Greta Gerwig was just about the last to leave the reception last night at the Crosby Street hotel after a screening of “Lady Bird.” It had been a long day, one in which she’d been chosen as Best Director for her debut film by the National Board of Review (it’s good, whatever it means). Diane von Furstenberg hosted he screening and loaned Greta a gorgeous sparkling dress. Does she get to keep it, I asked? “I don’t get to keep dresses usually,” said Gerwig, kicking off her shoes.
She’s 34 years old. I guess I met Greta when she starred in Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg,” a mini gem of film alongside Ben Stiller. She took off after that. She’s made some movies with Baumbach, who became her boyfriend. But you have to see her in some terrific films by other directors- like Whit Stillman’s “Damsels in Distress” and Barry Levinson’s “The Humbling.”
No one knew she wanted to be a director. But a lot of actors want that and it doesn’t always work out. I asked her, did she shadow Baumbach or anyone else?
“I’ve shadowed every director I’ve known since I’m 22. I literally have notes from every movie– I should publish them, they’re all handwritten– I would ask them why the camera is here, why the boom mic is there, about the lighting. I asked everyone.”
She is very intensely open. There is nothing Gerwig shies away from. I finally asked her why she signed that letter to Lincoln Center this past summer denouncing production of an Israeli play on the grounds that Israel should be punished. She didn’t hesitate for a minute.
“I was in Italy, with Noah. He got the same letter. A good friend sent it to me. I literally did not look at it. I just signed it. Then we got back and Noah said, Why did you sign it? I was so upset. I had no idea what I was signing.” She waves her hands in the air, frantically. “I did it, I’m sorry I did it. I took it back. It happens.”
So now what? She’s the NBR Director of the Year. “Can you believe it?” she says. We actually high five. Her movie is also the best reviewed film ever on Rotten Tomatoes. On Monday night, star Saorise Ronan won Best Actress at the Gotham Awards. Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are certain Oscar nominees. “Lady Bird” is like the best made souffle you’ve ever eaten.
“Have you seen The Post?” she asks. I have, and tell her that Meryl Streep may pose a problem for Ronan at the Oscars. She’s that good. “I know she is, but Saorise– last night when she won she told me was so happy. She’s been nominated for a lot of things but never won, and with her mother there.”
But Streep— “I’m meeting her next week,” Greta says. “You’re going to direct Meryl Streep?” I say. “I;m writing something for her. Listen, you gotta aim high!”