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Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig in Lola Versus

The Hot Seat: Greta Gerwig

The indie darling moves into the spotlight.


RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews

In Lola Versus, someone proposes marriage to your character in a very odd way. What’s the weirdest proposal you’ve heard of?
One of my friends got married last summer. It wasn’t the proposal that was weird—it was that her boyfriend kept asking her to marry him, and she kept turning him down. [Laughs] Not like, “We’re going to break up”; she just said, “No, we’re not getting married.” She continuously turned him down for, like, a year and a half. And finally they were really drunk and she just turned to him and was like, “Fine. Fine. I’ll marry you. Whatever.” Then she called me and said, “Ugh. So I finally decided to marry him.” And I said, “No! You have to get excited!”

Much of the movie deals with being single in New York. Do you think it’s harder to be a single woman in NYC compared with other cities?
I do. I think there are so many beautiful women in New York. There are more beautiful women than beautiful men. Because of that, the competition is fierce out there. Everybody’s gorgeous and interesting and smart and funny and talented. Not only do you have to find the right person; you have to find someone who wants to be in a relationship.

You’re a New Yorker yourself. Do you think you’ll make the move to L.A.?
I’d never move from New York. I love it. For my whole life I wanted to live in New York, and when I went to college I got to move [here]. I love walking. I love public transportation. I love seasons. I love the way that it will never quite be whitewashed. It’s not like the ’70s, but it does have a history and a feeling beneath it. I just can’t believe I get to call myself a New Yorker. It makes me seem so much cooler than I actually am.

You do some full-on physical comedy in Lola Versus. What was the most enjoyable scene for you?
I loved doing the strip club scene [in which Lola drunkenly attempts to pole dance]. That was really, really fun for me. I like things that are shot wide anyway—big scenes where you see the whole person and get to fall or do something funny. I feel like I kind of act with my whole body, so those scenes are particularly useful for me, because I really get to live through my whole body and not just with my face and my voice.

Given your adoration of NYC, was it intimidating to be cast in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love?
That was tremendously exciting. I really can’t believe it. Woody Allen is, of course, a huge part of my love of New York. The primary people I acted with were Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and Alec Baldwin, and I adore them. Jesse, Ellen and I were so freaked out that we were in a Woody Allen movie that we tried to support each other. And then Alec is an old pro. But I think it was a bit surreal for all of us.

You have a reputation for sinking your teeth into the characters you play. I read, for instance, that you become a personal assistant in L.A. to prepare for your role in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg.
Yeah, I did. I really got a sense of the city; I think people wear cities on their bodies and faces. And L.A.’s a driving city, not a walking city. That just influences the way you feel. It’s more isolated. There’s a sadness to L.A. I mean, New York has a lot of anxiety but not a lot of sadness in that way. Tapping into that and being a personal assistant and kind of getting into that rhythm…I don’t always have the opportunity to work like that.

Do you consider yourself a Method actor?
No, I don’t consider that I have any one particular way of going about things. An acting teacher of mine in college described [acting] as building [with a] toolbox. Not every tool works every time. And depending on what the project is, you’ll need different stuff. So it serves you best to have a big toolbox. Then you can kind of keep them clean and usable and keep your skill level up, and you know which one to go for. It’s important to keep pushing forward, because otherwise you end up just imitating yourself, which is the opposite of good acting. In some ways it’s more difficult if you’re rewarded, because then you feel like, Oh gosh. I really nailed something this time. It’s a cliché, but you really learn the most when things go wrong.

You’ve become something of a crush for indie-film fans. Does that creep you out at all?
No, I think that’s great. [Laughs] I’m incredibly flattered because I don’t think I’m particularly…I’m not Megan Fox. It’s nice to know that people like a girl who’s not perfect. And I think that I’m very lucky to be [working at] a point in time when a lot of leading ladies are not looking like what people think of as leading ladies. Ten years ago, I might have felt like, Well, I really should get all toned. But now I feel like there’s such a wide spread of ages and types and shapes.

Lola Versus opens Fri 8. To Rome with Love opens June 22.

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