Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut “Lady Bird” is a not-so-concealed semi-autobiographical film set in her hometown of Sacramento. But the city of Toronto actually played an outsize role in getting Irish actress Saoirse Ronan to play the all-American title role.
“I met her at the Toronto Film Festival in 2015,” Gerwig told TheWrap’s CEO and editor in chief Sharon Waxman. “I was here with a film called ‘Maggie’s Plan’ and she was here with ‘Brooklyn.’ She’s always been a person I’ve been drawn to, even just to look at. Just her face is very compelling. We met and we actually read through the script out loud. She read all of Lady Bird’s lines, and I read everybody else’s lines, and I knew right away she was right for the job.”
The A24 film, which received a standing ovation when it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, stars Ronan as Christine McPherson, nicknamed Lady Bird, an aspirational high school senior itching to find a world beyond her Central Valley hometown. Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts star as Ronan’s parents.
Gerwig also didn’t sweat Ronan’s strong Irish accent in considering her for the role.
“She’s highly skilled with accents,” Gerwig said. “She told me very early, because she’d read the script and was really interested in making it, and I was very excited that she might do it.”
Metcalf — who won three Emmys on “Roseanne” and a Tony earlier this year for “A Doll’s House, Part 2” — complimented Gerwig on her strong guidance and careful attention to detail.
“It was great to work on something intimate,” Metcalf told TheWrap. “And I guess it’s all about in the details. What Greta did in the script was capture so many details, I think Tracy (Letts) and I just had to connect the dots in a way.”
Gerwig said Ronan’s portrayal of Lady Bird was pitch perfect for the comedy drama because she wasn’t trying to be funny.
“Her emotion made it that much funnier,” Gerwig said. “She didn’t play the comedy, she played the honesty — and that made it funny.”
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