×

Greta Gerwig Credits ‘Little Women’ for Her Writing Career

Greta Gerwig, who wrote and directed “Little Women,” told hundreds of writers on Thursday night at the Writers Guild Theater that Louisa May Alcott’s iconic 1868 novel was her own origin story.

“I’d grown up with the book ‘Little Women,’ and I loved ‘Little Women,'” she explained at the WGA West’s Beyond Words event. “And it was the book that made me think I could to be a writer because Jo March was a writer. But I hadn’t read it since I was 14 or 15, and when I read it again when I was 30, it was so modern and urgent, that it felt like lines were written in neon.”

Gerwig, who is nominated in the adapted screenplay category for a WGA Award and an Academy Award, was responding to a query by moderator Aline Brosh McKenna, screenwriter and co-creator of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” about the question of money in the movie.

“The one that jumped out at me page after page was this book is about money and authorship and ownership and women and art and money,” Gerwig recalled. “In the book, Jo March stops writing, and doesn’t write and marries this German man. Ugh.”

Gerwig revised Allcott’s narrative for the script in which Jo March (portrayed by Saoirse Ronan) winds up retaining the copyright to “Little Women.” She recalled Thursday night that the movie’s opening scene in which Jo March tries to sell her book had a personal resonance.

Popular on Variety

“The opening scene when she’s trying to sell the book to Mr. Dashwood is almost lifted world for word from the book,” Gerwig said. “She’s trying to pretend she hasn’t written it. She needs to ask how much do I get paid, which is humiliating to ask, because she needs the money. I was thinking this could have been me yesterday talking to the head of a studio to figure out how much I can compromise and still get it done.”

Beyond Words featured many of the nominees for WGA Awards as a prelude to the 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards on Feb. 1 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and the Edison Ballroom in New York City.

Noah Baumbach discussed the memorable scene in “Marriage Story,” in which Adam Driver’s character deals with having accidentally cut himself during an interview with a social worker, then insists he’s okay.

“I love the idea that humiliation trumps pain,” Baumbach recalled. “The whole scene is about keeping up appearances.”

The event also included a discussion of whether outlining is a useful technique for writers. Scott Silver, who co-wrote “Joker” with Todd Phillips, said, “I try to put off writing for as long as possible, but I can outline forever.”

Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed “Knives Out,” evoked major laughs by admitting, “My handwriting is so bad. It looks like the opening credits of ‘Seven.'”

Other panelists included Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman for “Booksmart,”: Steven Zaillian for “The Irishman,” Mark Jonathan Harris for “Foster” and Lauren Greenfield for “The Kingmaker.”

Variety, the Writers Guild Foundation and Final Draft sponsored the event, introduced by Variety senior entertainment writer Adam B. Vary.

More Film

  • Kevin Hart'Jumanji: The Next Level' film

    Kevin Hart to Star in Action-Comedy from 'Broad City' Alums (EXCLUSIVE)

    Universal Pictures is developing an untitled action-comedy based on an original idea from “Broad City’s” Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs with Kevin Hart attached to star. Aniello and Downs will write the script as well as executive produce. Malcolm D. Lee is on board to direct the film with Will Packer and James Lopez [...]

  • Jeremy Saulnier John Boyega

    Netflix Sets Ensemble for Jeremy Saulnier's 'Rebel Ridge' Starring John Boyega (EXCLUSIVE)

    Don Johnson, James Badge Dale, Zsane Jhe, James Cromwell and “The Crown” breakout Erin Doherty are set to join John Boyega in Netflix’s “Rebel Ridge,” a thriller from “Green Room” writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, Variety has learned. Like the 2013 crime drama “Green Room,” Saulnier’s upcoming movie is said to be a high-velocity thriller that explores [...]

  • The Indoraptor prepares to strike in

    'Jurassic World 3' Director Announces New Title

    Director Colin Trevorrow announced via Twitter on Tuesday that “Jurassic World 3” has started principal production, and he also slyly revealed that the sixth film in the “Jurassic” franchise has a new title: “Jurassic World: Dominion.” The new title — which appears on the slate for the film in Trevorrow’s tweet — evokes the biblical [...]

  • Chuat Reymond

    Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond on Berlin’s ‘My Little Sister’

    Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond’s “My Little Sister” (“Schwesterlein”) premiered at the Berlin Film Festival on Tuesday to strong critical and audience receptions, with particular praise heaped on lead actors Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger. In his Variety review, Guy Lodge praised: “This is bright, unaffected naturalism with a fluidly roving camera, but also a [...]

  • Miriam Haley and Tarale Wulff

    Women Who Testified in Harvey Weinstein Trial Slam His Lawyers for 'Victim Blaming' 

    Six women testified during the Harvey Weinstein rape trial, and now that the former movie mogul was found guilty of two felony charges, those women are speaking out with newfound freedom. Miriam Haley, who was assaulted by Weinstein in 2006, resulting in him being convicted of a criminal sex act (which carries a maximum sentence [...]

  • E. L. James

    Movie Rights to 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Author's 'The Mister' Land at Universal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following the massive success of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, Universal and author E. L. James are reteaming on the scribe’s next novel as the studio has optioned the rights to “The Mister,” James’ 2019 best-selling romance. Rights for the book, which recently hit the market, sparked a heated bidding war. James, who produced [...]

  • Bad Tales

    'Bad Tales': Film Review

    At a surprise party for his daughter, a randy Italian homeowner studies a neighbor’s wife through the sliding glass door and describes all the ways he’d like to violate her. In the bathroom, his 14-year-old son sits with his best friend, studying the hardcore porn sites listed in the browsing history of Dad’s cellphone. A [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content