Greenberg's Greta Gerwig: America's Next "It Girl"?
The star of Noah Baumbach's latest on her rise from Mumblecore to Hollywood
"One day I'll be a fallen 'It Girl'," says Greta Gerwig, discussing her recent rise from the American movie underground to the rapture of mainstream Hollywood critics. A key figure in cinema's so-called 'mumblecore' movement, Gerwig starred in such no-budget films as LOL, the Duplass brothers' Baghead, and Hannah Takes the Stairs (which she co-wrote), while co-writing and directing her own feature, Nights and Weekends. Following a part in last year's retro horror The House of the Devil, Gerwig broke on to the indie major scene with a lead role as young Los Angeles transient Florence, opposite Ben Stiller, in Noah Baumbach's Greenberg. She'll soon star alongside Russell Brand in the remake of Arthur, and is scheduled to appear in Ivan Reitman's forthcoming project.
With Greenberg in Australian cinemas this week, we spoke to Greta about her newfound celebrity, working with Baumbach, and the curious reactions to the film's sex scenes.
RT: Was there a crossover between your mumblecore experiences and Noah Baumbach's style?
GG: Ostensibly they're similar because they're about characters who're living life roughly how people live life. But actually they couldn't be more different, at least in my experiences. Noah's careful with his words the way a poet is careful with his words. His style is far more rigorous and it's less about finding happy accidents and really about breathing life into the beautiful script that he and Jennifer Jason Leigh wrote. From my standpoint, the act of creation of the project couldn't be more different.
You've written or co-written many of the features you've appeared in. Were you able to help shape Florence's lines? Or was that Noah and Jennifer's department?
No, I didn't change anything really. I think there were two things that I said in conversation with them that ended up in the script. But Noah writes his scripts very precisely. They have a rhythm and a pattern to them. If you miss a word, or approximate the line, it kinda sounds awful, so he's very strict about getting the exact words right.
Did you find that difficult? Different?
It was different but ultimately it was better because I was free to just act and invest in the character whereas when I'm improvising and writing and directing or thinking about where the scene is going then your attention is necessarily divided. I think a lot of great actors can produce and direct themselves in things they've written but it takes a lot of practice to be comfortable with that. For me it was such a great joy to submerge myself in somebody else's vision.
You've come up fairly quickly out of an essentially DIY movement. Do you have to pinch yourself when you realise you're going to be working with Ben Stiller, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rhys Ifans and Noah?
Definitely. There were many moments of feeling, 'This couldn't possibly be my life.' It still feels like that. Even though the movie's out in the States and people like it, I still get sorta nervous when I think about the alternate universe in which I did not get the part, which still seems more likely than me ever having gotten it. I think I'm in a continual state of amazement that it worked out the way it did.
What appealed about Florence?
When I read the script I was so excited to get a script written by Noah Baumbach because he's such a true auteur. There aren't that many filmmakers who are auteurs in the way he is now -- at least in America. I sat down to read it and I was so excited to see what it was. And I had the feeling when I read it that even if I weren't to be a part of it, I was so grateful that someone was making a film about a girl like that. That was enough for me. I think there's something about her that's so real and so delicate and so unnoticed. Not to be too precious about it but it's like the Van Gogh painting of a pair of old shoes -- you don't realise how beautiful they are until you look. Not that Florence is an old shoe. But the feeling that this girl and this life did not go unnoticed. I keep thinking that films about people who've done extraordinary things are certainly worthy but it's nice to have portraits of people who're extraordinary not by their acts but by how they live in these small ways. I think that was really true to me, to her and to the project.