Greta Gerwig Interview: Dating in NYC, Woody Allen and 'Lola Versus'

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Fox Searchlight

It's hard not to root for Greta Gerwig. Her natural charm elevated the so-so “mumblecore” movies of the mid-aughts and she's been turning in solid performances in both independent and studio pictures ever since.

Her newest one, 'Lola Versus,' is another chapter in the “dating-in-New-York-is-Hell” book, and offers a fine vehicle for her to be front and center. In it, Gerwig gets dumped by her fiancee just days before the wedding (fool!) and he friends, which actually include her ex, try and help her get back on her feet. I had an opportunity to speak with her in a very pink room in a SoHo hotel...

When you have a relationship with a friend or a business contact and that person does you wrong, everyone says "cut that person out of your life." But when it is an "ex," everyone says "you gotta try and be friends with 'em." Why is that?

I think it is built into the “post-break up framework” because if you've been with someone for that long you have to think that it was all building to some important friendship, at least. Because, otherwise, it is incomprehensible to have been with someone for so long. I think the drive is to soften the blow, though. Truth of the matter is that most people, at least in really long term relationships, don't become great friends. Maybe they become friend-ly, but friends? It's easier if they move away. Or turn out to be gay.

Your character has some great friends who console you after you get dumped. Have you ever been "the consoler?"

Yes, I have a friend who broke up with a guy on many occasions. She'd call me in tears, I'd go to the apartment, she'd hand me her stuff while she'd stay in the apartment to finish breaking up with him, then all that stuff would eventually get moved back in, and then the cycle would repeat itself. Eventually I would just, you know, hang out in the hall with a suitcase.

'Lola Versus' makes great use of New York City. I know you live here - are there some locations here in town that you love that you'd love to see on film?

Yes. Absolutely. The transfer walk at 14th street between the 1/2/3 line and the F/M and L lines at 6th and 7th Avenues. It is this horrible tunnel the length of an avenue. That walk. . .everybody knows that walk. Somebody should do a conversation in that walk - a tracking shot. You can even do a breakup scene, like they are happy at the beginning and by the end they are broken up.

High five, that's awesome. There are a few of those tunnels, like the one at 42nd to the A/C/E that has the Jenny Holtzer-esque art in it. . .

Yeah, but this walk has nothing, it's just ugly. And at the end are some framed pictures of gold spray-painted tools. So strange. And I have another pick. At West 4th street, on the upper level for the A/C/E there are these two magazine stands on opposite sides of the tracks, and the two owners talk to each other all day. When a train comes they stop talking but as soon as it leaves they just keep going. All day.

Greek chorus.

Yeah. Yeah. I love the subway. I grew up in a place without any good public transportation.

It's strange, because I was thinking about you this morning. . .

Ew, weird.

Well, no, I wrote up my mid-year Best Movies of 2012 list and 'Damsels in Distress' was number four.

Nice!

I think that movie is going to resonate for a while because it is so frickin' weird.

Whit [Stillman] has such a unique voice and I think that, over time, people will continue to find that movie and it will become a cult favorite. It's really special to be a part of something that has its own personality behind it. Whit has the things he's interested in the world. He has this puritanical outlook with a real wicked streak.

It's not as pure as it appears, though.

No! There's a whole plotline about anal sex! It's so bizarre. But, he's for real - he loves line dancing, he loves Medieval Christian Theology.

Well, let me ask ya, in a "regular movie" you come to work each day and the character is somewhat connected to real life, but with this you show up and you have to slip into this bizarre, surrealistic world. What's that like?

I got into it through the language. I loved how unrelated to my life it was. I get so few opportunities to play someone so different from my actual life. It felt like. . .it felt like acting!

In other news, you worked with Woody Allen for 'To Rome With Love.' Do you have any scenes with him?

No. Sadly. But I think that movie is going to be delightful.

His directing style is as advertised? He just lets you do it all yourself and doesn't say much?

Kind of. When you are doing something wrong he does get in there. So that myth isn't totally true. At least not in my experience.

This is a guy, he's not a movie star, he's an icon. 300 years from now, when we're all dead, they'll still know him. They'll know him from space. What was working with him like?

Woody Allen changed my life. I moved to New York because of his films. He doesn't know that, of course. But. . .talking to him it. . .it doesn't feel like it should be a part of my life. It feels like it should not be possible.

'Lola Versus' is in a theater near you June 10. 'To Rome With Love' opens in select cities June 22. 'Damsels in Distress' is still playing in an odd art house here and there, but will be available on DVD on July 31.

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