She not only acted in this movie, but also co-wrote it with partner Noah Baumbach. She really can do it all.
This isn’t Greta’s first movie with Noah, and that’s a great thing. The two are a very potent one-two punch, creating fun and interesting characters that are a joy to watch. Greta plays Brooke, a fun loving girl in her late twenties who takes her soon to be step sister Tracy, played by Lola Kirke, under her wing and shows her the city she loves.
Check our our roundtable interview below:
Talk about your character, I heard you say in interviews that she reminded you of characters from the 80s but I was thinking of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s which you haven’t thought of at all. The second part is, is she a type or is she unique?
Greta Gerwig: Well I think, there were a lot of different influences we were looking at I mean particularly the movies of the more wild girls from the 80s, in the Melanie Griffiths and the Rosanna Arquettes, they were the type that would take a typically square, straight laced, uptown person and drag them into their crazy underworld and they were a bit dangerous, they seemed kind of living on the wrong side of the law. Then our other influences we were looking at were really screwball comedies, like Howard Hawks and George Cukor, of the 30s and 40s and Ernst Lubitsch and those were the ones we were thinking about. You know, I think we, I don’t know, we might have watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s as an idea, but, I never loved Breakfast at Tiffany’s only, I know that’s like a sacrilege, but I think because it was such a stretch for me to see myself in Audrey Hepburn because she was so beautiful and elegant and brunette and European and I felt like I didn’t have any point of entry but there was something about the Melanie Griffith, even though I don’t feel like I’m Melanie Griffith, there was some entry point of like her messiness and her wildness that I felt more connected to. I mean now that I’m thinking about it, I think we probably did watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s in anticipation of this, but, yea, I don’t see her as a type. I see her as a totally unique creation, but it’s definitely influenced by other things.
What happens with those characters when you take them and drop them into 2015?
Gerwig: Well I guess the movie we made is what happens! In a way I guess, both with the movie that I wrote with Noah before, Frances Ha, and with this movie, to me, Frances Ha felt like it belonged to the late 50s, early 60s, even though it was taking place in present day, similarly with this movie even though it’s present day, it, to me, doesn’t feel like a commentary on this time. It’s not really our intention, it’s just, the truth is, it’s just very hard to set a movie in the 80s because you have to change all the cars. So, we couldn’t do that. So, it’s now, but really, the spirit of it is something earlier.
Can you describe the writing process?
Gerwig: Sure, well, we don’t sit together at a computer and write the dialogue together. We spend a lot of time talking about different entry points and reading books and watching films, and at some point we go off and start generating pages on our own which we then trade and he’ll read mine, I’ll read his and we’ll edit each other and then at a certain point we have enough stuff that we need to start cutting things down and directing things. It’s kind of like jumping out of a plane and building your parachute on the way down. You don’t know exactly how it’s going to go but the closer the ground gets the more imperative it is you get that parachute built. Once we’re in it, it really feels like we see the same movie the whole time and that goes over into shooting. There’s never a time that I can think of when I’ve seen something one way and he sees it another way. It’s like we’re both making the same piece.
The writing process and the shooting process was the same [as previous films], with no improvisation a lot of takes?
Gerwig: Yes we do no improvisation, we do a shit load of takes, excuse my French, and we really designed these movies so we can take a lot of time with them so we shot it over 60 days which is a very long time for, I mean, any movie. Especially about a movie where it’s mostly people talking in rooms. It’s the way we love to work and I think it felt like after we made Frances Ha, it was such a success for us just in terms of the feeling of making it and we got to really hold ourselves to a high standard and not compromise anything that mattered to us, that we wanted to do it again even before we knew whether or not people enjoyed it. So we used a lot of the same crew and the same group to kind of get the band back together and make a second album.
How was it working with Lola Kirke?
Gerwig: Lola is the best. I love Lola! She auditioned, we auditioned a lot of people for the part of Tracy and the first time I saw her was on a tape I just saw her reading a scene and she has that deep voice, she’s got a little bit of a lisp, and she’s so beautiful but so unassuming and it just felt exactly right. But then, we made her audition like ten times because we need to feel like we’ve done due diligence. She’s just funny and empathetic and open emotionally and she’s just all around a huge talent and I think she’s going to be a movie star.
When writing the script, did you and Noah argue about whether Brooke would be upset about having an article or story written about her?
Gerwig: We don’t really argue at any point in the process. We kind of have like a brain meld that happens, but I always knew that one of the things we were exploring in the movie was how writing is not a victimless activity. Unfortunately it affects the people that find their way into your work and it’s not that your intentions are bad but those people didn’t ask to be written about and it’s something that I’ve dealt with a lot and Noah has also dealt with and I don’t have any easy answers for it, but I knew I wanted to have this younger woman write something about her and then her be very upset about it. I think she’s also upset about it because she put’s on such a show for Tracy, and Brooke puts on a show for everybody, she’s a very performative person, because, she’s got a lot to cover up. The bigger the front, the bigger the back. She’s very needy and insecure and scared and there are these little pin point moments of seeing something that’s more delicate in her so of course when she reads a story where she feels like she’s been seen, it’s incredibly traumatizing for her. I think it’s something I wanted to explore because I don’t think writers have an absolute right to do what they do and I think it’s not always a bright line of this is ok and this is not ok.
When they’re at the house in Connecticut, Mamie-Claire has all those questions about women, and as I was watching it and laughing, I was wondering how much of that was a chuckle at critics?
Gerwig: I think sometimes when people have an emotional reaction to something they try to bolster it with more substantive claims about what it is they’re upset about instead of just saying this hurt my feelings because I’m me and I can’t believe you did this. They need to say and this has implications for everyone in the world! It was meant to be funny, but also I think it’s a behavior that people often exhibit when they feel pinned against a wall.
Mistress America opens in select theaters August 14.