Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.
This week, on a special Thanksgiving episode, we have “Lady Bird” writer-director Greta Gerwig and star Saoirse Ronan. It’s an apt day for the conversation, which you’ll gather if you’ve seen the film. “Lady Bird” marks Gerwig’s solo directorial debut and is sitting pretty as one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, if not the most. After all, 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 150 reviews counted is hard to argue with.
Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.
For Gerwig, hammering out a script isn’t about knowing the core of it and where it’s going from the outset. She’s found it more rewarding to explore casually and let her characters guide her through the process.
“I’m going to steal this from Francis Ford Coppola, who I had the privilege of talking to,” she begins. “He said, ‘I start with a hunch, and I follow my hunch.’ I wanted to make something about how home only makes sense to you as you’re leaving it, and I knew I wanted it to be in Sacramento, and I had a hunch about mothers and daughters, but I don’t know more than that. I wouldn’t be able to pitch the story. But it really does feel like following some feeling you can’t define, and in a way, that’s when you know you’re on the right track, when you can’t explain it.”
Born in the Bronx and raised in Ireland, Ronan’s formative years were quite different from Gerwig’s Northern California upbringing. Though “Lady Bird” is not autobiographical, it does hew close to plenty of the writer-director’s experiences. Nevertheless, Ronan was able to connect with the character quickly.
“I saw myself in it instantly, but I didn’t know how to play it straight away,” she says. “I knew who that person was, because even if I wasn’t quite as far out as Lady Bird is when I was younger, I definitely had a bit of that showmanship, and then the self-doubt and insecurity, but still very confident. With some characters you do have an idea of what the journey is, but with this, I realized afterwards that this person is figuring herself out from moment to moment every time we see her.”
For more, including details on Gerwig’s plea to Justin Timberlake to use “Cry Me a River” in the film and some thoughts on the on-going sexual harassment and assault scandals in Hollywood, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.
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|Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback Podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety