Why Little Women’s Greta Gerwig Had The Cast Play Games On Set

Greta Gerwig directing Emma Watson

This year's Awards Season has been an interesting one, with its fair amount of snubs and victories. And with the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and SAG Awards all in the rear view, there's just one more big ceremony coming: The Academy Awards. The Oscars are the biggest night in movies, and we're just days away from finding out who the lucky winners are. Greta Gerwig's Little Women is nominated for a whopping six Oscars, although she was noticeably snubbed from the Best Director category. But her work obviously made the movie what it was, and it turns out that she had her A-list cast of actors play games on the movie's set.

Greta Gerwig wasn't nominated for an Oscar for Best Director, but she did get a Best Screenplay nod, and Little Women is up for Best Picture. She directed the cast of actors at two different ages, as the movie's nonlinear storytelling pivoted between the past and present. The Lady Bird director recently explained why she tried to keep the cast active with actor games on the set, saying:

They aren’t scared of looking foolish because all acting is on some level is looking foolish because that’s how you get the good stuff. You kind of have to go for it and you’re not going to look cool all the way down when you’re like feeling. I think as much as possible, like any theater games, vocal exercises, it’s not just to warm up your voice and warm up your body, it’s also to get you out of your head.

Well, that's an interesting perspective on the process. It looks like Greta Gerwig encourages her actors to work from the outside in, physical activity and games helping to quiet the mind and allow for more natural performances. What's more, it keeps the group engaged during long hours.

Film shooting is notoriously grueling, and there is plenty of waiting around. When not shooting there is plenty of work being done by the crew, ensuring that lighting, sound, and camera are all in the best place to capture the action. This results in actors getting plenty of downtime. Cue Greta Gerwig's acting games.

In Greta Gerwig's same conversation with People, she went on to explain that it's not an exact science, and the artists she's collaborating with are just trying their best. As she put it,

I think so much of creating a spot where actors feel free. It’s so that… I don’t know, it’s so that there’s not, there’s not one right answer. And I’m not the keeper of the answer. We’re all building this together and I like people to get in that state of openness.

Having seen Little Women, I have to imagine that these games really helped give scenes life-- especially the group scenes with all four March sisters. Those sequences are delightfully chaotic, with plenty of overlapping conversations and reactions happening at once. Keeping the cast on their toes with games seems like a great way to ensure that each take had the same energy.

It should be interesting to see how Little Women ultimately performs at the Academy Awards. Both Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh are nominated for their roles, while the movie is also competing in Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, Original Score, and Sound Design. Could Pugh end up pulling an upset and winning Best Support Actress over co-star Laura Dern? Only time will tell.

Little Women is still in theaters now, having recently passed the $100 million mark at the box office. Be sure to check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.