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Director & Writer Greta Gerwig Talks 'Lady Bird' & Growing Up In California

By Paul Zahn | January 31, 2018 | People

Greta Gerwig is having quite a remarkable year. The Sacramento native’s hit film Lady Bird opened to critical acclaim last September. The film also picked up two Golden Globes this January for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Award and Best Actress - Musical or Comedy for its star, Saoirse Ronan. Fortunately, Gerwig and her hit film show no signs of slowing down this awards season. She chatted with us about everything that went into making Lady Bird at a recent SAG screening.


Greta Gerwig (left) and Saoirse Ronan (right) at a screening of Lady Bird.

On Writing and Directing Lady Bird

It has been an amazing journey. I loved making the film—it is my first writing, directing solo debut. It is such an incredible group of actors, crew—everyone really poured their heart into it.

On Growing Up in California and Whether the Characters in Lady Bird are Based on Herself

The truth is I am from Sacramento and I did go to a Catholic high school. I very much wanted a movie that takes place in Sacramento. I love it very much—it is my home and I have really strong ties there. My family is there and my best friends are there. That’s all very founded in what I knew. The character of Lady Bird is actually something both Saoirse and I realized once we started working on it together—it was not who I was when I was in HS. I never made anyone call my by a different name. I didn’t dye my hair like her—I was also a very rule following kid. When I wrote it, I was almost trying to create someone who was more brave than I had the ability to be—someone who was more wildly herself. It wasn’t until I saw Soairse do it that I feel like I had to meet this flawed heroine I had made up

On Casting Broadway Actors to Star in Lady Bird

I live in New York and I go the theater all the time. I actually knew Laurie’s work from the theater as well as Tracy Letts who plays Larry. Tracy writes brilliant plays and I have seen him act in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and other plays. I had seen Lois Smith on stage. In a way, it is my favorite way to watch actors because there is nothing intervening with me watching them work. I’m a theater nerd at heart so that’s always what I gravitate towards. I get excited that I am able to work with them. There is something about actors who are used to a stage—it gives them the space to act with their wholes bodies—I want to see how they move with each other.

On Whether She Watched Star Laurie Metcalf in Roseanne Growing Up

I grew up without television because my parents hated me [laughs]. They were really looking out for me! There are large gaps lots of cultural pop knowledge that I really don’t have. I spent a lot of my youth pretending that I knew what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were!

On Why She Decided to Feature Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway Show Merrily We Roll Along in Lady Bird

Merrily We Roll Along is my favorite musical. Stephen Sondheim is interchangeable with any deity and I love him so much. There is something about the musical—there’s a sensual ache in it. I felt like it was kind of an inappropriate musical for a high school to do—which made me laugh. I also love it when teenagers pretend to drink alcohol on stage [laughs]. It’s so funny. The cast doing it was so great!

On Whether or Not Sondheim Has Seen Lady Bird

I don’t know. He did read the script when he gave us permission but I don’t know that he has seen it yet. I am kind of nervous about that but I would love him to.

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