The Brain Behind ‘Barbie’

This Rolling Stone interview with Greta Gerwig has some amazing moments. I highly recommend reading it in full after seeing Barbie. Here are my highlights (interviewer in bold, emphasis mine):

There’s a lovely scene where Barbie sees an older woman — a sight she’d never encountered in Barbieland — and tells her she’s beautiful.

I love that scene so much. And the older woman on the bench is the costume designer Ann Roth. She’s a legend. It’s a cul-de-sac of a moment, in a way — it doesn’t lead anywhere. And in early cuts, looking at the movie, it was suggested, “Well, you could cut it. And actually, the story would move on just the same.” And I said, “If I cut the scene, I don’t know what this movie is about.”

From the moment that Margot came to me and I knew we were making this for Margot, I equally knew we were making this for Ryan. And I did not know Ryan at all. I’d never met him. I just was sure, and as soon as I thought of it, it made me so happy. Who else could do this? It’s some combination of Marlon Brando meets Gene Wilder meets John Barrymore meets John Travolta.

I felt with both of them [Robie and Gosling] that I might direct movies for a long time and never see anything that uniquely and gloriously unhinged.

I think of the film as humanist above anything else. How Barbie operates in Barbieland is she’s entirely continuous with her environment. Even the houses have no walls, because you never need to hide because there’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed of. And suddenly finding yourself in the real world and wishing you could hide, that’s the essence of being human. But when we were actually shooting on Venice Beach, with Margot and Ryan in neon rollerblading outfits, it was fascinating because it was actually happening in front of us. People would go by Ryan, high-five him, and say, “Awesome, Ryan, you look great!” And they wouldn’t actually say anything to Margot. They’d just look at her. It was just surreal. In that moment, she did feel self-conscious. And as the director, I wanted to protect her. But I also knew that the scene we were shooting had to be the scene where she felt exposed. And she was exposed, both as a celebrity and as a lady. To be fair, Ryan was like, “I wish I wasn’t wearing this vest.” [Laughs.] But it was a different kind of discomfort.​

There are clips online of you and Kate onstage together in a production at Columbia University.

We lived together, we were in an improv group together. I always thought Kate was the funniest, most talented person I knew. But then you have this moment where you think, “Well, maybe that was just college.” But I was right!

When I was casting and I called her, we laughed the whole time because I think we both had the same experience at that moment. For whatever reason, with the direction that our lives led us, I’m actually directing this movie, and she actually is a comedic genius who was recognized as such. And now we’re adults, and I’m saying, “Do you want to come do this?” It was like, we’d gotten into a time machine when we were 18 and came out at 39. The reality is, we’re still the 18-year-old kids who are making musicals. We actually didn’t get more sophisticated than we were at 18.

Does anyone? If not exactly 18, then that 18–24 range? Wiser hopefully, but I agree that sophistication has a ceiling.

You’re a member of the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, and the Actors Guild. The Writers Guild is already on strike, and the other guilds don’t seem too happy, either. There are whispers of a tri-Guild walkout.

I’m really proud of being a union member. I’m in support 100 percent of however we come at this.

I’m living through this moment like everybody else is, especially in terms of the AI thing, which is terrifying and exciting. I don’t know what to say about it. I guess it’s clearly a tool that hopefully can be used to help. I think it’s incredibly important to protect creative people — writers and directors and actors — because I don’t think what they can do can be replicated. We have to set some very firm ground rules moving forward. Because otherwise, we’re looking at a world that becomes a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy.