One of the biggest breakout hits of TIFF ’17 saw not Indie Darling Greta Gerwig in front, but instead behind the camera. The star of acclaimed Films like Frances Ha and Jackie makes her directorial debut with self-written, though not entirely autobiographical LADY BIRD. For one, Gerwig unlike the Film’s central character would never make anyone call her by another name. Furthermore, she insists that none of its characters solely are based on people she knows, but more so bits and pieces of them.
The Film stars two-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan in its titular role (name inspired probably by the Mother Goose rhyme). It centers on a teen Sacramento girl struggling to break-free from the confines of her hometown to a post-secondary life in cultured New York City. Her family is struggling financially as well as she herself to make the grades needed to succeed at her big plan. All the while she begins to find herself in love and life, determined to defy her loving mother’s (played by TONY winner Laurie Metcalf) discouragement. Despite her defiance, Lady Bird very much is a story about the love shared between mother and daughter.
Gerwig looks to great coming-of-age films like Boyhood, 400 Blows and Amarcord for inspiration, but these largely are male-centric. Her Film gives us a refreshing spin as a look at a young woman’s experience with personhood.
Our Siobhán Rich (@Typo_Eh) had the pleasure of attending a junket with Gerwig recently in Toronto, her second visit to the City following Lady Bird’s festival success. The Film just gained domestic distribution through Elevation Pictures.
Siobhán asks Gerwig about the Film’s phenomenal casting.
Gerwig recalls about finding her perfect Lady Bird. “I met Saoirse here in Toronto at TIFF in 2015. She was here with Brooklyn and I was here with a Film called Maggie’s Plan. She read the script and she really responded to it. She had this real instinct about it. She said, ‘I know I’m from a tiny town in Ireland. And it’s all the way across the world but I just know this. I know character and I know this story. I feel it in my heart.’ We met-up and we read the whole script out loud. She read all Lady Bird’s lines and I read all everybody else’s lines. I just knew instantly that she was the right person for the part. But then I made her read the whole script because I’m selfish and I wanted to hear it out loud. That’s just what directors do! (LAUGH) So, I cast her and I moved the Movie for her because she’s my Lady Bird.”.
With several nods to Sondheim heard in Lady Bird, Gerwig‘s affection for Theatre is even more pronounced in the manner which she fills-out her cast. “Stephen McKinley Henderson I’d seen on Broadway. Lois Smith I’d seen off-Broadway. Laurie I’d seen at Steppenwolf and on Broadway. Tracy, I love all of his plays he’s written and I’d also seen him on Broadway. It felt like just a collection of people I think are incredible. Then the young cast: I saw Timothée Chalamet, who plays Kyle, on stage — I saw him in a John Patrick Shanley Play in New York called Prodigal Son and he was incredible. Beanie Feldstein just walked in and auditioned and I fell in love with her.”.
“There was a combination of ways we got that team together but really everyone was so great and I was so blessed with this cast. They were so ‘in it’ and able to make a family with each other.”.
Wearing her Helmer’s cap, she imparts an important bit of wisdom that helped make her directorial debut such a success. “Part of my process as a Director — I think the most important thing — is giving the candle, the little lit match of the character to the actor and saying, ‘It’s yours now. I don’t own it. I don’t know who this person is – it’s you. You tell me who they are because I can’t know what you know about this person.’ And I feel it’s this passing on of a character that’s vital to me.”.
Elevation Pictures release LADY BIRDFriday, November 10, 2017.
Get acclimated with one of the year’s greatest surprises. Check-out its Trailer: