Greta Gerwig Does It All in ‘Frances Ha’

Greta Gerwig in 'Frances Ha' (Photo: IFC/Sundance)

From writing the script to starring in the flick, indie darling Greta Gerwig really does do it all in “Frances Ha.”

The 29-year-old actress, best known for films such as “To Rome With Love” and “Lola Versus,” shines as the title character Frances, a floundering 20-something living paycheck-to-paycheck.

The critically acclaimed black and white comedy, co-written and directed by Gerwig’s real-life beau Noah Baumbach, focuses on Frances’ relationship with her best friend Sophie, and follows her struggle to find her own identity after the girls have a falling out.

“I didn’t really set out to write a movie about female friendship,” Gerwig revealed in our recent interview. “When I started writing, I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be, it evolved with the writing process. It was almost as if the character told us who she was during the writing process, which sounds cheesy, but is totally true.”

Obvious similarities between Gerwig and her character lie on the surface — they are around the same age, both hail from Sacramento, both have a history with dance — but a closer look proves that the two aren’t really the same at all.
“A lot of the big plot points and the things that she does, most of it is made up. There are some details that I have experienced, and there are things in it that are mine,” Gerwig said. “It happens on two levels. When you write something, it gets taken out from the real event and reinvented. And then when you act it, it gets reinvented again. You start removing it from life so far that you almost forget that there was ever a connection.”

There were moments during the writing of the film that Gerwig wondered if she was right for the part of Frances.

Gerwig and Baumbach (Photo: Getty Images)

“When we were done with the script I was just so proud of it as a piece of writing that I was worried that I wouldn’t do it justice as an actor. I was nervous about it, I wanted it to be as good as it could be and I thought ‘Well, maybe let’s consider if I’m not the best person for it,'” Gerwig explained. “But then my agents were like, ‘Are you stupid?’ So I did it. Noah always knew that I was going to play Frances. I had to come to it on my own.”

Despite basing the film on some of her own experiences, the notoriously private Gerwig wasn’t afraid of exposing too much about herself.

“The script was so crafted, there was no improvisation. I felt like I could put direct autobiographical quotes in it and not feel exposed,” she said. “I was able to use that because it was such a structured thing. If it was an improvised film that was just willy-nilly, I would feel less comfortable.”

Unlike many female-driven movies, “Frances Ha” doesn’t focus on a romantic relationship. Instead, the movie explores the depths of Frances’ friendship with Sophie, played by singer Sting’s 29-year-old daughter Mickey Sumner.

“We auditioned so many people for Sophie, lots of amazing actors,” Gerwig said. “But there was something about her almost instantly that felt right for the part. There was a way that she approached it that felt like Sophie was a real person. In some ways, Sophie is like the girlfriend role in a romantic comedy, she is the love object.”

Sumner & Gerwig in 'Frances Ha'

Gerwig explained that Frances’ relationship with Sophie was inspired by her own female friendships, which she formed while attending Barnard College, a private women’s university in New York City.

“I went to an all-girls college, so when I graduated I had a group of six friends,” she said. “All the emotion I feel for those women, the times that I behaved well and behaved badly with them, sort of informed this character.”

Greta’s post-grade school experiences not only helped to shape Frances Ha, but played a major role in molding the women who created her. 

“It has its plusses and minuses, but for me, I really found myself in that environment,” she said. “I would have [gotten here] anyway, but it was really developmentally important to me that I didn’t have to prove anything to boys.”

“Frances Ha” is open in select theaters now. Click here to order tickets through Fandango.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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