Barbie director Greta Gerwig says she stood in the back of screenings to see audience reactions

Although Greta Gerwig has a pretty good idea of her film’s reception now, at the time of release, she hid in screenings to watch the audience.

Barbie was an interesting beast from the start. The popularity of the toy would make it seem obvious that a movie adaptation would be a major hit. There had even been Barbie-related media released in the past, including video games dating back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System and animated features that would be released directly to video. However, when a Barbie live-action film was finally given the big screen treatment, heavyweights in dramatic cinema like Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling curiously got involved.

In reflection of the summer phenomenon, Greta Gerwig spoke at the BFI London Film Festival on Sunday, where she revealed her experience of gauging the audience’s reaction at a screening of Barbie when the film first opened. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gerwig told the audience, “I went around to different theaters and sort of stood in the back, and would then also turn up the volume if I felt it wasn’t playing at the perfect level.” At one of the screenings she attended, she recalled hearing a woman’s laughter at a specific reference to Proust Barbie, “And I was like: ‘That joke was for you!’”

The movie went on to be the year’s biggest hit, and understandably, it was quite the overwhelming task for a filmmaker who usually dabbles in indie character dramas. Gerwig spoke about her self-doubt in creating a sequence like the “I’m Just Ken” beach battle scene. “That sequence, in particular, was just filled with choices that thrilled me and made me so happy, but then I’d be driving home at the end of the day and thinking…’Oh no!’” However, she also would glow about the set being some of “the most joyful” sets she’s ever been on. “So, I thought, if I can make a movie that is half as fun to watch as it was to make, I think maybe we’ve got a shot.”

It’s all been worth it for Gerwig, as the response to the film has been flattering, to say the least. She expounded on the feeling of the movie’s success, “It’s like this incredible sense of ‘the song that it’s in my heart is in other people’s hearts.’ It’s been incredibly moving.” So what’s next for the director? She spoke about her upcoming project, but revealed very little, “I’m in the writing process, and it’s hard because I’m having recurring nightmares.”

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