and more. “I didn’t make this movie for Washington,” she told me. “I think it will have a real shelf life as an educational tool for generations of people who have never been in a Speaker’s office. That’s what I hope for this movie.”
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Vanity Fair: I’m curious when you knew you wanted to make this movie, based on how many shots you have and how many decades.
Alexandra Pelosi: Four and a half years ago, I walked to Geof Bartz in HBO’s cafeteria. Geof is an editor I’ve worked with on other films, and it’s 2018, an election is coming. I told Geof, I have thousands of hours of Nancy Pelosi footage. I haven’t sat in the editing room with Geof in four and a half years; I did other movies in the meantime. He did the shooting and did the full-time editing for 4 and a half years on this movie. The whole plot just keeps getting much more interesting.
We start with a completely different genre of film, such as a biographical film written by herself. But when we are editing, many events are happening. I mean, COVID hasn’t even happened yet. And somehow it evolved into Nancy versus Donald [Trump] story telling. Documentaries are like kids—you never know what they’ll turn out to be.
Is this project convincing? Obviously you have this crazy access, because she’s your mom, but has she always been open to that?
Never. This is not allowed. She hasn’t even seen it yet. You can guess the most obvious parts she won’t like—but I think overall it appeals to her. But as someone who has wonderfully made her own career, I’m sure it’ll be hard for her to see what she looks like to her daughter. You know, this is how she looks at me. That’s the documentary problem—it’s all in the editing process.
So many times she will say, why are you filming all this? Because I filmed everything. She never signed the release. I mean, it’s great to be on air without asking her permission. I said, what will she do, sue her daughter? Like, she’s not going to sue me. I hope. I hope.
The main thing that I get from the movie is how she is a master communicator. I remember the sequence of opening and closing the door when she met all these different members face to face.
It shows how the sausage is made. I said to her, I was like, what are you doing? Bring people in to break the knee? She laughed, and she said, you don’t understand how this game is played. She told me that she had never been to the speaker’s office until she was the speaker; she was never invited, and she learned from that. She just invites people in and talks to them and listens to them. I think it’s a good citizenship lesson if nothing else. I feel it has real educational value.