A Best Picture Oscar frontrunner since it bowed at the Telluride Film Festival several weeks ago, Lady Bird marks the solo directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, who has risen to become one of the defining voices of contemporary American cinema. Collaborating with iconic indie filmmaker Noah Baumbach in the writing of Mistress America and Frances Ha—and memorably starring in the latter—Gerwig has put in her 10,000 hours as an actress and writer, on the road to directing her first solo feature.
“I wrote the script to Lady Bird, and it really came out of a desire to make a project about home—like, what the meaning of home is, and place. I knew Sacramento very well obviously, growing up there, and I felt like the right way to tell a story of a place was through a person who’s about to leave it,” Gerwig explained, sitting down at Deadline’s Toronto Studio. “I wanted to direct for a long time, but I believed I needed a lot of experience on film sets, and I didn’t go to film school, so the way I got that was through acting and co-writing and producing. Once I had accumulated about 10 years, I thought it was enough.”
“Terribly nervous” prior to the commencement of principal production, Gerwig quickly found herself at ease once the situation became real, as she found herself on set in the director’s chair. “I loved being with these great actors, and I loved working with my DP, I loved working with my crew. There was no part of it that felt unnatural to me,” she says. “Specifically with directors I’d worked with, and even some that I haven’t, they were all incredibly generous with me, having really long conversations about what they felt was useful as tips.”
One individual Gerwig spoke with extensively prior to embarking on this journey was Mike Mills, her director on the critically lauded 20th Century Women, which was Oscar nominated last year for Best Original Screenplay. If you’ve seen that largely autobiographical, intimate feature, Gerwig’s solicitation of advice from Mills seems entirely apropos.
Generating Oscar buzz early on for her turn as the disagreeable mother of Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), Laurie Metcalf worked closely with Gerwig to ensure that moments of positive mother-daughter chemistry shined through. “Because the only time you see the mother-daughter relationship is this brief period where they’re totally butting heads, you get very few windows into how much they care for each other. That’s why those little shots go a long way, I guess, ” Metcalf explains. “We wanted to make sure that there were different triggers that would elicit each different battle between the two, but I did confide to Greta over the phone before we met in person that I had a 16-year-old in the house at the time, who was also trying to kill me. So I was prepared.”
To view Deadline’s TIFF conversation with the Lady Bird stars and writer-director Greta Gerwig about their buzzy A24 title, click above.
Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.