It's Greta's World... The Director Talks Boiler Suits, New Babies, And Barbie-Mania
In a suite in Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel, Greta Gerwig’s phone rings. ‘Sail away, sail away, sail away,’ it warbles, over familiar strings. ‘Oh no. Sorry,’ says Gerwig, springing up from her chair, as the song keeps on blaring until the she can find it. ‘My ringtone is Enya,’ she says, having eventually silenced the ring tone. ‘Because phones ringing are anxious. And Enya is wonderful.’ That Gerwig would try to self-soothe with late-80s Irish synth pop during the most high-pressure moment of her career is understandable. Because it’s safe to say that she has a lot on when we meet, having only recently finished the Barbie movie she has directed and co-written. The pre-release buzz for the film has been extraordinary; every scrap of gossip, every leaked paparazzi photo of its stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, as Barbie and Ken, rollerblading in neon kneepads has been a viral moment. On TikTok, the BarbieTheMovie hashtag has a cool 991.5m views. Gerwig’s involvement has intrigued pop culture geeks from the start: her fans would not have had a Barbie blockbuster on their bingo card. She is known for naturalistic, indie-skewing movies, starring in Greenberg (2010) with Ben Stiller and acting in and co-writing Frances Ha (2012), both of which capitalised on her whimsical, relatable, charisma. She later directed Lady Bird (2017), which was partly inspired by her childhood in Sacramento, California, and a 2019 adaptation of Little Women, both of which were Oscar nominated. Growing up, she says, ‘My mom wasn’t crazy about Barbie. It wasn’t something that felt, necessarily, approved, which made it more intriguing.’ Her family didn’t have a TV, she wasn’t allowed to wear logos: this was not a world of Barbie Dream House-style all-American consumerism. ‘Part of the reason I think I was so intrigued [by this project],’ she says, ‘is because, not even intellectually, but from deep inside, I understand the counter-arguments. That feels rich.’ She hopes the film subverts sexist stereotypes. Barbie, she says, is, ‘literally plastic. She’s unchanging. If you threw her out, she just wouldn't disintegrate. If I could give that persona some humanity, some falling-apart-ness, that – in and of itself – would be be meaningful.’ Also, ‘In this sort of double mirror of the movie, Margot Robbie is also a person we expect to be perfect. What does that mean that we also do that? Is she allowed to fall apart and be vulnerable?’ It was Robbie, the film's producer, who initially brought Gerwig on board as a writer. Gerwig said she would do it if her partner, Noah Baumbach, came too; she fell in love with the finished script and put herself forward to direct it. ‘Even though it's about Barbie, it felt incredibly personal. Just as personal as anything else I've made,’ she says. Plot details are closely guarded, but we do know there are multiple refreshingly diverse Barbies living in a perfect world that Robbie’s Barbie comes to suspect may not be real, when her permanently arched feet fall flat and she worries about dying. (Close ups of Robbie-as-Barbie’s perpetual tip toes went viral earlier this year; those feet, ‘are like a bat signal,’ says Gerwig). ‘It starts off in a place where there is no aging, no death, no shame, no separation. That’s an oldie but a goodie. Because I went to Catholic school, that story of Eve and Adam suddenly realising they are naked really stuck with me,’ she says. She talks about John Milton's Paradise Lost, and the idea that there is no poetry without pain, one of many perhaps unexpected references — including Vincent Minelli’s An American in Paris, Jacques Tati's Mon Uncle and Powell and Pressburger’s Stairway to Heaven — she has brought to the project.
Via: Elle UK