When the Paley Center and NBC Universal gave “Farrah’s Story” a world premiere last night in advance of the May 15th airing, Farrah Fawcett‘s long-time love Ryan O’Neal and friend Alana Stewart hosted what can only be described as one of the most moving and reverential media events imaginable. Fawcett’s nearly three-year battle with anal cancer is not for the faint of heart.
“I’m fragile at this point. Fragile. I left her last night at midnight,” a visibly distraught Ryan O’Neal said. “I can’t put it in words” the feelings at this terminal stage of the cancer fight. “What is there to say? If you liked her – you’re going to love her” after seeing the documentary. “You’ll see.” Both O’Neal and Stewart help narrate the documentary as Farrah becomes less able to speak for herself.
What begins as Fawcett’s personal film diary complete with intimate family photos – including Ryan with infant son Redmond O’Neal – in the actress’ home, coupled with hopeful doctor visits, slowly turns into the realization that the odds are not in Farrah’s favor.
“I feel like a dog who has gone to the vet too much, five or six times and then begins to shake” in anticipation, Farrah jokes in the piece.
“It started out with just her and her little hand-held camera,” Stewart noted, “documenting her doctors for herself, just for herself. It started out with her alone. She handed (the camera) to me, like the second doctor’s visit, and I went, ‘Oh no!'”
Together, Stewart and O’Neal ferry the former Charlie’s Angel from doctor visits in Los Angeles to alternative treatments in Germany. The initial rush of hope at the overseas gambit to save her life dwindles. “I will miss the rain,” Fawcett says through tears.
Ultimately, Farrah’s team elects to pursue last-ditch clinical trials at The City of Hope, known for its groundbreaking experimental therapies.
Finally, the actress choses to shave her head rather than watch her trademark locks succumb to the ravages of chemotherapy. “If she was going to lose her hair, she was going to do it by her own hand,” Dr. Lawrence Piro, Farrah’s personal physician, said.
“I’m sure that everyone that battles cancer has incredible courage and strength,” best friend Stewart, who introduced the film, said. “But I’ve just never experienced it with someone so closely with anyone before. She’s maintained a sense of humor during this whole thing, which is amazing.”
Not only does the piece include an 11th hour visit from jailed Redmond, 24, in leg irons with a prison guard in attendance, but graphic images of enormous needles “embolizing” the tumors that spread to Farrah’s liver are depicted along with the gut wrenching side-effects of the toxic cocktails used to kill the cancer cells.
Subtitles are used to convey Farrah’s words as she becomes immobilized and bed-ridden. When asked if his mother heard his words, Redmond, shown sobbing, says “I think so.”
As for why Fawcett chose to make such a graphic and frank portrayal of cancer, Stewart spoke on her friend’s behalf as she introduced the documentary:
“A lot of people have asked me why Farrah chose to share her private and intimate journey through cancer so publicly. She felt that if she had cancer, there must be a reason for it. She felt that perhaps that reason was so that she could share support, encouragement, courage with others who were battling this deadly disease.
“Farrah was diagnosed with cancer almost three years ago, and I have never once heard her say “Why me, God?” or “Why did this have to happen to me?” or “This isn’t fair.” She’s walked through this very painful experience with dignity, and courage and strength, and even a sense of humor.
“Farrah has always been a fighter. And she still is a fighter. I think her message will come across loud and clear in the film you are about to see, “Farrah’s Story.”
If you think the documentary will be hard to watch when it airs on the 15th, attendee Jacqueline Bisset, a dear friend of Farrah Fawcett’s, said it best: “It’s much harder to be in it.”
The footage for “Farrah’s Story,” first titled “A Wing & a Prayer: Farrah’s Fight for Life,” began shooting in 2007. NBC trimmed a few scenes and renamed the project. Fawcett has an executive producer credit, and Stewart confirmed that the project “is done,” said there will not be anything new added.