#WomanOfInterest – Greta Gerwig
February 5th, 2020 by Elizabeth Radabaugh
Many young film buffs dream of being a movie director. However, making this dream a reality is a lot harder than it seems, especially for women. Our #WomanOfInterest this week didn’t let the glass ceiling stand in the way of her dreams. Greta Gerwig, the director and writer of Lady Bird, is an inspiration to any young actress or director hoping to make it big.
Greta was born on August 4th, 1983 in Sacramento, California. She studied ballet when she was younger. However, she was considered too tall for the art and switched to hip-hop. She also loved the sport of fencing. Her fencing passion brought her to an all-girls Catholic High School to compete. She even ranked third in California at one point. Greta put her fencing hobby to rest once it grew to be too expensive for her family. She then tried her hand at theater and fell in love with it. After high school, she went to Barnard College in New York City and studied English and Philosophy. Her passion for theater was not forgotten. She continued to write and act in plays at Barnard. She graduated in 2006.
Right after college, Greta looked to continue her studies in playwrighting. However, not one playwriting M.F.A. program accepted her. So, Greta started auditioning! It wasn’t too long before she became a name in the independent or “mumble-core” film circle.
Greta’s first role was a small part in the movie LOL, starring Miley Cyrus, in 2006. She continued to appear in smaller films for the next few years. The most significant part she had at this time was in Nights and Weekendsin 2008, where she was the star AND co-director. Talk about wearing multiple hats! These smaller movies helped get Greta’s name out there, but it wasn’t enough to pay the bills. On the side, Greta was a tutor and a nanny. It wasn’t until 2010 when she was able to make the next step in her career.
Greta met American filmmaker Noah Baumbach. He saw star potential and cast her in Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller. This movie kick-started Greta’s mainstream career. She then co-starred in Arthurin 2011, featuring Russell Brand. In the same year, she had a role in No Strings Attached. In 2012, she appeared in Damsels in Distress and To Rome With Love. She continued to work through the next few years, even voicing a part in the Wes Anderson film Isle Of Dogs. In 2016, she was invited to be a part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Over the course of a decade, she appeared in 25 films!
This rise in her acting career had another perk. Noah Baumbach, the director who cast her in Greenbergnot only saw star potential but love potential. It didn’t take long for them to become a couple. Not only do they work great as a couple, but they work great as professional partners. They co-wrote Frances Hain 2013 and Mistress Americain 2015. Greta also starred in both of these movies, even winning a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination for her role in Frances Ha.
Greta wanted to direct but wasn’t sure how to do it. There were not a lot of female directors out there! She realized she just had to do it and not apologize. “It does reach a point where you think, If I fall on my face and it’s dreadful, and everybody says it’s dreadful, I’d rather have tried than not.” She decided to write a movie that she can direct, pulling from her own life experiences. She got to work creating the movie Lady Bird.
Lady Bird is about a year in the life of a high school senior. It showcases a story with a female protagonist and her relationship with her mother. This is such a big difference from the expected high school girl and her romantic life that you see in so many movies. While Greta was inspired by her own upbringing for the film, like the setting of an all-girls Catholic high school, the main character in no way resembles Greta. “I was nothing like Lady Bird, I never made anyone call me by a different name, I was very much more of a rule follower and gold-star getter. But the core of the movie, the sort of deep, complicated love of a family and a hometown, that’s all really close to my heart.”
Greta also wanted to create this warm, homey atmosphere on set. She held dance parties and banned cell phones. She wanted the cast and crew to grow closer to one another. The connection amongst the team radiates off the screen and translates to the audience.
The movie premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2017. It was a hit right away. It has the record for the most “fresh” reviews, meaning it had 196 positive reviews before the first negative one came in on Rotten Tomatoes. The strong reviews and awards were outstanding for a first-time solo writer and director. Lady Birdwon a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The Best Director nomination made Greta only the fifth woman to be nominated for the Best Director award. “I want to produce women’s films because I think women want to see films made by people who know what they’re talking about, what the experience is.”
Greta made an impact with Lady Bird. The movie struck the hearts of the world and created a buzz for films directed by women. Greta still loves acting but wants to focus on her writing and directing now. Her passion for making movies unlike any seen before is an inspiration for any young director.
Do you know a wonderful woman that we should feature?
Send the dancer’s name to firstname.lastname@example.org and why you think they should be showcased!
Elizabeth Radabaugh is the StarQuest Social Media Production Assistant. She loves everything Disney and delicious.