Over the next few months, Greta Gerwig will be taking over movie theaters, and she’s a little apprehensive about it. “I would be sick of me,” says the 28-year-old actress, who, beginning with Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress tomorrow, will be appearing in three movies througout the summer. First up will be the upscale romantic comedy Lola Versus, in which Gerwig appears in nearly every scene as a New Yorker on the verge of her thirties trying desperately to get over a breakup. After that, the Sacramento native will realize a lifelong dream when she appears in Woody Allen’s romantic fantasy, To Rome with Love. We recently caught up with Gerwig while promoting her role in Damsels as a student at a fictional New England college, to talk about breaking up with boyfriends, mutually freaking out with Rome costar Jesse Eisenberg, and maybe—just maybe—starting a family.
Congratulations on making the cover of Town & Country magazine.
The only thing that’s missing is I wish there was a horse in it. It’s a very horse magazine like, What to do with your stables in the winter. Whose problem is this, exactly? I guess people who live on Long Island. I don’t know.
I saw Lola Versus last week.
Why do you say that?
I just have not looked at it. It’s exciting, but it feels unfortunate that there’s all this stuff coming out with me right now. It just feels like there’s been a backlog of movies recently. It’s the Whit movie, and then the Woody movie, and then Lola. I would be sick of me.
I think you’re in every single scene.
There’s only one scene that I’m not in. I remember because it was a very fast shoot. We had 25 days and I was also writing a movie during that time, so I didn’t sleep a lot. I was in a very particularly crazed moment in my life and a lot of it is very hazy for me, so that’s why I’m scared of it, because sometimes it feels like you make movies—and I felt that way about Damsels, too—it just goes by so fast and you really feel like, oh God, what did I just do? That’s always what I feel like right afterwards.
It’s like once the train starts moving you’re on that fucking train, and you have to make the best of it. All shoots have good days and bad days, but I don’t think I’ve ever ended a movie and felt like, yep, nailed it. I always end it and think, Shit, am I really going to regret that? Was I horrible in it? Is it going to be horrible? I try to not care about that but it’s really hard not to care, because you’re making them—what else are you going to care about?
You live in New York, and you shot Lola and Damsels here. But you went away to shoot To Rome with Love. Do you prefer that?
That was great. I actually prefer living away from home to make a movie. Even when I’m shooting a movie in New York, I don’t really live in New York while I’m shooting them because they’re all-encompassing. You don’t really get your own life and in many ways it’s easier if you really don’t get your own life when you’re in Rome. But also, Rome. It’s a better life than my life. Living in Rome and shooting a Woody Allen movie is a very good alternate universe to slip into.
I know you were excited about working with Whit, but you’ve gone on record saying that working with Woody Allen was a lifelong dream of yours. How’d you handle that?
Not great. It was almost too much. I got so excited, but I was so scared. The best part of it was that I was mainly working with Jesse Eisenberg, and he was equally reverential towards Woody Allen, but also nervous.
When is he not nervous?
Yeah. I don’t want to oversell our friendship, but I think that we did have a very equally apprehensive period before the shoot started, and we were both kind of in awe of the whole thing. It was really hard to experience it. I felt like I didn’t do it because sometimes when you do the thing that you’ve always wanted to do, it feels like it’s not even happened to you. It feels like you blinked and you missed it because you were just so anxious the whole time. So I want to go back and do it again and relive it, but really savor it.
You’re now a Woody Allen character.
I know, forever my name will be in that font. You know that Woody Allen font? I used to watch Woody Allen movies all the time, especially in high school, and look at that font and just want my name in that font.
Let’s talk about Lola Versus again. The entire movie is basically you getting over a breakup.
It’s a lot of me. This is literally the first time that I’ve talked about Lola and I’m feeling like, Oh, god, what do I say about this one? I always freeze a little bit when I first talk about it because it doesn’t seem disconnected enough from me to talk about it. There’s a process of intellectualizing it and talking about your experience and about the movie that makes it not part of you, and I don’t have that yet, so this is the first go-around of it. It makes me nervous.
Have you ever experienced heartbreak on that level before?
I’ve never been dumped at the altar. I’ve had a number of gay boyfriends, which has been very hard.
What are you talking about?
I’ve had boyfriends who have ended up gay.
They came out of the closet after you guys broke up?
No, during. Those are not fun.
So they literally break up with you by telling you they’re gay?
Or you find them with a boy. It’s a different kind of heartbreak because there’s a lot of, What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? What’s my psychological makeup? But no, I’ve never quite had that level of heartbreak, thinking that my life was going in one direction and it ends up going another. I mean, I think part of that is that the character of Lola and the way that movie was constructed was very much someone who, in spite of living in 2012, is really depending on marriage, and I have not been that person. I’ve never been like, What I’m going to do is get married by 30 and have some kids by 35. All of my goals are like, win Pulitzer. My brother went through something really hard; he’s much more traditional than I am in terms of marriage and what he thought he wanted. It was devastating. And my sister too! Both of them had devastating, devastating breakups in their ‘20s that laid them out. I remember my sister was catatonic for months. This will make me sound crazy, but I think right now my great love is movies and I think I would be devastated if movies broke up with me.
Do you feel like the time is fast approaching to start a family?
No, aren’t women having babies into their eighties now? I don’t know! I think that there’s definitely this idea in our culture that at some point women have baby clocks that go off and you’re going to want a baby. Mine hasn’t gone off yet at all. But it’s almost like I’m anticipating it going off, but I don’t know, maybe it’ll never go off. Maybe I don’t want that. It kind of worries me a little bit, but I also don’t want to have a kid because you feel like that’s what you should do. I’m 28 and people are making life decisions.
I was surprised to learn that you’re doing The Corrections.
Yeah, but we don’t know if it’s going to get picked up.
If it does will you be a series regular?
Well, my character’s in the first season but not really beyond that at all. I would do 10 episodes.
How does that relate to the book in terms of structure? Does it ever veer off the course of the book?
No, it never veers off the course of the book in terms of what happens, but there are things that are expanded upon. Something in the book that would say, “the science fair,” they expand what the science fair was but they don’t invent new things, if that makes sense. And it was done with Jonathan Franzen and it’s not autobiographical but it is influenced by his life, so he had very clear ideas about it.
Get Obsessed. This and more in the Obsessed issue, out now!