Raccoon hat from a truck stop in New Mexico, Flannel shirt by Levi's, Vest by Levi's, Jeans by Cheap Monday
Greta Gerwig has been called, on various occasions, the “muse of mumblecore”—and while that’s a charming alliteration, she’s more than just the pretty face that launched a thousand indie flicks. It’s true that she started out working with touchstones of the nascent film movement, starring alongside Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation) and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair) in Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs. Yet she co-wrote that movie and is currently collaborating on the screenplay for another project with Alison Bagnall, who penned Buffalo ’66 with Vincent Gallo. And you can currently catch her in Baghead, a Duplass Brothers production. Forgive all the incestuous name-dropping; it’s just that peeking into Gerwig’s world, you start to imagine this tight-knit scene, a sort of shadow Hollywood. It might still be built on Who You Know, except its deals are being cut in Bushwick industrial lofts and Silverlake taco shops. Perhaps this is just more shallow mythmaking; let’s just say that Gerwig is a damn fine actress who once fenced and studied philosophy and considered becoming a lawyer, who doesn’t feel all that comfortable talking about her craft, who thought her character in Baghead was “so stupid she was almost a genius.”
Gerwig’s career thus far has been a succession of fortuitous circumstances. “I loved the Duplass brothers, and I think I willed myself to become friends with them through some strange means,” she explains, half seriously. “I have a lot of difficulty actually working with people who I don’t somehow know, or know someone who knows them, because I have no criteria to work with. Right now I’m willing myself to become friends with Jim Jarmusch. Once I’m friends with him, I can do stuff with him and all of his friends. It sounds fake—but it’s actually not.”
There’s a possibility that Gerwig will be working on an upcoming Caveh Zahedi (I Am a Sex Addict) project. Oddly enough, she interviewed the director for a college research paper when she was a student at Barnard. “I’m this kid who’s so excited to talk to him, and I’ve got my tape recorder. I’m being really awkward, and I lost all of my questions. It was just awful,” Gerwig says. Fast-forward a few years and Zahedi sees Hannah Takes the Stairs in New York, later getting in touch with Gerwig to gauge her interest in an upcoming film to be shot in Italy, tentatively about prostitutes and mistaken identities.
Gerwig is also involved in a forthcoming Ti West project, an offbeat horror film set in 1983 called The House of the Devil. And the screenplay with Bagnall is coming along, despite the duo’s unconventional style. “We were both bitching about how much we hate the screenplay format,” she explains. “They all sound bad. Everybody is writing it on Final Draft. Alison and I kind of abandoned [that]. But that becomes kind of hard to show producers because our script has, like, little drawings in it, and some scenes we write out like prose with the dialogue embedded in the paragraph.”
Indie success aside, there are still obstacles in breaking back into the studio system. “It’s a lot of faith,” Gerwig says. “I’m not Will Ferrell. I can’t sell a movie with my faith and a funny haircut.” In the meantime, she’s dealing with the aftermath of indie success and her parent’s occasionally unnerving interest in her career. “They’ll call if somebody wrote something on their blog. They’ll be like, ‘It said you were drinking vodka.’ And then my mom was worried that I was becoming an alcoholic,” she explains. “Yeah, my mother just discovered the Internet, and it’s making my life pretty difficult.”