Frances Ha's Greta Gerwig, On Why She Loves Jaws And Why Acting Is Like Skydiving

By Katey Rich 2013-05-17 14:37:03discussion comments
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In the thing you did for the Times, about the anatomy of a scene, you go through every take and you can sit there and say, “This is how I felt during it.” I feel like a lot of time, for non-actors, we’re like, “But they’re so in the moment. They’re in the character. It’s totally different,” but you seemed so aware of everything that was happening which is really a vulnerable spot to be in.
I mean part of my decision to write that piece for the Times in that way, the section is called Riff, which I don’t know if you’ve read many of these, but they’re really smart and they get really smart, funny people to riff about something, like, “I’ve been thinking about this thing,” and then they’ll have twelve paragraphs about what they think about the world and I said, “Oh, yes. I would love to write something for The New York Times.”

You can’t say no.
Yeah, no, I was like, “That’s awesome,” and then I sat down and I was like, “I can’t riff,” because I feel like in some ways, I write fiction because I get to hide behind it. I get to give things to characters.

Or tell a story, not just riff on an idea.
I have so many theories and thoughts, but I give them to characters, because I’m a coward, because it’s hard for me to say them as myself. So, I feel like if I can embed them in a narrative, it’s almost like I don’t have to own them in the same way, which is probably something I should get over.

Well, that’s what makes good fiction.
Yeah, I mean, or it’s the way I feel comfortable, it’s the way I feel most able to express myself. So, I wanted to do something where I didn’t have to write my opinion for an entire thing.

So, you needed a structure?
Yeah, so I needed a structure. I decided I would watch [all of the scene's takes] instead of just making it up and I felt... I actually, it was interesting, because watching it, I felt like I was really, I really tried very hard. That sounds so silly, but I really tried very hard and I, and as I was watching it, I would have moments when I would think to myself, “Why are you laughing?” and then I would hear Noah from offscreen say, “Why are you laughing so much?” but when you’re doing it…

You don’t think about it?
You can’t really control it. I can’t, anyway. I don’t know. Maybe other people can.

So, it’s less self-conscious than it seems when reading you going back and watching it?
I’m not comparing this, because I could never do it, but when you watch Olympic swimmers or something and it’s happening so fast and it’s totally happening at the brainstem level of like, they’ve trained this into their bodies, but it’s also almost happening in slow motion and they’re aware of every little thing and they’re also aware of nothing. It’s kind of like that. Or if you’ve ever played an instrument and really know what that feels like…. or dance. It’s like, it’s some feeling of you know it and it’s muscle memory and then you’re also hyper-conscious of every little thing. I think there’s an element of, you know, fear that makes the experience more vivid, which is why I think acting is so addicting, because there’s fear in it.

And there’s fear in every take?
Yeah, every take.

And even when you’re doing 42 or 52 takes of everything?
Never goes away.

That’s terrifying.
It’s like sky-diving every minute.


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