10 Questions with ‘Frances Ha’ Star Greta Gerwig

Frances, 27, is still working on finding her footing in life both literally and figuratively in the recently released film Frances Ha. Frances is an apprentice at a modern dance studio, though she is a spontaneous dancer at heart, and lives with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) in New York until Sophie decides to move out.

But even though Frances will begin experiencing several setbacks from here on out, she remains positive and lighthearted. These personality traits can be credited to the character, but it’s the actress portraying Frances, Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the film’s script with director Noah Baumbach), who really makes Frances and her world come alive against a black and white shot backdrop of New York City. And when I received the opportunity to interview Greta, I jumped at the chance to do so and find out more about Frances Ha, how it felt to co-star in and co-write a movie and why she believes costar Adam Driver (who you may know as Adam from the series GIRLS) is destined to be one of the “greats” in the acting world, as only Greta could tell it.

Heather Taylor: You co-wrote Frances Ha with Noah Baumbach. What was the writing process like?

Greta Gerwig: It took a long time, but it was effortless in the most important way. We were writing the same movie so every line was scripted with no improvisation. It was one of those collaborations that don’t come around that often and was a lot of fun, like writing an amazing song with a band.

HT: Is it tough to juggle co-writing and co-starring in a film?

GG: Not really. Actually, I briefly considered not acting in it. I was proud of the script as a piece of writing and I was scared of taking on acting in it! But I talked to Noah and my agents and they all encouraged me to do it. I really found out who Frances was when Mickey (Sumner, who plays Sophie) auditioned and it gave me access to Frances in a way that I hadn’t felt before.

HT: I love that the movie is shot in black and white! Who came up with that idea?

GG: Noah and I did. It felt right and created so much nostalgia and melancholy for these moments in life that pass you by. It also felt very cinematic. The black and white echoed a feeling of French New Wave and Woody Allen movies – and I also love black and white films too.

HT: So much of Frances Ha focuses on the evolution of the friendship between Frances and her best friend Sophie as their friendship grows up and becomes more adult. Was there any real life inspiration used there?

GG: I’ve had a lot of close girlfriends over the years and Noah has a lot of close male friends too. I’ve never had that one “best friend” but I have a group of five women who are truly my women. And while I did use that experience as some inspiration, the movie still remains purely fictional.

HT: The movie also focuses on what it means to be a late twenty-something  Do you have any advice on how to navigate the later part of your 20s?

GG: My advice for anyone in their twenties, early or late, is to go for it. Go for all of it. Take care of yourself and the people around you. And for those in their early 20s especially you’re faced with a lot of anxiety – deal with the real problems as opposed to making up problems for yourself.

HT: In the film, Frances is an apprentice for a modern dance studio.  Do you have a background in dance?

GG: Dance is my first love and I’ve done ballet, tap, and jazz. I love modern dance because it’s the direct opposite to the ballet aesthetic. Modern dance is very grounded and centered. You can’t muscle your way through it and you have to learn to fall. It’s a great metaphor for life – learning to fall and trusting the floor rather than not trusting the floor and getting injured.

HT: You have awesome chemistry with Mickey Sumner who plays your best friend Sophie. Did you guys know each other beforehand?

GG: Nope. She was absolutely brilliant in her audition and she’s nothing at all like her character – she’s actually British and blonde!

HT: Another one of your co-stars is Adam Driver from the HBO series Girls. What was it like to work alongside Adam?

GG: I’ve known Adam for awhile and I’ve always thought he was a fantastic actor. He’s gonna be one of the greats, for sure.

HT: Throughout the movie, your character heads to Sacramento, Paris, France and is based out of New York City. If you could pick a place to film a movie, where would you go next?

GG: I’d like to make a full length film in Sacramento because I love it there. I also love Knoxville, Tennessee, which is right by the mountains and so beautiful. And for somewhere more exotic, I’d love to head to Southeast Asia.

HT: You mentioned Woody Allen earlier and were also a star in To Rome with Love – what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?

GG: Annie Hall, especially for Diane Keaton. She was my favorite of all the Woody Allen muses.

Image credit: Pine District, LLC

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