Questions and Answers With Greta Gerwig

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Single young women of New York City, get ready for your mom to worry about what your day-to-day life is like! (And just when we'd explained to her that it's not like "Girls," too.) Everyone else, brace yourselves for your new favorite indie charmer: "Frances Ha."

Greta Gerwig plays the titular Frances, a 27-year-old modern dancer prone to scabby knees, bouts of wild movement in front of fountains and white lies about her employment status — but it's cool, she readily admits, as she's "not a real person yet."

The film, directed by Noah Baumbach and co-written by Baumbach and Gerwig, will finally hit limited release on May 17 after running the festival circuit in New York, Toronto and Telluride last fall. The agonizing six-month gap between festival screenings and the official release date, however, was better than letting the finished film sit on the shelf until spring, Gerwig told NextMovie.

"Once your baby's ready, you've gotta get it out," she said of the film, though she admits to "kind of weeping on the other side of the phone, saying, 'Well, I can't wait another six months for this to come out, why can't we just release it right now!'"

NextMovie caught up with Gerwig in New York ahead of the black-and-white film's release, talking about "Frances Ha," classic films and, perhaps most importantly, how women can pee in the great outdoors without incident.

I liked it even better the second time I saw it.

I feel that way, too! Not just because it's my movie and I want people to see it dozens of times, I actually do think it's a movie that stands a second look. I feel like you can watch it again and that it's worth watching it again.

I've heard a lot about the kind of guerilla way you made this movie — small, digital cameras, a tiny crew, all that.

I mean, in some ways. Guerilla makes it sound cooler than it was. It was not that cool. It was very ... there was chaotic elements in it, like we didn't have control of the street, or we didn't have control of the subway car, but we did tons and tons of takes and it was super-structured with these elements of chaos kind of thrown in. It felt like some combination of Kubrick and something in the middle. It was very labor intensive. It wasn't like, "Man, let's go get this shot right now!" It wasn't like that, but we did have scenes where we couldn't control anything around us.

What would you be doing if you weren't acting?

God, I don't know. I know I would be in film or theater, but I kind of actually prepared for that eventuality when I was in college. I was writing and I was acting, but I also was a stage manager and I was working in technical theater and I was kind of interested in dramaturgy. I really, really knew that I wanted to live in the world of film and theater; I just didn't know where it was gonna land. I could be a ticket-taker at BAM. I just really love being around it.

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A lot of people seem to feel like acting isn't hard work, but it really is a job.

It's a job, but it really is the best. For me, it's the best job. I love movie sets, I love theaters, that's where I want to be. These are just the people I like being around. I feel like it's work and it can be boring and it can be hard, but there's almost literally nowhere else I'd rather be, so that makes up for a lot of it. Even when it's not good! Even when you're like, "This movie might not work."

"It exists."

Even if you're not, like, not totally behind it, I still love it. I mean, I shouldn't talk about this, because it's probably true and I don't know what I'm talking about, but when everybody's like, "Oh, network television is really hard and it's a brutal schedule," which I'm sure, but it's also like, "You get to be on a set every day?" That sounds awesome. They're like yeah, try that for 50 weeks out of the year.

Would you do TV? You co-wrote and starred in this, and you're also working on an animated movie, among other things, but I haven't heard anything about TV, apart from the unfinished "The Corrections" pilot that HBO passed on.

I would totally do TV, I like TV. I think, I don't think really in terms of television, I don't have a ... I sort of think my way into mediums and try and get a sense of what they are and what they want and what they should be, and I don't totally feel like ... as a viewer, I love television, but I don't feel like I have that grasp on it as an actor or a writer. So it would be a totally new beast for me. I don't even know if I'd be any good at it, but I wouldn't be opposed to it in any way.

I could do, like "Twin Peaks" or something. I love "Twin Peaks." And the new Jane Campion thing, "Top of the Lake," is really great. There's lots of great shows, there's no shortage of great shows, there's just the feeling of I don't totally get the form. I don't know how you get ideas for it, is what I mean.

I don't know if I could stick with something for that long.

Yeah, it makes me anxious. I like the frame of a movie. You've got this much time, and you've got to tell this story in this amount of time. It's hard, but it's also comforting.

What's on your DVR?

You know, right now, I'm not DVRing that much because I've been on an almost one-movie-a-day bender recently. You can do it, you can't watch a three-hour movie a day, but if you don't spend time on the Internet, and you don't watch television, you can watch a movie a day. So I've been watching a lot of movies lately.

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Are you working through some kind of list?

I'm working through classics that I missed, actually. There's the Sight and Sound poll every year, and every year there's films on it that I haven't seen, and every year, I'm like, "I should watch those movies," and I don't. So I finally sat down and made my Netflix queue proper. I dominated the Netflix queue. I get the actual physical DVDs. I think you can get complacent and go oh, I'll just figure out what's streaming on Netflix so you don't actually choose the DVDs. So I did that, and that's been really what I've been working my way through. Movies I just missed for whatever reason. Like I'd seen one movie that a director had done, but I hadn't seen some others.

What's a movie that you just saw that you felt guilty about missing?

They're all so embarrassing that I can't ... like I had never seen "Days of Heaven" until like two weeks ago. It's so good. It's so good! How I'm feeling right now is that what's amazing about committing to watching all the movies that you'd never seen, much like reading all the books that you've never read, which I'm always kind of engaged with trying to do, is that the great movies are great for a reason: they're so entertaining and they're so interesting and they're so alive.

I remember when I heard David Bowie for the first time, and I heard David Bowie for the first time late, like I was in high school, late high school. And I remember feeling as I was listening to it, like, "Oh my god, he's made so many albums, and I haven't heard any of them, and I get to listen to them, experience all this music!" I never even knew I was missing it. There was just this treasure trove that I'd been missing. I feel the same way about film, like there's so many great films that I haven't seen. I've always been a pretty avid filmgoer, but I've gotten very methodical about it in the last year or so, because, I don't know, because I've gone crazy. It's the last year of my twenties, and I'm like, I've gotta get serious about something!

In the movie, you lean over a subway track and pee. Do you have any special techniques for outdoor peeing?

I hiked a portion of the Appalachian trail, and I have a lot of outdoor bathroom experience because of that, and I feel like it really is about finding something to hold onto and suspend yourself over, so that you're not actually standing in it while it's happening. So it's like, you're moving your whole behind away from you, and you're putting it over there. You don't want to be like, sitting in it while it's seeping everywhere. It's disgusting.

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"Seep" now feels like such a pee-specific word.

A pee-in-the-grass word.

Your character also receives a kind of booty-call text that just reads "Ahoy, sexy!" It seems like something so weird it had to have happened in real life. Did it?

No, "Ahoy, sexy" was a made-up thing. Ahoy was a real thing, but I added the sexy.

Apart from "Ahoy, sexy," what's the worst pick-up line you've ever heard?

God, I don't even know. Oh, this isn't really a pick-up line, but it's the worst thing a boy has ever said to me, or a man has ever said to me. Someone said "You're not the smartest girl I've ever met, or the prettiest girl I've ever seen, but you have a pretty good proportion of each." I was like "... Thank you? Or am I offended?"

Using the formula of your first pet and the street you grew up on, what would your porn name be?

Toto Camillia.

Will you take a selfie for us?

I don't do this, but sure, I'll do it. I'll try. I don't have an Instagram or anything, I'm not good at this stuff.


Also check out: Director's Cut: Noah Baumbach ("Frances Ha")