To the surprise of the packed crowd at BFI Southbank, Gerwig was joined onstage by Succession creator Jesse Armstrong, who moderated the session. Topics offered up included Gerwig’s start in the business featuring in small NY-based indies, her transition into writing, and her billion-dollar box office smash hit Barbie.
“It’s been incredible,” said of the response the film has received from audiences.
“I was invited to go on this journey. Margot Robbie came to me and said do you want to write this. She was the producer and star with David Heyman and Tom Ackerley. They put together this incredible team of people, and the process of making it was such a joy.”
Gerwig later added that during the film’s opening weekend, she covertly traveled around cinemas in New York and instructed staff on how to best present her pic.
“I went around theatres, stood in the back, and turned up the volume if I felt it wasn’t playing at the perfect level,” she said. “It was the most thrilling thing.”
Elsewhere, zeroing in on Gerwig’s early acting works, Armstrong played a scene from 2012’s Frances Ha, which Gerwig starred in and co-wrote with Noah Baumbach. The scene in question will be familiar to Gerwig-Baumbach fans and features Gerwig’s restless character failing to navigate an intense discussion at a friend’s dinner party.
Discussing the scene, Gerwig said: “I haven’t acted like that in a while, and I don’t know if I could anymore in that same way. You get into a particular zone of a writer or director.”
Gerwig added that at the time she filmed the pic, her identity as an actor felt “extremely accessible,” and she would “love” to get back to that state; however, she concluded, “I just feel out of that headspace now.”
On acting, Gerwig also spoke at length about the pleasure she feels working with directors and closely following their vision, which is why she has no plans to act in her own films.
“I like being in the hands of the director and giving them what they want,” she said. “That’s why I’ve never acted in my films and never want to. I like giving over. I would deny the pleasure of both things if I did that.”
Later in the talk, Gerwig and Armstrong turned to her writing process and how she navigates fear when crafting a screenplay. Gerwig has writing credits on twelve features and has scripted a Snow White reboot for Disney.
“Writing is the thing I most enjoy having done but feels painful when I’m doing it. Writing is painful to me in a deep way,” she said of the process. “You’re by yourself and it’s quiet. Every voice you’ve ever had in your head that says ‘you’re not very good’ is loud.”
Gerwig later concluded that she works through her angst by “creeping up” on her writing duties by collecting ideas and moments that she goes on to use in her screenplays.
At the tail end of the session, Gerwig told the audience in the BFI Southbank that she is currently “in the writing process” on her next feature and the thought of writing is giving her “recurring nightmares.”
London Film Festival runs until Oct 15.