Get to Know Barbie Director Greta Gerwig Before Seeing the Movie in Theaters

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: (L-R) Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Issa Rae, Margot Robbie, Greta Gerwig, Simu Liu and Hari Nef attend the World Premiere of "Barbie" at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on July 09, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: (L-R) Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Issa Rae, Margot Robbie, Greta Gerwig, Simu Liu and Hari Nef attend the World Premiere of "Barbie" at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on July 09, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage) /

Everyone is excited about the star-studded cast of Barbie, but everyone should be as excited about the director. Oscar-winning director Greta Gerwig is teaming up with producer and star Margot Robbie to create a one-of-a-kind story about Barbie. We are going to get to know more about Gerwig and how her influences have contributed to the creation of this highly anticipated film.

Greta Gerwig is the director and co-writer, along with her partner Noah Baumbach, of Barbie. Gerwig is an actress, playwright, screenwriter, and director. Her first solo directing and writing project was Lady Bird (2017) and followed by Little Women (2019) which cemented her place as one of the best directors of her generation. Based on what we’ve seen Greta do with her previous films, we can expect her to tell a story about this iconic doll in a nuanced, funny way that speaks to an element of the woman’s experience. We are going to go over some noteworthy details about Greta’s early life, career, and her work on Barbie that might be helpful to know before seeing the movie in theaters. We hope you enjoy getting to know this well-respected quadruple threat!

Greta Gerwig’s Early Life

Gerwig was born in Sacramento, California on August 4, 1983. She describes herself as an “intense child.” She went to an all-girls Catholic school but was raised as a Unitarian Universalist. Her interest was in dance, and she wanted to go to college to study musical theater in New York. She did end up studying in New York, at Barnard College specifically,  where she studied English and Psychology.

In an Associated Press interview, where Gerwig was asked about her thoughts on working in a male-dominated field, she shared an interesting anecdote about a conversation she had in college with a female professor.  She told the professor that she couldn’t seriously be a playwright because she was a girl. At that time, the only female playwright she knew was Wendy Wasserstein, so she thought playwrighting was a man’s game. Thankfully, her professor scolded her and introduced her to more female playwrights.

Gerwig also expressed to the interviewer that this is the best time to be a “lady filmmaker.”  This is evident to her by just noticing how her mentality is different from the younger generation coming up.  Young women of this generation are confidently aspiring to become directors, while Gerwig didn’t necessarily know that screenwriting or directing was accessible to her.  We should all thank Gerwig’s professor for encouraging her to explore her talents.

Greta’s Start Was in Mumblecore and Indie Cinema

Mumblecore is a subgenre of indie cinema that describes naturalistic films that are dialogue-driven and have regular, everyday people as characters. Some popular shows that have been influenced by mumblecore include Girls and Broad City. Gerwig was introduced to mumblecore when she met director Joe Swanberg while she was still studying at Barnard. Her first role was a minor one in Swanberg’s LOL (2006).  After acting in several of Swanberg’s films, she became the co-director, co-writer, and co-producer of Swanberg’s Nights and Weekends (2008).

Gerwig’s acting career grew and she started working with more established indie-writer directors like  Whit Stillman in Damsels in Distress (2011) and Rebecca Miller in Maggie’s Plan (2015). Her performance in these films earned her the unofficial title of an “indie darling.”

Greta Gerwig met her partner Noah Baumbach while working on his film Greenberg (2010), alongside Ben Stiller. This started their co-directing and co-writing relationship, which led them to create Frances Ha (2012), a mumblecore classic, Mistress America (2014), White Noise (2022), and of course Barbie.

Gerwig’s indie and mumblecore career has influenced who she is as a writer and director. In her Vogue “73 questions” interview, Gerwig described the rhythm and pacing of the dialogue in a script as an indicator of the script being ready.  The sparse style of indie filming makes it necessary for relationships and dialogue to move their films forward. During her screenwriting career in the mumblecore space, she most likely had a lot of experience writing dialogue-focused scripts.   In indie films, Greta played self-absorbed millennial women with unmatched charisma, charm, and energy that made her stand out among other actresses who played similar characters. It’s easy to imagine that the woman who put her mark on a genre can also make a Barbie movie that is beyond our expectations.

 Margot Robbie Requested That Greta Write The Script And Direct

The titular role of Barbie is played by Margot Robbie, who is also the producer of the film. Robbie and her production company LuckyChap Entertainment were in talks with Warner Bros. and Mattel to get funding for the movie back in 2018. Robbie sought Gerwig to write the script after being in awe of her work in Lady Bird. Robbie was trying to find ways to work with Gerwig and when Barbie became a project Robbie knew who she had to ask.

In a 7/30 ABC News In-depth interview, Robbie said she was drawn to making a film about Barbie because of all the complicated feelings associated with the doll. Barbie can represent someone’s childhood filled with imagination and aspiration while also making someone feel unrepresented and inadequate. Robbie wanted a screenwriter and director to capture all the complicated aspects of the conversation. She knew Gerwig would be the person to honor Barbie’s legacy while also bringing the iconic doll into the current cultural conversation

In the same interview, Gerwig talked about accepting Robbie’s offer to work on the movie. Gerwig just had a baby and was in a “postpartum delirium, ” where she was just getting used to the role of being a mother while also in post-production of Little Women. Although her life was hectic, Robbie’s description of the film spoke to Greta and she could see the film igniting conversation.

Gerwig feared that the movie could be a career killer for her. First,  what if there wasn’t much of a story to tell? Second,  because of the various feelings about Barbie, there was a possibility they could take a wrong turn and upset a lot of people.  Gerwig finally decided to look at the fear as a sign that she should take the challenge. Gerwig wasn’t the only party fearful about creating this film. Both Robbie and Gerwig had to persistently work with Mattel to ease their worries about the movie taking down their brand. It took several meetings on Robbie and Gerwig’s part, but Mattel eventually trusted the two women.

Greta’s Favorite Movies Influenced How The Barbie Movie Was Made

Gerwig’s creation of the Barbie world was influenced by several films. In her interview with Letterboxd, she listed 29 films that influenced Barbie. Gerwig’s respect and knowledge of film has made Barbie not only just the celebration of the doll, but also the celebration of films that are bright, iconic, and culture-shifting.

The first film referenced that most viewers will be able to point out is 2001: A Space Odyssey. The opening scene of Barbie pays homage to 2001. You can see the scene in the teaser trailer below. The resemblance is pretty obvious.

Gerwig was influenced by older films, where they were using sound stages and painted sets. In her Letterboxd interview, Gerwig used the phrase“authentically artificial” to describe these sets. “I think it’s very emotional and beautiful,” said Gerwig. The films that would fall into this “authentically artificial” category include Wizard of Oz and Singing in The Rain.  In Barbieland, there is a pink brick road instead of the well-known yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz.  There are also scenes from Wizard of Oz playing in movie theaters in BarbieLand.  Ken is in a dream ballet, which is an homage to Gene Kelly’s “Dream Ballet Within a Dream Ballet” in Singing in The Rain.  Gerwig also references scenes in American in Paris, another Gene Kelly film. There is one scene where Gene Kelly moves around his small apartment, going about his morning routine. Gerwig liked how that scene was choreographed and shot, which inspired her to shoot Barbie’s routine scene similarly. These films are bright, musical, and have surreal moments throughout.

We hope this information about Greta Gerwig prepares you to appreciate Barbie coming to theaters on  July 21st. Let us know if you are a fan of Greta Gerwig. What are you hoping to see in Barbie?

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