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Lady Bird Was The Soul-Sucking, Focus-Grouped Monstrosity I Needed To Appease Studios So They’d Let Me Pursue A Passion Project’: 5 Questions With Greta Gerwig

Making her directorial debut with the unanimously acclaimed coming-of-age film Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig has boldly announced herself as a force to be reckoned with in an industry in which female directors are rarely given a chance to shine. From her early days as the preeminent darling of the mumblecore movement to her present-day perch atop Oscar ballots, we sat down with the 34-year-old vanguard to discuss her career, ambitions, and extraordinary newfound success.

1. You’re known as a figurehead in the “mumblecore” film movement. How would you describe mumblecore to the uninitiated?

A mumblecore movie is basically a film shot in three hours that follows a white man living in Austin, TX as he struggles to buy a sofa from his ex-girlfriend.

2. Was it difficult to get the Lady Bird project off the ground?

No, not at all. In Hollywood, there’s a saying that you do “one for them, one for you.” And as a first-time director, I knew I needed to do something that would appease studios in order to get the leeway to pursue something I actually cared about. So Lady Bird was basically the soul-sucking, focus-grouped corporate monstrosity that I needed to get out of the way so that I could finally get the green light for my passion project, a period drama in which Harriet Tubman comes up with the idea for Danimals and must escape to the North on a jet ski so she can get the word out about her new yogurt invention. Keep an eye out for it, early 2019.

3. The main character in Lady Bird gives herself that nickname in the film. Did you have a nickname for yourself when you were young?

Yes. My nickname was Julius the Crime. It came from this time when I was being born and I immediately yelled, “I am Julius the Crime.” And it just kind of stuck.

4. Do you think having a background as an actor has made you a better director?

Oh, absolutely. Like, there are a ton of directors out there who will instantly call for an exterminator if they find a wasp nest on set and not even ask their actors if they want to look at it first. I know what a bummer that is, so when we found a big papery fuckin’ wasp nest on set one day, I made sure all the actors could come look at it and take pictures before I got rid of it—Saoirse even threw some rocks at it. My philosophy is that when you’re really in tune with your actors’ needs, it will lead to a better final product.

5. Lady Bird surpassed Toy Story 2 to set the Rotten Tomatoes record for best-reviewed film of all time. How did that feel?

I was 16 years old when I saw Toy Story 2 in theaters, and I remember the moment Buzz Lightyear came on screen for the first time. I turned to my mom and said, “One day, I’m gonna make that bug-eyed space honky my bitch.” And my mom took my hand and said, “Yes, I know.” So this was kind of a childhood dream of mine, and it’s been pretty cool to see it come to fruition.