Louisa May Alcott’s 19th century novel Little Women has proven as enduring as cinema itself: as well as two silent-movie adaptations, the story has been filmed four times since George Cukor’s 1933 version, making Greta Gerwig’s the fifth in less than 100 years.
To discuss the film, Gerwig came to Deadline’s The Contenders London event, bringing cast members Saoirse Ronan and Laura Dern and Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran. “I’ve loved this book my whole life,” Gerwig said onstage at the Ham Yard hotel. “There’s never been a time when I didn’t know who Jo March was. The book was read to me by my mother, and it’s something that’s grown with me. When I read the book as an adult, there were so many things that stood out to me that I had missed when I had read it the first time.”
It was re-reading Alcott’s book that gave her the approach to filming it, Gerwig said. “The way that I structured the movie was, I wanted to look at them as adults, and then see how they were trying to recapture the thing that was so magical about their girlhood, and that bravery and that kind of fearlessness that comes with girlhood. What happens when you become a woman, and how does that change?”
Saoirse Ronan, who plays the iconic Jo March, revealed that the book had also been a touchstone in her life. “I had this moment one day,” she recalled. “I was thinking about Jo, and I was like, ‘God, I’m so lucky to get to play this amazing character, who’s been so important for so many people — [but] what is it? What is this thing that she has?’ I realized that she gets a kick out of her sisters and her mother, and they are everything for her, and they give each other so much life, and energy, and inspiration. And that’s what’s so wonderful about this film, is that everyone has a chance to shine. What you’ll see is just four girls, really feeding off each other.”
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