For “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig went back to her roots. She wrote the script for the film, which also marks her directorial debut, about her hometown, Sacramento, Calif. Filming there, she said, felt like “coming full circle.”
“If I could explain an idea to you it will make a bad movie,” Gerwig said at the New York Film Festival premiere of “Lady Bird” on Sunday. “I have to have a little bit of mystery and stumble my way toward it. I had worked on the script for a couple of years and this is the story that seemed to be emerging, this mother-daughter tale that felt like a fable to me that took place over a year, which is about home coming into focus when you’re leaving. As soon as I was done writing it, I thought, I think I should direct this.”
The film, which premiered internationally at the Toronto Film Festival, stars Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan. Ronan plays Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a rebellious high school senior whose unwillingness to conform to her mother’s (Metcalf) ideals causes the two to butt heads.
Unlike the main character she envisioned, Gerwig was not at all a rebel in her teenage years. “I was a very rule-following teenager,” she said. “I’d freak out if I ever broke a rule. I always had a bit of a rebel on the inside, but it hasn’t yet manifested itself completely.
“I think most teenage girls and their mothers, there’s something chemical — you feel like you must battle them,” she continued. “I feel so guilty for battling my mother, who only ever wanted to help me. I was trying to think about that relationship and now that I’m older, what it must have been like for her.”
Kathryn Newton, a self-professed Gerwig fanatic, shared that the set felt “like getting to go to school and being in the popular group.” The 20-year-old actress, who played the daughter of Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Big Little Lies,” said she could definitely relate to the theme of mother-daughter tension.
“You want acceptance from your mother, but you also want your independence,” she said. “You still don’t know who you are, but you love your mom and hate your mom when she tells you she doesn’t like your outfit. I’m happy to be a part of a film that’s telling that kind of story ’cause I don’t really talk about it that much. I don’t talk about, like, mom or even the fact that I might not be comfortable in my own skin sometimes. It’s nice to get to go to a movie and be like, ‘Other people do, too.’”
Lois Smith described working for Gerwig as “delightful. She has such vigor and presence all the time. To be in the presence of that is just a lot of fun. It’s what work should be like and sometimes is.” Smith plays a nun in the Catholic school Ronan’s character attends.
“When [my agent] first got the offer and heard what it was, after he read it, he said, ‘I was afraid it might be a bad nun, but it’s a nice nun,'” she said, laughing. “And that’s true.”
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