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How Greta Gerwig Found Inspiration Revisiting Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ Novel as an Adult

”It was about exactly what my central interests are: authorship, ownership, women, money and how that all intersects,“ director tells TheWrap

Greta Gerwig says she had a completely different interpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” after revisiting the book as an adult.

“I hadn’t read it since I was, like, 15. And then I read it when I was 30, and even though I knew almost every single line, it was like I had never read it before,” Gerwig said at TheWrap Screening Series for the Oscar-nominated film on Friday. “It was like completely modern and pressing and strange and relevant, and it was about exactly what my central interests are: authorship, ownership, women, money and how that all intersects.”

The coming-of-age film follows Jo March as a writer in New York in 1868 as she looks back at her childhood with her three sisters: Meg, Amy and Beth. As it jumps between 1861 and 1868, Jo realizes how everyone has grown and experienced their own version of womanhood.

Star Florence Pugh was introduced to her character, Amy, while reading “Little Women” with her grandmother as a child. She remarked the way her grandmother wrinkled her nose at Amy’s antics as she read them out loud. Tapping into the childish side of Amy was freeing for Pugh, especially coming right off of production on “Midsommar.”

“If I think back to being a kid, I can’t think of a photo or video or memory where I’m not doing, or anyone isn’t doing a dirty, cheeky laugh,” Pugh said. “I think I was just so happy to tap into that child again.”

From childhood to adulthood, Gerwig imagined Jo as a writer by the end of the novel and followed her same footsteps. After a more recent read, Gerwig realized Jo is not a writer at the story’s end, but still allows the movie to wrap the way she imagined all these years.

“And I think one of the things about the book that is odd, but I blocked out was Jo doesn’t become a writer in the book,” Gerwig said. “She says in the book, she stopped up her inkstand and she becomes a mother and she marries a German man and she opens a school and I hadn’t internalized that as part of her story. I had internalized the part of her that was a writer.”‘

Amy Pascal, who produced the adaptation, added, “‘Little Women’ is the culmination of everyone’s experience with the book written by Louisa May Alcott, and the many adaptations that have come from it.”

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