WCBE

Not My Job: We Quiz 'Lady Bird' Director Greta Gerwig On Female Birds

Dec 2, 2017
Originally published on December 2, 2017 11:59 am

Greta Gerwig was already an acclaimed actor and screenwriter, famous for movies like Frances Ha. But now she's written and directed Lady Bird, already a huge hit and the best-reviewed film ever on Rotten Tomatoes. The whole awkward outsider thing is going to be a challenge to keep up after winning an Oscar.

Her new film is about a fierce young woman who calls herself "Lady Bird," so we thought we'd ask her about actual female birds.

Click the audio link above to see how she does.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where somebody does something really difficult and, as a reward, gets to try something much easier. It's called Not My Job.

So Greta Gerwig was already an acclaimed actor and screenwriter, famous for movies like "Frances Ha." But now she has written and directed the film "Lady Bird," already a huge hit and the best-reviewed film ever on Rotten Tomatoes.

(APPLAUSE)

LUKE BURBANK: Wow.

SAGAL: It's true. So we're thinking this whole awkward outsider persona's going to be a challenge to keep up after winning an Oscar.

Greta Gerwig, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

GRETA GERWIG: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So this has been an exciting couple of weeks. Your movie opened and has been hugely acclaimed. And it's very popular, and you've been all over the country. And how are you doing?

GERWIG: I'm great. I'm ecstatic. This has been the most amazing thing that's ever really happened to me.

SAGAL: So you grew up in Sacramento, Calif...

GERWIG: That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...Where you went to a Catholic high school...

GERWIG: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...Graduating in the early 2000s.

GERWIG: Yeah.

SAGAL: The movie is about a quirky, artistically minded young woman...

GERWIG: Yes.

SAGAL: ...Who's in Sacramento in the early 2000s going to a Catholic high school...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Where did you ever come up with that?

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: It's my florid imagination.

SAGAL: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: No, Actually, it's - I mean, Sacramento is me and where I'm from. And I love it. But actually, I was the kind of the opposite of Lady Bird. I was...

SAGAL: Really?

GERWIG: Yeah. Well, there are similarities. But in a way, I sort of invented this heroine that I had no ability to be.

SAGAL: Did you ever, for example, hurl yourself out of a car in the middle of an argument with your mother?

GERWIG: The car was just idling. It was not...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So wait a minute...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...The case you are making that this is in no way an autobiographical film...

GERWIG: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Is, unlike the character in the movie who throws herself out of a moving car in the midst of an argument with her mother...

GERWIG: These are very important...

SAGAL: Very different.

GERWIG: ...Distinctions.

SAGAL: In your case...

GERWIG: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...When you hurled yourself out of the car in the middle of an argument with your mother, the car was only idling.

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: Yes, yes.

SAGAL: But was it moving?

GERWIG: No, it wasn't moving. We were...

SAGAL: Well, that would be crazy.

GERWIG: Yeah. We were...

SAGAL: Yeah.

GERWIG: And I just exited the car. You know...

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: I didn't hurl myself. I just stepped out.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And how interesting would that be?

GERWIG: It's not as good. It's not as cinematic.

SAGAL: One of the best things - or at least fascinating things to me in the movie is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother because they both fight all the time and they adore each other. And they're able to go from one to the other like that, which is both completely bizarre and utterly believable - which is an achievement on your part. And so I have to ask...

GERWIG: Yeah?

SAGAL: ...Is that or was that your relationship with your mother?

GERWIG: No. I mean, we had - my mother is different than the character that Laurie plays, as I was different from Lady Bird. But we had...

SAGAL: For example, the character in the movie is driving the car...

GERWIG: Yes.

SAGAL: ...While your mother...

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: Exactly.

SAGAL: ...Still had it in park - totally different.

BURBANK: Comes down to speed.

GERWIG: Exactly. No. But we did have - we were very gifted at both being able to really yell at each other and then get over it right away. We did have that. And I would realize that everyone around us would be sort of traumatized. And we were, like - oh, no, we're fine. This is great. This is what we do.

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: We fight like that, and then we're fine.

SAGAL: Has your mother - I assume your mother has seen the film.

GERWIG: Oh, yeah. She's seen it six times.

SAGAL: Yeah?

GERWIG: Yeah. She loves it.

SAGAL: Has she ever, you know, congratulated you and been so proud of you and then say - was I that mean to you?

GERWIG: No, no - 'cause she knows more than anyone else which parts of it are made up and which parts of it are real. And she knew that I was creating something that was, like, based on something true but, also, it became fictional.

SAGAL: And do you know what you're going to do next? I mean, I know it's a terrible thing to ask. You've just finished this. It's out in the world.

GERWIG: Yeah, direct another picture.

SAGAL: Yeah. You know, one of the things that happens, it seems, is that young, talented independent directors who make a successful movie in a low budget are immediately handed enormous Hollywood blockbusters. Have you picked yours?

GERWIG: Oh, my enormous Hollywood blockbuster (laughter)?

SAGAL: Yeah. The big, like - what's your comic book?

BURBANK: "Lady Bird: Ragnarok"?

GERWIG: Yeah, "Ragnarok."

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: Exactly. No, I have not picked my blockbuster. That hasn't happened yet.

SAGAL: Yeah.

GERWIG: But get ready.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Greta Gerwig, we are so happy to talk to you at this time. But we have also invited you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: Polly Want a Cracker?

SAGAL: So your movie is about a fierce, young woman. And she calls herself Lady Bird, so we thought we'd ask you about real lady birds.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You could probably see that coming. Right?

GERWIG: What does that mean?

SAGAL: Well, this is what it means...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We're going to ask you these three questions about female birds - actual birds...

GERWIG: OK.

SAGAL: ...Actual female birds. You answer 2 out of 3 correctly, you'll win our prize - the voice of any of us on the voicemail of one of our listeners. Bill, who is Greta Gerwig playing for?

KURTIS: Paula Menges of Seattle, Wash.

SAGAL: There you are.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So here's your first question. The female hedge sparrow has an interesting mating behavior. Before it mates with a male hedge sparrow, she does what? A, she demands the male give her a garment of leaves that takes four days to make; B, she, quote, "talks with the male's prior female partners to see if it's a decent bird"...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, she hides another male hedge sparrow in the bushes nearby and then invites him over when the first bird leaves.

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: Oh, I guess I'll go with C?

SAGAL: Yeah, that's the one. Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

GERWIG: OK.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: This is what the hedge sparrow does. The hedge sparrow hides its, like, guy on the side in the bushes, does it with No. 1. He goes away. She calls out the side guy she hid. They do it, then she calls back the first one.

GERWIG: Oh, man.

HARI KONDABOLU: A literal side chick.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Exactly. All right, next question - female birds are attracted to males in various ways including, of course, we know about plumages, like the peacock; dances. But the female palm cockatoo of Australia chooses the mate who performs the best what? A, the best drum solo; B, the best juggling act; or C, the best comedy routine.

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: A, drum solo?

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: That's exactly right.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: The male palm cuckoo - excuse me - the male palm cockatoo bites off a bit of branch and then drums it against the tree trunk until the female shows up who likes the sound.

GERWIG: Wow.

SAGAL: Yeah.

NEGIN FARSAD: Same.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Last question - maybe the most clever female bird is the cuckoo, which does what? A, famously invented a clock...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, she puts her eggs in another bird's nest so somebody else has to raise them while she enjoys herself; or C, she stays single her whole life, so she can really enjoy herself.

(LAUGHTER)

GERWIG: I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: That's right, Greta.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Cuckoo birds put their eggs in another bird's nest, and then they go clubbing. It's a great evolutionary strategy.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: How did Greta Gerwig do on our quiz?

KURTIS: She got the trifecta for God's sake - she got them all right.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Congratulations. Greta Gerwig has been the star and co-writer of the movies "Frances Ha" and "Mistress America." But she is the writer and director who made "Lady Bird," which is in theaters right now.

Greta Gerwig, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT.

(APPLAUSE)

GERWIG: Thank you.

SAGAL: Greta Gerwig, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEATHER REPORT SONG, "BIRDLAND")

SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill bedazzles his rhymes in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.