She doesn’t dislike the dark material, not at all. But even so, Greta Gerwig is most comfortable with comedy.
“I love all different kinds of things, but I’ve always had more facility with comedy,” says the star of the offbeat, funny romcom Lola Versus, which opens Friday. “In some ways it’s the place I felt most free as an actor. A lot of what I say harkens back to stuff I did in college and high school. I always got comedic sidekick roles. ... I would never get cast to play Ophelia or Juliet. I’d play Richard III before Juliet. I have more ambitious hunchback in me than a maiden dying for love.”
A Barnard graduate and former poster girl of the mumblecore movement — she collaborated on several projects with director Joe Swanberg, including Nights and Weekends — Gerwig has moved seamlessly into mainstream movies, making her feature film debut in No Strings Attached and earning raves for Greenberg with Ben Stiller. Most recently she starred in Whit Stillman’s mannered, oddball comedy Damsels in Distress.
In Lola Versus, Gerwig plays the 29-year-old title character, whose life seems to be perfect until her fiance ( Joel Kinnaman of The Killing) dumps her. Lola finds solace with her loving but quirky parents ( Debra Winger and Bill Pullman) and her best friends ( Hamish Linklater and Zoe Lister Jones, who also co-wrote the script with director Daryl Wein) — and by indulging in some bad behavior.
Gerwig, who’s also 29, was drawn to the script because she liked Breaking Up, the first film collaboration of Wein and Jones.
“I thought it was very connected and funny and mature; there was a sincerity to it that I responded to.” As for Lola, “it’s so buoyant. It felt funny without being mean. She goes through so much.”
Next up for Gerwig: Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love, due out in July in South Florida. “It was dream come true,” she says. “I’ve loved his films. Of course everyone loves his films. I adore him as a writer and a filmmaker. It felt like a bucket list thing.”
Gerwig is ambitious: The playwright in her wants to get back to constructing acts and scenes, and she wants to direct. But right now, acting takes precedence.
“I actually think we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift, something that’s huge for women,” Gerwig says. “You and I are living at a time when people figured out that women are human! Entertainment is shifting. I love movies and plays and entertainment because they’re literally the stories people look to to tell them what life means and what’s worth fighting for, what’s funny. ... Women are creating roles for themselves, creating stories that speak to them. It’s unprecedented; it’s happening on such a large-scale level now. I am so happy to be a woman in entertainment right now, given all the amazing women who are doing things like Lena Dunham [creator of HBO’s Girls] and Kathryn Bigelow.
“I love women! I went to an all-women’s college! I want them to succeed. I believe in them, and I want our stories to be told. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true.”