Greta Gerwig Says She Was ‘Terrified’ to Direct ‘Barbie’ Movie: Worried ‘This Could Be a Career-Ender’

Gerwig penned the romantic comedy about the Mattel doll brand with partner Noah Baumbach. Margot Robbie stars as the titular fantastic plastic alongside Ryan Gosling as Ken in a film Gerwig says "felt like vertigo" to write.
(Left to right): Greta Gerwig at the 2022 Venice Film Festival; Margot Robbie in the upcoming "Barbie" movie
(Left to right): Greta Gerwig at the 2022 Venice Film Festival; Margot Robbie in the upcoming "Barbie" movie
Getty Images/Everett Collection

Three-time Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig dazzled audiences with “Little Women” in 2019. The sixth film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s legendary and well-loved text, the Best Picture contender saw Gerwig celebrated for not just her steadfast appreciation for Alcott’s enduring authorship, but also the “Lady Bird” director’s keen ability to imbue what could have been a stale remake with her own striking sense of tragic poeticism.

And yet, even Gerwig was scared of Barbie.

“It was terrifying,” Gerwig recalled during an episode of Dua Lipa’s “At Your Service” podcast on Friday. “I think there’s something about starting from that place where it’s like, ‘Well, anything is possible!’ It felt like vertigo starting to write it. Like, where do you even begin? What would be the story?”

That fear, the filmmaker said, was precisely why she decided to commit to taking on the project.

“I think it was that feeling I had that it would be really interesting terror,” Gerwig continued. “Usually, that’s where the best stuff is. When you’re like, ‘I am terrified of that.’ Anything where you’re like, ‘This could be a career-ender,’ then you’re like, ‘OK, I probably should do it.’”

Gerwig directed “Barbie,” as well as co-wrote the project with partner Noah Baumbach. She praised the dedication and support shown to her by star Margot Robbie, who plays and produces “Barbie” with company LuckyChap Entertainment. Gerwig also applauded her collaborators at Mattel, saying she felt those involved with the project were committed not just to making “any” Barbie movie, but what Gerwig and Robbie had envisioned.

“Mattel were amazing partners,” Gerwig said. “They have given us such trust and such freedom, and I think that is incredibly rare. Whatever we wanted to be, they did not try to micromanage it.”

“I was very much supported in what I wanted to do,” she continued. “And I usually know on a gut level whether something feels right.”

Critics won’t see the film for some time, but actor Will Ferrell (who plays an undisclosed role in “Barbie”) recently teased: “It is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate example of high art and low art. It’s a loving homage to the brand and, at the same time, couldn’t be more satirical — just an amazing comment on male patriarchy and women in society and why Barbie’s criticized and yet why every little girl still wants to play with Barbie. Boy, when I read it, I was like, ‘This is fantastic.’”

“Barbie” is expected in theaters July 21, 2023.


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