A Minute With: Greta Gerwig on making ‘Barbie’ a surprising movie

FILE PHOTO: Director Greta Gerwig attends the European premiere of “Barbie” in London, Britain July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska/File Photo

By Rollo Ross

Director, writer and actor Greta Gerwig has plunged into the world of the iconic Barbie doll to make a movie that promises to be one of the cinematic hits of the summer.

Making “Barbie” was no easy task, and when Gerwig wrote the script with her partner, Noah Baumbach, she didn’t even know she would be directing the film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

Gerwig, who made waves as the director and writer of coming-of-age comedy-drama “Lady Bird” in 2017, spoke with Reuters about the decisions behind her version of “Barbie,” which opens in theaters on Friday.

Below are excerpts edited for length and clarity.

Q: I wasn’t expecting to wake up this morning thinking about gender politics and the history of Barbie. There is so much in this film.

Gerwig: “It’s a spicy margarita. There’s like a lot packed into it. I’m so glad you woke up thinking thoughts you didn’t know you’d have. I always wanted it to surprise people. I wanted it to make people laugh, but then I also wanted it to kind of almost in that unexpectedly make people think and cry.”

Q: Even though the film is set in Barbie World, how much would you say it makes people reflect on reality?

Gerwig: “There were so many interesting things about Barbie to me as a cultural icon and a totem. It was invented in 1959 and it’s changed and expanded, but it persists until today and it also seems to be so human to me, just this idea of like we make a doll and then we get angry at the doll. Well, that’s such a funny thing that humans do, and what does that mean and what is that interaction? And how we invest in inanimate objects and then let them transform us and then we transform them back. I think in a way we think of ourselves as quite evolved, but that to me seems to be a very, you know, almost mystical investment in an object, which I thought was an interesting place to start anyway.”

barbie, Greta Gerwig at Barbie Premiere in London
FILE PHOTO: Director Greta Gerwig attends the European premiere of "Barbie" in London, Britain July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska/File Photo

Q: It also feels I’ve watched a documentary about Barbie and learned a lot about her history and what went right and what went wrong. How difficult was it to have that conversation?

Gerwig: “There were plenty of times when they thought, ‘Oh we shouldn’t do this.'”

“It wasn’t until we had the script and I loved it that I thought, ‘Now I can’t bear to let anyone direct it but me,’ but I didn’t know I was going to direct it.”

“It’s a miracle that they let us do this, but when we would talk about it, I’d say, ‘I think we just have to confront everything about it head on.’ I think there’s no reason to do it if we’re making a commercial for it. You guys sell lots of dolls. You do not need that to sell a doll, so unless you’re interested in doing it this way, well, that’s fine. But you can’t fake that. You either have to mean it or not.”


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