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Amy Pascal on Producing a ‘Radical’ Version of ‘Little Women’

Amy Pascal Florence Pugh Greta Gerwig
Michael Buckner/Deadline/Shutter

With “Little Women,” producer Amy Pascal has scored her second Oscar nomination (after “The Post”). Writer-director Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott is only the third best picture nominee ever to be produced, written and directed solely by women, following “The Piano” and “Winter’s Bone.” Pascal has another distinction: Of the nine nominated films of 2019, she is the only solo producer.

When you moved from studio executive to producer in 2015, were there surprises?

Yes, it’s much harder because you are so involved in the one project. You’re only worried about one movie and whether it’s good or not.

When did you first think “Little Women” would be a home run?

You may not believe this, but it was at the first meeting with Greta when she told me what she wanted to do. It sounded so ambitious, inspiring and such a different adaptation of a novel. And when she turned in the script, I was pretty knocked out.

One Variety editor loved the framing device, and said it’s the only adaptation where Jo’s rejection of Laurie makes sense. 

We had so many meetings and conversations about Jo and Laurie, and at one point in development, Greta said, “She can’t marry anyone.” I said, “She can’t?” Greta said “No, Jo gets the book!” In that last scene, as Jo is seeing her book being published, it’s similar to a maternity ward; she is looking at her book through the glass in the way you look at your baby.

The framing device surprised a lot of people but it works.

It’s a radical way of adapting a novel. You could only do it with this kind of a classic, that everybody has a feeling about. In the movie, Greta is playing with your collective memory. In all of the earlier films, the whole (romantic scene between Jo and Friedrich) takes place in the rain under an umbrella. Greta always planned to make it like a movie-movie moment, because it’s your expectation — and then to subvert it, to say, “Yes, we all want the girl to get the guy. That’s what we’re programmed to want. But what she really gets is the book.”

What was it like during production? 

It was challenging because making a film is always a challenge. But it was fun working with Greta, that cast and that crew. It was an unusually magnificent experience.

This is the second time you’ve been involved with “Little Women,” right?

Yes. Here’s an example of how times have changed. When I was a studio executive at Columbia, I worked on the 1994 “Little Women.” I gave the script to the boss at the studio; I won’t tell you who the person was. Later, he said he’d read the script, holding his nose. Compare that to this time, when Greta and I gave the script to Tom Rothman. He called us to say “OK, I cried six times. I guess we’re gonna make it.” That is a big difference. They were both guys, both running a studio, and that shows you how times have changed. Tom has a heart and he also has a genuine love of filmmakers and movies.

What’s the best part of your job?

I met with a young girl who is interested in getting into the movie business and she asked questions like “What do you do? Is it stressful?” She was asking about career choices and I said, “You just have to figure out what you want to do all day long.” I was lucky enough to figure out from the beginning what I wanted to do all day long.