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Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan on Female Creators and the Direction of Hollywood Post–#MeToo

The director and star of ‘Lady Bird’ joined ‘The Bill Simmons Podcast’ to talk about their award-winning movie and how they see the film industry evolving

Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan — director and star of the film Lady Bird — joined The Bill Simmons Podcast this week to talk about their award-winning film and how they see the roles of female creators starting to change as the #MeToo movement has gained ground.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Bill Simmons: Did you feel like this was — because it’s so hard for female directors — like this was your one chance?

Greta Gerwig: Um, you know, to be totally honest, yeah. I did feel like — 

Simmons: If you screw this up, you’re not getting another opportunity!

Gerwig: [Laughs] I talked this through with a few people, and I kind of had this — I was like, “It’s gotta be good. Otherwise, I can’t …” I mean, I didn’t think it would be like this, but I was like, “It’s gotta be good, otherwise I’m not gonna get another crack at it.”

Simmons: Right. That’s kind of crazy.

Gerwig: But the thing that I actually did come to when I was going through it, I had a friend say to me, “Well, what happens if it’s not good?” And I said, “Well, it’ll be a lot harder to make the next one.” And she said, “Well, what are you gonna do then?” And I said, “Well, I’d just make the next one … for no money.” And she was like, “Alright, and then what happens?” And I was like, “Hopefully people like it.” And she’s like, “And what if they don’t?” And I was like, “Then I’ll just make the next one!” [Laughs] … I had this feeling of, like, this has got to work. And then I also had this feeling of, if it doesn’t, you have to be OK with both realities. And I just got to the point where I was like, I’d rather try and fail than never have tried at all. And also I was just so sure that I was ready to be a director. I was like, even if this is a complete belly flop, I’ll make the next one. I’ll scrounge up some amount of money. I’ll figure out how to do it really small. I just at that point was like, “I don’t think anything’s gonna slow me down.” So it was both: I need this to work, and also, even if it doesn’t, I’m gonna keep going.

Simmons: What do you see happening with Hollywood this year? How do you see the next 12 months playing out?

Saoirse Ronan: I think women are gonna get a lot more meetings with studios than they did before. [Laughs]

Gerwig: [Laughs] I mean, that’s true! Suddenly, everybody’s like, “Where are the lady directors?”

Ronan: Yeah, “Can we get more ladies in for the weekly meetings? Thanks!” [Laughs]

Gerwig: I know!

Ronan: Yeah, I think that’s what’s gonna start to happen. I think we’re not gonna see the difference in the work for another — 

Simmons: A couple years.

Ronan: A couple years, at least. You know, because things are going to need to go into development. Women are obviously going to be working hard to have something to go in with, which they do already, and I think they’ll just be given more of a chance.

Gerwig: I think things that would have automatically gone to guys …

Simmons: They’ll rethink that.

Gerwig: They’ll rethink it.

Ronan: Yeah!

Gerwig: They’ll be like, “Well wait, is there a woman who had a short film at Sundance who maybe could take the helm?” You know, just movies that they don’t tend to get to direct.

Ronan: Yeah. And you know what it is as well — it obviously needs to get to a point, not where it’s sort of like, “Oh, let’s get a female director, because she’s a woman. Because you know, we need to have the token female director.” They just need to open up the floodgates so that everyone has a chance to show what they can do.

Simmons: There’s probably going to be more female producers who will be looking a little more outside the box for things.

Ronan: Well, there’s friends of mine who have worked with other studios, and they’ve gone to work with some of the newer distributors, and they are high up and they’re sort of like, at the helm of it all. And that’s been great — and that’s only happened for them in the last couple of years. So I can see it shifting with people I know.

Simmons: I think for actors, giving actors a chance to direct a movie — and by actors I mean male or female — in the old days it was always the [male] actor.

Ronan: Yeah, this is the other thing, is that I’ve found that actors — especially actresses, female actors — have gotten to the point where they’re so sick of having to wait for the right role to come along, that they’re just starting up their own production companies. They’re getting producers together that they know. They’re writing their own material, they’re developing their own stuff, they’re using their own contacts, and they’re making their own stuff. So there’s a lot more actors that are becoming more hands-on, because I think people — men and women — are getting to a point where they’re sort of like … it’s very easy to sort of feel like you’re just a puppet. And people don’t quite get you, or they don’t know where to put you, or something. So I think that actors are starting to form more alliances now and make their own stuff, too.

Gerwig: I think that’s true.

Simmons: I was really worried. I mean, obviously I’m older than you guys, but I felt like things were moving towards TV the last few years, and that movies were becoming less and less interesting.

Gerwig and Ronan: Yeah.

Simmons: And I didn’t know whether it was because we’d beaten too many of the ideas into the ground, or whether TV was more fun to explore for eight episodes, versus an hour and a half. And I feel like 2017, I thought was a great movie year.

Gerwig: I agree.

Ronan: Yeah, it was.

Simmons: And I actually like just going in and out of the world of a movie for an hour-forty more than committing to, like, an 11-episode TV show. I’ve swung the other way. Like Lady Bird — I intentionally didn’t know anything. I’m with my daughter, we go in, I’m hoping it’s good. And it was awesome, and we laughed, and she was like, “Oh my god! … Should we see it [again] tomorrow?”

[Gerwig and Ronan laugh]

Simmons: I’m like no, give it a couple of… but I still think movies are going to resonate more than TV, as great as TV is.

Gerwig: I mean, it’s like a longer discussion in terms of … there’s such great work being done on television, in all forms. Like whether it’s miniseries, or episodic television, or — 

Simmons: The seven-episode [shows], it seems like that’s gonna be — like Big Little Lies, I thought was great.

Gerwig and Ronan: Yeah!

Gerwig: And also just that it’s sort of busting the form open, in terms of what it can be. What I will say, is I think there have been people in television, especially in HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon spaces, that took risks on creators who were outside of what we think of as a typical creator. And because of that, it’s been really vibrant and exciting. I think, for me, I love television, but people always ask me, “Would you write television, or would you make a television show?” And I totally would, because I think it’s amazing, but I think it’s totally separate disciplines.

Simmons: It’s a different muscle.

Gerwig: It’s a different muscle! And I think — it’s not that I can’t develop that discipline, but I feel like I’ve spent over 10 years now working in movies, and over 10 years trying to wrap my head around this form, and the way that this form works. And I feel like I’ve got a sense of it.