Ryan Gosling Addresses Working With a Female Director for the First Time

The Big Picture

  • Barbie‘s success is not only due to the star power of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, but also the talented writer-director Greta Gerwig.
  • Gerwig’s Best Director nomination for Lady Bird brought attention to the lack of opportunities for female directors in the industry.
  • Robbie and Gosling praise Gerwig’s inclusive and unique style of storytelling, highlighting the need for more female directors in blockbuster films.

There is absolutely no question that Barbie is one of the biggest hits of the summer. The film is the perfect combination of childhood nostalgia meets star power—which is the sort of lightning-in-the-bottle scenario that studios are tripping over themselves to harness. From the very first trailer, it was clear that Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling had the right brand of comedic timing and chemistry to carry the film to box office success. But it wasn’t just Barbie and Ken (and their numerous perfectly-cast variants) that signaled Barbie‘s inevitable success, it was the writer-director attached to the project: Greta Gerwig.

In Hollywood, when you hear the phrase « triple threat » it’s often referring to an actor who can act, sing, and dance, but in Gerwig’s case, she’s a triple threat in the sense that she’s an actor who is just as accomplished a screenwriter and director as she is as a performer. This may not seem like a novelty, but it is—especially for a woman in the industry. She is also a three-time Academy Award nominee, having picked up writing and directing nominations for Lady Bird, and Best Adapted Screenplay for her critically acclaimed Little Women. In 2017, when she lost to Guillermo del Toro for Best Directing, Gerwig was the only woman nominated for the category, and the first woman nominated since Kathryn Bigelow was nominated for The Hurt Locker in 2009. In fact, over the course of the 94 years that the Academy Awards have been in existence, only 7 women have been nominated for Best Director. This isn’t to say that there aren’t women directing—there are plenty of women directing incredible films every year—but their films are rarely given the same consideration as their male peers. Not to mention the fact that, in contrast to an industry that is dominated by men, there are still significantly fewer women directing films.

Gerwig’s Best Director nomination for Lady Bird actually sparked a shift in conversations across the industry about female directors. With the help of more voices joining the entertainment industry throughout the 2010s and the rise of social media, more people became aware of the fact that there was an eight-year span between a single, solitary woman being nominated for Best Director. From this conversation, a new line of questioning emerged during press junkets, specifically aimed at high-profile actors who were either known for working with primarily female directors (like Paul Mescal, who worked with three female directors at the start of his career) or those who were working with female directors for the first time.

Image via Warner Bros. 

RELATED: A ‘Barbie’ Sequel Is Already Being Discussed

Barbie marks the first time that Gosling has worked with a female director in his thirty-year career—at least officially. During Perri Nemiroff‘s interview with the star, conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike, she asked for clarification if this was the first time he had worked with a female director, and Gosling was quick to point out that he worked with Anna Boden on the 2006 feature Half Nelson. While Ryan Fleck is credited as the sole director of the film, he and Boden did write Half Nelson together. Gosling threw those credits into question by telling Nemiroff, « [Boden] was definitely the director of the film. » Gerwig may not be the first female director Gosling has worked with in a sense, but he had plenty of praise for her and her unique style of storytelling, saying:

« [S]he’s just such a brilliant person and such an inclusive person. She’s brilliant but incapable of being pretentious. I think what I admire so much about her work is she doesn’t allow herself to create a divide between drama and comedy, and she encourages everyone around her to do the same. So you end up mining places that are in the in-between. It feels very specific to her, but also something that you can relate to because it’s more like life. »

Margot Robbie, who has worked with accomplished female directors like Cathy Yan and Josie Rourke, as well as the disgraced director David O. Russell, joined the conversation to point out that she doesn’t necessarily think about whether a director is a man or a woman when she is considering working with them. Robbie explained, « If I may add on to that, when I make my list of dream directors I want to work with, I don’t divide it into dream lady directors and dream dude directors. It’s like, “Who are my top 5 dream directors?” And Greta’s on that list because she is just an incredible dream director. She is an auteur. She is gonna be the [Stanley] Kubrick of our generation, or whoever she wants to be. She’s gonna be her own thing. It’s not even about female director or not, she just is one of the greats of our generation. »

This Barbie Wants More Female Directors

Robbie’s comment about creating a list of her top 5 dream directors does spark an interesting line of thinking when you consider how few female directors there are making blockbuster features. Just looking at 2023’s robust slate alone, it’s crowded with films directed by men like James Mangold, Christopher Nolan, Christopher McQuarrie, James Gunn, Chad Stahelski, M. Night Shyamalan, Guy Ritchie, and Wes Anderson. If an actor were going to create a list of their top 5 dream directors, it’s probably going to look very similar to a list like this, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll throw someone like Gerwig, Elizabeth Banks, Eva Longoria, Catherine Hardwicke, or Celine Song into the mix—who also have films in theaters this year. Hopefully, as more actors invest their careers in female directors, more studios will invest their finances into bringing equality to the directing world. Though, given the path studios are taking as of late, none of us should hold our breaths.

Barbie is in theaters on July 21, 2023. Check out Nemiroff’s full interview with Robbie and Gosling in the player above.

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