Lady Bird: Interview with Director Greta Gerwig (Better Known as Actress)

Lady Bird is the stunning directing debut of actress Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha).  A24 will release this interesting film in November.

Personal Movie?

Greta Gerwig: I just have to say because I have known you all for a long time as an actor, I am very honored, but also very nervous to be here as a director and excited to talk to you–this is also a new thing.  I wrote the character and it took me a long time to write this script because that’s just my process.  It takes me a couple of years to get through it and I write really long scripts and then I cut them down and to me, “Lady Bird” was kind of this amazing, fictional heroine who is flawed and had a lot of the facts as my life.  I am from Sacramento California and I did go to an all-Catholic’s girl for High School.  But, I was actually in many ways the opposite of Lady Bird and I never dyed my hair bright red, I never made anyone call me by a different name and I was much more a school following type of kid.

Writing?

GG: When I wrote the part, it was a way for me to explore something that I wasn’t able to access.  I wanted to make something about home, and how home and family is something that you can only understand as you are leaving it and as it is kind of receding from view and then you realize how much you loved it and how much it meant to you.

Inspired by?

GG: I was really inspired about movies with memories of childhood and particularly about young men, Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” and Fellini’s “Amarcord” and that kind of looking back and reconstructing, with some things becoming fantasy and some things staying in reality.

Saoirse Ronan as Heroine

GG: When Saoirse Ronan, who is such an extraordinary actress, read the script, she said to me, I am from Ireland, in a tiny town, all across the world, and I understand this movie in my bones, I understand this part.  And we met up and we read the whole script out loud and she read Lady Bird’s lines and I read everyone else’s lines, and I just knew right away that she was the perfect person for it, because she wasn’t imitating me, and she was playing everything out of this extreme honesty.  Like the humor was out of just sincerity and it wasn’t something that was out of quotation marks or kind of had like a wink to the audience.  And to me, it made it that much funnier and that much heartbreaking and really when I think of the character of Lady Bird, I think of whatever my imaginative act was on the page.  And then I think of Saoirse just breathing life into her and creating this character and embodying her.  To me, I was always looking for the person who got that spark of genuine, unique life, and I never wanted her to imitate me in any way.

Claire Denis “Beau Travail”–Most Influential Art Film

GG: The filmmaker that made me fall in love with cinema was actually Claire Denis “Beau Travail” and I watched it when I was 19 years old in College, they were screening it, and I walked in and I had never seen anything like it.  And I felt like my hair was just blown back by it, and I had never seen something that felt like it was an art form so clearly.  I didn’t know it was directed by a woman, and actually I didn’t know that until the end of the screening and I saw her name come up and I thought to myself, that is a strange man’s name, or a lady directed this.  And even though it wasn’t like at that moment I thought oh I want to direct movies, it really did lodge in my brain as my first real experience of falling in love with cinema, was from a female director.  I love all her films and it’s also like that she is a completely different filmmaker than me, but I think that that maybe is what you always end up being attracted to, is something that is so outside your realm of experience and that is what I love about movies, is that it does bridge international divides and it does bring people together I can watch a movie that takes place in French Legionnaires in Northern Africa, and I have never been that person and I have never been there, and suddenly I felt like I was viscerally there.  And then I understood some aspect of these people, and that is what I love about it, the specificity.

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