Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan (‘Lady Bird’): ‘We gave birth to this girl!’ [Complete Interview Transcript]

Since our recent interview with Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan about the new film “Lady Bird,” the movie has been on a major awards run. It was named Best Picture this past week by the New York Film Critics Circle, which also rewarded Ronan with Best Actress. The National Board of Review chose Gerwig for Best Director and Laurie Metcalf for Best Supporting Actress. It also has received Independent Spirit Awards nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay (also Gerwig), Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.

The movie is set in 2002 and centers on a teenage girl (Ronan), who now refers to herself as Lady Bird, during her last year of high school in Sacramento. Her mother (Metcalf) is supportive yet demanding, while her father (Tracy Letts) is in a financial crisis. The A24 release co-stars Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith.

Watch the exclusive interview above or read the full the complete transcript below:

Gold Derby: Greta, you’ve written some movies before but this is your directorial debut. Why was it important that you direct this one?

Greta Gerwig: Well, I’ve been wanting to direct for a very long time. I’d always wanted to be a writer-director and I sort of used all the time that I’d been acting and co-writing and producing and doing other things to… kind of used it as my film school and then when I finished the draft for this movie I looked at it and I thought, “If I don’t do it on this one I’m never gonna do it, this is the one.” But I’m so glad that I did! Yeah. Sorry, just gonna cut myself off there (laughs).

Saoirse Ronan: You did really well.

GG: That’s what I did!

GD: This is sort of autobiographical off of Greta’s growing up and her family and so forth. When she told you [Saoirse] that and you read the script did that intimidate you more or excite you more?

SR: This is probably a question more for Greta, I don’t know if it’s necessarily autobiographical. I think as you’ve said, the emotional truth is one that’s quite authentic and very much kind of comes from Greta and your love for Sacramento and all of that, but I don’t know, I feel like that’s more a question for you.

GG: I wasn’t like Lady Bird, and neither was Sersh, so it was a character on the page that then she invented. She made her exist and so it really feels like this combination of like, we gave birth to this girl!

SR: It does sort of feel that way, ‘cause I have to say when I came into it I thought, “oh it’s such a strong character already on the page, everything was there,” and then I felt like even by the time we started shooting she was still being developed, which I think is the way actually for a lot of characters and especially when there’s so many complexities to them, it’s something that you’re sort of like discovering from one scene to the next, you know

GG: That’s right, I don’t do any improvisation. I like the lines to be the lines, but in terms of who the character is and kind of figuring out all these little details, you put down layers and you build them and Sersh was so open to this bright red hair and the kind of things we wanted her to wear and I feel like she and Beanie [Feldstein] who played her best friend, Julie, they decided they had the same nail polish color the whole movie, this sort of purple.

SR: It was perchance the first time.

GG: It was perchance the first time.

SR: We had exactly the same nail polish color. So there were little things like that we kind of just discovered.

GG: You just kept adding, yeah.

GD: The parents, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, what did they bring to these roles?

GG: Oh my god, well Laurie and Tracy… I’ve seen Laurie and Tracy onstage and also seen Tracy’s plays he’s written which are… he’s like my favorite playwright, and both of them… I think I cast Tracy first and then when Laurie’s name came up, she’s a genius. And another thing that I really loved about it is they’ve actually known each other for 30 years because they both are Midwesterners, which I also really liked, and they work at the Steppenwolf Theater Company, and so they have this kind of friendship for so long which, it gives it a kind of intimacy that I think you can really that they know each other, and also they’re just so great (laughs).

GD: How were they opposite you [Saoirse]?

SR: I mean, I became really, really close with both of them and strangely, actually, all of the relationships that I had with everyone sort of mirrored Lady Bird’s relationships. It was interesting, I felt like Tracy was my pal on set and we’d just sit on the couch in the house and have a chat over lunch or whatever. Laurie, even when we saw her yesterday, I felt this… I don’t know, this calm whenever I was around her. What you see is what you get with Laurie which I really like, and again just as actors they’re so brilliant and very, very giving and open.

GD: Since it was Sacramento at a timeframe when you [Greta] grew up, was there a moment on set where you just looked around and it was like a recreation of something in your mind?

GG: When we were in Sacramento and everyone was there, there were a few moments that were just kind of incredible and crazy. It was like being in this rose garden that I had all these memories in and we were shooting Lucas [Hedges] and Saoirse together running around and I just… my heart was exploding. This was also in Sacramento. People kept coming by the set who I’ve known my whole life and people would drive by and they’d be like, “Is that Great Gerwig? Say hi to your mom for me. Oh and your brother, I need to drop something by.” It’s a mid-sized city but it really has the heart of small town. It’s just really beautiful.

GD: We’re an awards website, I gotta ask you both a couple of awards questions. You [Saoirse] could have your third Oscar nomination. Probably the youngest age of anybody to get a third. What was the difference for you? You were so young on the first and then go into that second one a couple of years ago. How did that feel different a second time?

SR: Oh gosh, it was completely different. When it happened the first time I was 12 and had only ever seen the Oscars on TV and always sat down religiously every year to watch it and was always very excited to watch it, so for me to go, it sort of felt quite surreal ‘cause it was a TV show, you know? And then the next day I went back to New Zealand to finish off a job where I’m playing a dead girl most of the time, so it was a very weird thing. But a couple years ago it was incredibly emotional because of the film that I was there for with “Brooklyn” and we really felt like we were representing Ireland and everyone at home, so it had so much weight to it, I think. And I was also involved in the lead-up to that ceremony and stuff, and you get to know people and we’ve even bumped into so many friends already ‘cause you all go to the same events and do the same Q&As and things like that, so it’s actually quite nice. It does become quite communal.

GD: You’ve [Greta] been nominated at the Globes, Spirit Awards, but you’ve been an Academy member yourself, the writing branch.

GG: Just last year I was invited to join and it was so moving. I got the thing with the thing and the packet and it was just, I don’t know.

SR: The screeners.

GG: Yeah. I’ve still only watched it on TV, but I watch every year and I put on a dress and I put on an Oscar party and when I was a teenager I would serve sparkling apple cider.

SR: Classy.

GG: But now, I have champagne (laughs) but yeah, it’s great. It’s exciting. I feel like if you were any kind of kid who loved movies, it was a thing to look forward to.

GD: Well this is a wonderful movie, thank you so much.

GG and SR: Thank you!

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