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Greta Gerwig on Writing ‘Barbie’ for Ryan Gosling and Watching Kingsley Ben-Adir ‘Ascend the Throne’ in His Final Scene: ‘Get This to Whoever Is Making James Bond’

There may not be a funnier moment on screen this year than when Ryan Gosling yells “sublime!” off-screen in Greta Gerwig’s billion-dollar box office smash “Barbie.”

That’s why Variety Awards Circuit Podcast had a pressing question that needed answering from the filmmaker herself: Who gets the credit for this brilliant moment?

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“Ryan had the idea of [Ken] having a private moment that she [Barbie] can hear,” Gerwig reveals. “Because, of course, there’s no walls or privacy in Barbie Land. And then I will give myself credit, I came up with ‘sublime.’ I kept thinking, what’s the funniest word? I kept going back to ‘sublime.’ It’s the oddest word. But I let him do lots of things, because, why not? He did some very long sentences that he screamed. One was ‘Finally! My rainbow after the storm!’”

There are countless admirable and brilliant moments just like that throughout the Warner Bros. meta-comedy. On this episode of the award-winning Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, Gerwig breaks down how this movie has changed her life. In addition, she talks about what a “Barbie” sequel could look like and where she is in her upcoming adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” for Netflix.

But first, we remember the life and career of the late “Friends” star Matthew Perry on a special edition of the Roundtable. Listen below:

Aside from receiving huge box office and tremendous critical raves, “Barbie” is generating tons of Oscar buzz. The film is projected to land multiple noms, including best picture, director and original screenplay for Gerwig, and acting noms for stars Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and America Ferrera.

Gerwig could have never predicted the engagement and response to her movie, which of course was inspired by the famous Mattel doll. “It just happened,” she says. “Nobody told anyone to wear pink. It just happened on its own. I think it corresponded with some need. People had to be together and experience something communally.”

Seeing audiences dressing up to watch the movie brought Gerwig back to her childhood, expecially when she saw “Titanic” (1997). She recalls her reaction to that film: “I had to be carried out because I was crying so hard.”

It took some time to get her writing (and real-life) partner, Oscar-nominee Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale” and “Marriage Story”) on board to pen the screenplay with her. The pair had written two feature films together, “Mistress America” and “Frances Ha.” When Robbie asked her to write the script after acquiring the rights through her production company, LuckyChap, Gerwig immediately wanted to write it with Baumbach. However, as she laughingly recalls, “Noah did not have that same feeling. His feeling was, ‘Why would you? Why would we do that?’”

Nevertheless, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when movie theaters were closed and everything looked grim, the duo found love and laughs in constructing the hilarious and moving story. “We had to go for broke,” she says. “There’s already no movies [in the world], so let’s do something totally outrageous. I wasn’t even set to direct it, so in addition to ‘going for broke,’ we were like, ‘they’ll never make it, but if they do, this is somebody else’s problem.’”

But then at some point, Gerwig realized she wanted it to be her problem. When she began to see how special and funny the story was becoming, she remembers saying to herself, “No one else can direct it. I have to direct it.”

That free spirit and love for the movies has been embedded in Gerwig throughout her life, even when I met her in Oct. 2017 at the Middleburg Film Festival as she was on the circuit for her solo directorial debut, “Lady Bird.” She earned two Oscar noms for the comedy: directing and original screenplay. Gerwig loves the Oscars, and during our conversations, we geeked out about the past Oscar ceremonies.

Noteworthy: Gerwig’s favorite Oscars opener is Bernadette Peters performing a version of “Putting It Together” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” at the 1994 show hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. She still has the same enthusiasm for the show today. “Going back to my childhood, I would dress up to watch the Academy Awards every year in a ballgown from a secondhand store.”

We predict she’ll need a new ballgown for this upcoming ceremony in March, especially after hearing her gush over her actors, and the process of bringing their characters to life.

Gerwig knew she wanted Gosling, even writing his name in the screenplay when penning it. “It felt like fantasy baseball in a way. I thought I was writing it for Ryan Gosling, even though I don’t know Ryan and have never met him, but I imagined him in it. When I say ‘we wrote this for you,’ I mean literally. It’s not a line.”

When Gosling first got a look at his footage while returning to do ADR in post-production, Gerwig says he watched his performance with “almost a sense of, ‘I can’t believe I did that.’”

She knew she had something special, praising his work in the last scene between Robbie and Gosling in the bedroom. She calls it “the most wonderful acting, outrageous commitment and pathos within the matrix of anarchic comedy that I’ve ever seen.”

British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir may have had a small role as “Basketball Ken,” but he also made an indelible impression, coming up with the idea of “holding too many things” in his hand. Moreover, his hilarious scene, where he turns around to address the crowd at the film’s end, was created with one piece of direction from Gerwig: “Ascend the throne.”

He replied, “Got it.”

“Everybody’s jaws dropped,” she says. “I was like, get this footage to whoever is making James Bond immediately.”

An excellent idea, indeed.

Many other notions were discovered while writing and shooting “Barbie,” including America Ferrera’s real-life husband, Ryan Piers Williams. Ferrera plays Gloria, a Mattel employee who’s married to the nameless “El Esposo de Gloria,” a loving white man who continuously practices his Spanish, something Williams does regularly.

The Emmy-winning actress of “Ugly Betty” made her most significant contribution in the now heavily quoted monologue about women’s roles, smartly adding the line” always be grateful.” Ferrera created “something embroidered with her own experiences,” the filmmaker says. And she did just that.


Matthew Perry - Chandler Bing - Friends
Matthew Perry - Chandler Bing - Friends

The loss of “Friends” star Matthew Perry has rippled through Hollywood and longtime fans of the hit series. The five Variety podcast hosts come together to share our own love and personal experiences growing up with his Chandler Bing. As Emily Longeretta penned in her beautiful tribute, she wrote: “…I could turn to Chandler. He was sincere, honest and sensitive. Although he was positioned as the funny one of the group, Perry molded him into the heart of the series.”

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.

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