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Greta Gerwig on Casting ‘Little Women,’ Revering Meryl Streep, and How Laura Dern Became Set Mom

Gerwig details her casting choices for her upcoming, modern spin on the Louisa May Alcott classic.

Little Women

“Little Women”

Wilson Webb

Academy Award-nominated director/writer Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated spin on the Louisa May Alcott classic “Little Women” recently premiered its first trailer. The dreamy cast includes Oscar nominees and new breakouts alike, with Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, and Florence Pugh, in a performance rumored to be Oscar worthy. Though “Little Women” has yet to secure a festival bow, Sony Pictures releases the film on December 25.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gerwig talked about casting the film, and the reverence she feels for her actors. For “Little Women,” Gerwig reunites with “Lady Bird” co-stars Saoirse Ronan (who earned an Oscar nomination for that film) and Timothée Chalamet, playing Jo March and Theodore Laurence respectively, whose modern-feeling romance forms the beating heart of this story. “I just adore them. They are just spectacular as live actors, and there is some true pairing between them that feels like [it’s] in the tradition of a great cinematic pairing,” Gerwig said. “I don’t know what they do — I mean, it’s magic. I direct them, but it’s all there.”

For the role of Meg, the eldest of the March sisters whose aspirations are mainly domestic, Gerwig turned to Emma Watson. “To me, [Watson] embodies everything that I was interested in, in terms of who the March women were,” Gerwig said. “She’s just smart. She’s on multi-governmental organizations that speak to the U.N., and she’s so thoughtful and present. She is way out there trying to do everything she can.”

Little Women

“Little Women”

Wilson Webb/© 2019 CTMG, Inc.

As an activist for gender equality, Watson is playing against type here as the more conformist-minded Meg. “Meg March is a character that is long misunderstood,” Gerwig said. “In terms of what [Watson] did with the character, she has so much open-heartedness and so much love combined with that much intelligence, it’s heartbreaking and potent. Because she’s absolutely herself with understanding the struggle of who that character is.” Watson, who runs a women’s book club on Good Reads, did extensive preparation for the role.

Gerwig said that Laura Dern, who plays compassionate head-of-the-household Marmee, became the set mom. “Off-set, every single one of the girls actually did come to Laura with their heartaches and their problems,” Gerwig said. “Everybody had a good cry with Laura. She became this mother, sister, confidant person for everyone on set, which was a very beautiful thing to embody. She was a rock for everyone.”

Finally, the wealthy Aunt March is played by Meryl Streep. Gerwig said that Streep “loved the book so much when she was a girl, and she thinks [it’s] so important, and she says, ‘Tell me what you’d like me to do.’ I was like, ‘Yes, ma’am.’”

Of the 21-time Oscar nominee and three-time winner, Gerwig added, “Anything I say about Meryl is superfluous. All the adjectives I have don’t touch it.”

“Little Women” arrives late in the awards season corridor partly because Gerwig had a baby in March 2019 with her partner, Noah Baumbach, which pushed the edit. Baumbach himself has a horse in the Oscar derby this year, “Marriage Story,” which Netflix is taking to the New York Film Festival as its Centerpiece screening. The film looks to be a highly personal telling of an acrimonious divorce between two warring partners, played by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, that may reflect details of Baumbach’s divorce with actor Jennifer Jason Leigh back in 2013.


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