Who Plays the Old Lady on the Bench in ‘Barbie’ and Why Is She Significant to the Film – and Cinema History?

Ann Roth is a five-time Academy Award nominee

Ann Roth plays the old lady in Barbie and serves as the film's costume designer
Ann Roth plays the old lady in "Barbie" and serves as the film's costume designer (Warner Bros.)

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated Roth was the costume designer in “Barbie.” Jacqueline Durran is the film’s costume designer.

In one of the most touching scenes in “Barbie,” the title character, played by Margot Robbie, has a conversation on the bench with an old lady on a bench in the real world.

We won’t spoil what they discussed, but we will reveal who plays the unnamed character: Ann Roth.

Roth is a five-time Academy Award nominee for costume design and two-time winner (“The English Patient” in 1996 and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in 2020).

The 91-year-old designer’s career has spanned six decades. Other notable projects she’s worked on include “Midnight Cowboy,” “9 to 5,” “Sabrina” and “The Hours.” She previously collaborated with Barbie director Greta Gerwig’s partner Noah Baumbach on “Margot at the Wedding,” “While We’re Young” and “White Noise.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gerwig revealed that some executives sought to cut the bench scene between Robbie and Roth. However, Gerwig held her ground, calling it “the heart of the movie.”

“I love that scene so much,” Gerwig told Rolling Stone. “And the older woman on the bench is the costume designer Ann Roth. She’s a legend. It’s a cul-de-sac of a moment, in a way — it doesn’t lead anywhere. And in early cuts, looking at the movie, it was suggested, ‘Well, you could cut it. And actually, the story would move on just the same.’ And I said, ‘If I cut the scene, I don’t know what this movie is about.’”

“That’s how I saw it. To me, this is the heart of the movie,” she added.

Despite Gerwig’s praise, Roth remains humble. In a Sunday profile in The New York Times — a fascinating walk down memory lane — Roth laid out how she wanted — and did not want — to be described.

“Do NOT call me amazing. Do NOT call me a 91-year-old legend. Do NOT call me the oldest person in the ‘Barbie’’ movie,” she said.

At the end of the Times’ profile, Roth boasts, “I’m the world’s oldest costume designer, damn it!”

“Barbie” is playing in theaters now.