'Lady Bird' Star Saoirse Ronan on the Importance of Telling More Female Stories in Movies


In case you’re wondering if the hype is true, consider this: Lady Bird—the coming-of-age dramedy starring Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan—is the only movie in limited or wide release right now to score 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Even better, the film is written by actress Greta Gerwig and loosely inspired by her own life. Oh, and did we mention that it also marks Gerwig’s directorial debut? Perhaps Hollywood really is starting to make a dent in what’s traditionally been a role filled by men.

“It’s really exciting,” Ronan says of the film. “I can feel Lady Bird is opening up that conversation even more. And because it’s such a positive movie filled with joy, and it’s realistic and relatable, it’s catching on. It’s great that everyone is opening up their eyes to the possibilities when it comes to female stories. There are just so many to tell. It’s very exciting.”

Ronan is right. Lady Bird is further proof that you don’t need special effects or an overly hyped sequel (sorry, Blade Runner 2049) to make an impact. While we’re all for a great escapist blockbuster, it’s welcome news to see a story told through the female gaze resonate with so many men and women. Lady Bird may only be 17 year old, but her struggles and triumphs are relatable at any age and any gender. So as the film continues to gain momentum heading into awards season, Ronan called us in Los Angeles to talk about all of that and more.

Glamour: Playing Lady Bird must have been so fun. What did you love most about her?

Saoirse Ronan: Someone said to me a while ago, and I don’t know why I haven’t said it before, but she’s not overly nice to people, which I really liked. I don’t mean it in a way that makes her seem rude—it’s not like that—I just mean that everything she does, every decision she makes, and every interaction she has with someone is so sincere. That’s probably a better way of putting it. She doesn’t kiss anyone’s ass, and I love that. And I love that she’s so driven. If she sees something she wants, she’ll go get it. She isn’t afraid of falling flat on her face. She’s willing to take the risk. She’s insecure and has her doubts and things like that, but she believes in herself, and I think she likes herself. She knows that even if she doesn’t know what she’s going to be or what it is exactly that she wants to say, she’s going to be something, and she’s going to do something, and she has opinions. Again, that’s going back to female stories, and I hope it’s great for boys and girls to see someone like that on screen.

Glamour: How similar are you to Christine/Lady Bird when you were her age?

SR: You know that thing that young people do where they are still kids and they look at the grown-ups around them and sort of try to emulate and impersonate them when it comes to the way they move, the way they converse, what they buy in the corner store, things like that? From scene to scene, she’s trying on all these different characters to see which one fits, but she also is incredibly authentic. I remember up until recently always having a clear sense of who I was and never deviating away from that, but it definitely took a while. It’s learned behavior, and you can see her doing that. I could relate to that.

Glamour: We have to talk about the scene where you literally throw yourself out of the passenger seat of the car and onto the road.

SR: [Laughs.] How many times have you wanted to do that when you’re in a tricky conversation?

Glamour: I know, right? What was that scene like to film? When you watch it, can you appreciate how absolutely hilarious it is?

SR: Yeah, it’s hilarious! It’s so funny! It’s the first time I’ve watched a film that I’m in and can actually watch it. I can experience it as an audience member might do. I’ve only watched it once, but I was like, “Oh my gosh, I wonder what’s going to happen next! I can’t believe she did that!” It was ridiculous. That scene that we did in the car was actually one of the last scenes Laurie [Metcalf] and I shot together. They had purposely done it that way, so we could lay the ground work for this establishing scene between the two of us and could go through all of the facets and highs and lows of their relationship and really figure out what the dynamic was between them. It meant that by the time we got to the scene—which is such a strong introduction to who they are and how they communicate or don’t communicate—we weren’t like locked in from the first take. It was amazing. It’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever shot because from the very first one, I felt like we were both really in it. You can feel it when everyone in the scene is on the same page and there’s no coming out of it or coming up for air. You’re just diving through, so that was amazing to shoot.

Glamour: Did you have a stunt double in that scene, or was that you just throwing yourself out onto a mattress?

SR: I’d love to say I did a drop and roll onto the freeway, but I didn’t. [Laughs.] The car was set into this rake that was raised up off the ground and that was being pulled by a small tow truck that the camera crew and Greta were on. So I could just open the door, and I basically ducked out of frame. You didn’t have to see anything else!

Glamour: Was there anything Lady Bird experienced that you thought, Wow, I’m so glad I didn’t go through that?

SR: Oh, God. [Laughs.] There are so many things she goes through that I’m really lucky I didn’t have to go through. I mean, you know, teenage boys and all that stuff. It’s a different world. They really are like a different species, and she really does experience that and then some. I think the high school culture in America seems to be who’s popular and who’s not—who are the jocks and who are the geeks, all that sort of stuff—and I haven’t really experienced that, thank God. It can be terrifying when you’re a teenager being among other people your age, so I think it was nice not to have to go through that.

Glamour: Greta Gerwig directed you in Lady Bird and now you’re working on Mary, Queen of Scots with another female director, Josie Rourke. I don’t want to take away what I hope are some amazing experiences with male directors, but what’s been special about working with Greta and Josie?

SR: I have to say, the first film I made was with a female director. I’ve actually worked with a lot of them throughout the last 14 years. I’ve never thought of it as a gender-specific thing, and I’ve always been able to experience both and therefore be able to see someone as a good director or not. But, obviously, as you would get with a male actor and a male director, or a female actor and a female director, is perspective and understanding. They are able to relate to each other in a way that a man wouldn’t be able to, and vice versa. That’s why it totally needs to be balanced out. It’s the same with diversity in our industry and gender. It needs to be balanced so everyone can share their point of view. So every audience member can go to the cinema and say, “Oh, this one tells my story,” or “This one makes me feel understood and gets what it’s like to feel like me.”

PHOTO: A24

Glamour: This year has been a really hard year for women, but we recently made a list of 101 reasons why it was also very empowering. I’m curious to find out what has empowered you about this last year?

SR: One of the things that I’m absolutely loving is seeing how candid Hillary Clinton is being in these interviews she’s done in her book and promo tour. I loved that. That’s been so incredible. I have the audio book, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet. To see her go through that whole experience and put on a brave face for so long, even before she ran for president, and come out the other side and be able to go, “This is what happened, and this is how I felt about it,” is very inspiring. Also, all of the other female directors that are being given a chance to show their work this year is really exciting. As you said, I just made Mary, Queen of Scots, and one of the things I genuinely have appreciated a lot more this year are my friends—especially my female friends—and how important they are to me. I just couldn’t be without them. Through those friendships we now want to make our own movies; we want to write about what we want to write about, and that’s because of people like Greta. So I think just really enforcing that idea of female friendships and supporting one another, I feel like that’s gaining so much traction now. I hope that keeps going, so it’s unstoppable.

Lady Bird is in theaters now.



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