Greta Gerwig, Tracy Letts, Lois Smith Talk ‘Lady Bird’ At NYFF Premiere

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a portrait of an artistically inclined young woman (Saoirse Ronan) trying to define herself in the shadow of her mother (Laurie Metcalf) and searching for an escape route from her hometown of Sacramento.

The film, which getting a lot of Awards Season buzz, also stars Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet as the men in Lady Bird’s life, Beanie Feldstein as her best friend, and Tracy Letts as her dad. Read our red carpet interviews from the film’s New York Film Festival premiere:

When I first heard about the movie I thought it was about Lady Bird Johnson.

Greta Gerwig: I know, I know. You know I don’t know where the name Lady Bird came from exactly. It was something that came to me without me consciously summoning it. It just was one of those things I was writing and I was struggling and then I just put everything aside and I wrote at the top of a page, “Why won’t you call me Lady Bird, you promised that you would”. And I thought “who’s this character?” I mean, who is a person who forces people to call her another name? And so I just followed that name and I followed who this person was. But then I later realized there’s a nursery rhyme, a Mother Goose rhyme, “Lady Bird, Lady Bird fly away home, your house is on fire and your children are gone”. And I thought, well my brain must have made some connection without me knowing it. Something about childhood and the repetition of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. So who knows, that’s how the creative process works. You can’t control it.

Saoirse Ronan is so magnetic and fun to watch, was there any particular scene you were excited to work with her on?

Greta Gerwig: Well definitely one of my favorite things to watch her do, was when she sings. When she does that Sondheim song “Everybody Says Don’t,” because I thought it was so amazing and hilarious and also she’s so committed to it, and I just loved watching her do that.

I couldn’t believe she didn’t get the lead after that.

Greta Gerwig: Neither could she.

Speak about working with Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.

Tracy Letts: You know, they had to do all the heavy lifting. I got to be reactive, for the most part, to just whatever they brought to the party. Which is very easy to do. Man, I wish I could do a lot more jobs like this one. It was not only fun, but kind-of easy in a lot of ways. Also, the character I play in this is a little closer to my actual personality. I’m very content to sit in the corner and read the newspaper while other people are carrying on, so… It was a great fit for me.

Lois Smith plays a nun and teacher in Lady Bird’s Catholic school. She is also getting Oscar buzz for her performance in Marjorie Prime. 

Speak about working with Saoirse.

Lois Smith: I am so sorry she is not here tonight, but really what a delightful actress, wonderful person.

What do you admire about Greta?

Lois Smith: Just about everything, I think she is very present, capable, fun to be with, couldn’t be better.

You also have another film called Marjorie Prime, can you tell me a little bit about that project?

Lois Smith: Oh, it’s been a great delight, it’s based on a play, Marjorie Prime. A play, which I have done two productions of, in LA and New York. Michael Almereyda the director adopted it and directed it. Jordan Harrison wrote the play, they got together, Michael wanted to do it and now here it is. It’s a story that I dearly love, and the movie is finding its way. It is playing in quite a number of cities and it’s opening in the United Kingdom next month. I was just there to do some promo for it in England. It’s a great delight. It takes place a little bit in the future, and I’m a woman who is having some memory loss, and I live with my daughter and my son-in-law, that’s Geena Davis and Tim Robbins. My companion is artificial intelligence hologram of my husband at a younger age, now deceased, played by Jon Hamm. That’s our beautiful cast, it’s a wonderful interesting story.

In terms of your work on the stage, TV and film, what do you love about each of the mediums?

Lois Smith: The stage is my first love and what I started with. The actress spends time not only with herself bringing it, but you work together and rehearse over a period of time and then when it’s ready, you all together give it away to the audience, in person. That is quite wonderful in the theater and I love it. In film on the other hand, it’s a lot of intimacy, that is also lovely.


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