Greta Gerwig loves Debra Winger, 'Lola Versus'

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"Lola Versus" has given Greta Gerwig total recall of turning 30 -- even though she's still a couple of years shy of the milestone.

"I've got a while to go before I actually turn 30, so I was hoping that I could be more elegant about turning 30, given that I've gone through it fictionally. ... In a way, it makes me relieved. I've already experienced it."

In "Lola Versus" she turns 29 and, later, 30 and moves from being in a relationship to engaged and then, suddenly, single. The audience sees the aftermath of Luke (Joel Kinnaman) breaking up with fiancee Lola but doesn't witness the carnage. The wedding, after all, is just three weeks away when Luke bows out.

"We filmed a very long, intricate breakup scene and ended up not using it," Ms. Gerwig said in a phone call to the Post-Gazette.

"That became not as interesting as acknowledging that it happened. I think the way they handled it was actually great. I'm glad it is the way that it is where he looks at her and then you just know. Even if you don't know what's said, breakups are shockingly similar."

As is often the case, someone ends up sobbing in the bathroom.

Ms. Gerwig didn't have to look far for examples of short-lived serious relationships. Her brother and his wife each had brief, unsuccessful marriages before they found each other.

"The relationship that was huge in your 20s all of a sudden, when you reach the end of your 20s and beginning of your 30s, it just sort of falls apart. I think that's very common, regardless of whether or not you actually go through the marriage."

"Lola Versus," playing at AMC-Loews at the Waterfront, allowed Ms. Gerwig to spend time with Debra Winger, nominated for an Oscar for "Terms of Endearment" the year the rising star was born. Ms. Winger portrays Lola's mother, a restaurateur in New York.

"I love Debra. She's great. She wears a backpack and I wear a backpack and that makes me feel really good about continuing to wear a backpack even though I'm in my late 20s," she said, sounding like a character from a movie and then adding, "It's kind of a New York thing."

The actresses hung out, ate, drank tea and talked. "She told me a lot about her life and acting. We just pow-wowed pretty hard core, and she's really smart and interesting and obviously hugely talented. All of that was very exciting and helpful."

While the 57-year-old, who famously played a factory worker to Richard Gere's "An Officer and a Gentleman," didn't dispense any particular career advice, Ms. Gerwig said, "She does, in some ways, lead by example. She does really special projects. She doesn't do everything that comes her way. I think that in this day and age of everyone's kind of overexposed, that's a very special thing."

In 2010, as "Greenberg" was being released, The New York Times suggested "Ms. Gerwig, most likely without intending to be anything of the kind, may well be the definitive screen actress of her generation." A magna cum laude graduate of Barnard College who also is a writer and director, she already has a Woody Allen movie, "To Rome With Love" under her belt.

At the time of the interview, she had not seen the finished movie but said, "I loved working with Woody Allen. He's one of my favorite film directors and writers. It was a dream come true."

She plays the girlfriend of an architecture student (Jesse Eisenberg) who is nervous when a man-magnet friend (Ellen Page) breaks up with her boyfriend and comes to Rome for a change of scenery. "To Rome With Love" is scheduled to open July 6 in Pittsburgh.

"I have a very comfortable level of recognizability, and I think most of the time I don't really get recognized, which is nice. I think there's a certain kind of crazy fame which seems like it is more of a prison than anything else," she said.

"Being recognized for the work you do is kind of the best," and if people feel as if they know her or relate to her, that means she connected with the audience. Sometimes that means playing a character who's in a less than flattering light.

"I didn't want to specifically humiliate this character [in "Lola"] but I don't have a lot of vanity when it comes to actually acting," she said. Ms. Gerwig doesn't think about whether she's likable or looks good or comes across as smart.

"I just give over to whatever the film requires. Sometimes, when I watch it, I think, 'Oh God, why didn't I care more?' I think ultimately, it's the way I prefer to be."

And while actors shed roles in all sorts of ways, Ms. Gerwig tends to like a haircut.

"It feel like I'm letting go of something but each one is very different and it doesn't ever feel like you let go of the movie entirely. It just kind of gets subsumed under other stuff," she said, until she has to revisit the role and movie when it's released.

"You feel different from the person who made the movie, so it's kind of like a surreal experience -- in one way, you think, 'I can't take credit for that, I don't remember the person who did all those things,' but then also you think, 'You can't blame me for that. I wouldn't do that now.' "

Although she might be the definitive actress of her generation, she likes toggling between movies large and small. "In my world, actually, 'Lola' is like a big movie. I've made movies for $3,000, literally. For me, this is on the bigger end."



Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published July 1, 2012 4:00 AM


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