Greta Gerwig On The Stunning Success Of ‘Barbie’ And Her Unabashed Love For Sly Stallone

It’s kind of an odd thing to talk to someone on a day her life has changed. To the point, there’s some guilt, like, why is she wasting precious moments talking to me? But Friday, Greta Gerwig’s life had sure changed as Barbie, a movie that was supposed to do well at the box office, did much better than well. Gerwig becomes only the second woman to direct a movie that made more than $100 million at the box office on opening weekend.

In Barbie — you know, that movie that turned out to be a cultural sensation — Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) travel to “the real world.” While there, Ken sees multiple pictures of Sylvester Stallone, causing Ken to reevaluate his life and question what a “real man” really even is.

Well, it turns out director Greta Gerwig — who, when we spoke this past Friday, was in a really good mood in the wake of the box office reports — is a huge Sylvester Stallone fan. So much so that, at one point, we had moved on to another subject, but she had more to say about Sly. And you know what? Greta Gerwig can talk about Sylvester Stallone as much as she wants. So, yes, ahead, if you’ve ever wanted to read a very happy Greta Gerwig’s thoughts on Sylvester Stallone … well, today is your lucky day.

How are you doing?

Good, how are you?

Yeah, I bet you’re good.

[Laughing] Yeah…

I don’t know if anyone’s told you yet, but you know how your movie was supposed to do really well? It’s doing even better than really well.

Honestly, I’m experiencing everything in real time and it is sort of mind-boggling. But it’s incredible because I’m also in New York City and yesterday I started jumping around to theaters and turning up the volume at different show times. I was like, “I think we can add a DB. Let’s just keep going.” But yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. Obviously, I’m here in New York City, but I’m like, “Oh, it’s everywhere.” How fabulous and strange.

Speaking of everywhere, a friend of mine who lives in Turkey was tweeting how he went to the theater and everyone was dressed up in Barbie apparel.

Oh my God, that’s unbelievable. Oh, that’s very moving. Yeah, again, I’m just extremely overwhelmed in the best way.

I feel like today is a life-changing day for you and I feel incredibly guilty that you have to spend minutes of it even talking to me at all.

No! I’m so happy to talk to you! I’m so happy to have something to do besides just spinning off into outer space.

How did they let you make this? Because half the time I was watching this I was thinking, “How did Mattel agree to this?” If I run a toy company I probably have some reservations.

Well, the truth is, I am not totally sure how this happened and how they let me do this. It was some amazing confluence of events and a ripple in the universe that allowed it to slip through. I think that the script that Noah and I originally turned in is very like the movie you see. But it was so wild and so anarchic that I almost think it was the sense of, “I don’t even know where to start.” I think it created a sense of maybe they instantly felt like, “Since we can’t figure out where to start with this, maybe she should just make it.”

So the truth is, I don’t know. But there were certainly meetings and different things. But at the end of the day, it all happened. And I think there were definitely moments on set where with everyone in the cast, it was a feeling of, “Oh, we’ve got to drive it like we stole it because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if anybody realizes that we’re doing this, maybe they’ll make us stop.”

I think even down to things like … we did do the whole dream ballet, which in the script, it just said, “And then it becomes a dream ballet with all the Kens.” I don’t think anybody really knew what that was going to be at all and it sort of emerged in a way. And I’m so grateful that it was able to happen in a way that it did, but I couldn’t account for the fact that it did happen.

I just imagine there had to be a phone call at some point where someone at Mattel was like, “We have some notes on Will Ferrell’s CEO of Mattel character.”

[Laughs] Oh, there were some notes.

I bet there were some notes.

There were some notes. To give total credit where it’s due, I mean, I think having Margot Robbie as a producer, she was incredible in standing in front of it all the time and protecting the movie and protecting the process, which was huge. And then as it sort of gathered steam in terms of collaborators. And this is where the actors that signed on, the designers that signed on, our cinematographer, that it was almost like it built this collective will to do it this way. And she was kind of the first line of that, saying, “I want to do it like this.” And then everyone had such excitement about doing it this way, that it was sort of … I mean, in any case, it ended up coming to pass. And then I do have to say the actual CEO at Mattel, Ynon (Kreiz), is incredibly brave, and he doesn’t lead with fear and he gave us creative freedom.

Once Noah and I had the script and once I said I’d like to direct, he essentially took this tactic of, “She believes in it, I believe in it.” Which, I mean, that’s just amazing. And it’s not that there weren’t lots of notes from different people at different points, but he was incredibly, almost biblically, trusting.

Here’s my guess. And it might have happened already. The lots of people with lots of notes you heard from? I’m going to guess after this weekend you will get a lot of, “Look, we believed in you the whole time. Never a doubt.”

[Laughs] Listen, I’ll take it! That’s perfect. I’m happy to hear that.

You know who I think is really going to like this movie?


Sylvester Stallone.

Oh, I hope so! Because everything that we have, or that we reference, in the movie is only ever stuff that we love. And I mean, I love Sylvester Stallone.

Oh, I do too.

And I love all those Rocky movies. I love him a lot. So it was a really early thing, actually. When Ryan Gosling and I were texting a lot, we kind of both stumbled upon our mutual love of Sly Stallone. And then we were talking about his look in the ‘70s and how terrific it was. And he really adorned himself as a man. And we thought, “Well, that’s a good place to start.” I mean, there are just sort of fabulous images of him, particularly in the Rockys.

After Barbie, I bought a Rocky t-shirt. Sly has his own online store.

I really hope that money went right into his pocket.

I have a feeling it did. I’d pay $3,000 to sit next to him in the theater and watch him watch Barbie. I think he would be smiling.

Well, I hope he does, because the tribute is all love.

During the scene when the Barbies have to rescue the still hypnotized Barbies…

Sorry, just for one second to go back to Sylvester?

We can talk about Sly as much as you want.

I always want to return to it. But another thing we were looking at was also, obviously, great song-and-dance man of the ’70s, John Travolta. And also Sly Stallone directing John Travolta in Staying Alive.

Oh gosh I just watched that again a few months ago.


It is.

There were so many touch points to Sylvester Stallone, even when he wasn’t onscreen. So anyway, that’s it.

I love in Staying Alive where he and John Travolta bump into get each other on the street.

Yeah! The best. The best. And also, I don’t know, there are so many things, but between Rocky and Rocky II … I love Rocky movies…

Oh, I do too.

I mean, there are so many things.

I just watched the Rocky marathon on 4th of July. I’ve just seen them all.

Oh, oh … when it goes from Rocky to Rocky II, and they’re sort of figuring out sequels? And the idea that Rocky II just starts immediately where Rocky ends is so amazing.

And we see the end of Rocky I again. Then it immediately just goes into Rocky II

Yes! Immediately! And then they cut to the ambulance and we’re watching the ambulance go through, there’s another … I’m going to forget what it was, but they passed by a movie marquee that has another Stallone movie on it.

I will find that before this publishes. (I did rewatch the beginning of Rocky II, and the marquee seems to belong to an adult film theater. Which doesn’t technically rule out a Stallone movie.)

One thing I also really love about the Rocky movies is they’re inventing the kind of movies they are as they’re going. It’s almost like in Rocky, it’s like you feel them discover how great a training montage is. And they’re like, “Wait a minute, this is amazing.”

Rocky IV is just one long training montage.

The best! But I do think that sort of gleeful discovery was another thing that we wanted to sort of imbue this movie with, that sort of quality of stumbling upon it and being like, “Wait a minute, we can run with this.”

So what you’re saying is when they come to you, “Let’s make Barbie 2?” It’s going to start right where this left off.

No, it’s going to start with her and Sylvester Stallone.

You know what? I think there is a 50-50 shot Sly is in the sequel to this. I truly believe that.

You never know! Or that he’s going to direct it.

That’s what you’ve got to look out for. He does have a history of taking over movies he’s in from directors. Don’t let him take it away from you.

I mean, he’s welcome to it. It would be an honor. It would be such an honor.

I’m going to let you go because I know you’re having maybe one of the busiest days of your life.

I know. I’m sorry I hijacked this with Sly, but I really do think we both love him. It’s real.

Oh, I knew it wasn’t a joke in Barbie. The way you do that scene, it’s just like, “Oh man, Greta loves Sly.”

Yes! Yes. I definitely do. I mean, yeah, like, “Adrian. If you wouldn’t mind marrying me a little bit,” I think about that all the time.

Oh, before you go, you mentioned Rocky II… You know what’s crazy about Rocky II? Every iconic scene that you think is from Rocky is actually in Rocky II.

It’s true! You’re right! It’s sort of like how you realize everything you think about the Bible is actually from Milton. Maybe not the same comparison, but…

I think we can go there. Him running up the stairs, “Yo, Adrian, we did it,” the montage where he’s running through Philadelphia. All Rocky II.

I’ll tell you one more Rocky thing.


Because Noah grew up in Brooklyn, he saw all the Rocky movies in the theater at the time. I think it was Rocky’s III. But whatever it was, it was the moment where Adrian was like, “No, Rocky, don’t fight. Don’t do it.” And then Noah said it was his favorite audience participation moment. Some guy just stood up in front of him and just yelled at the screen, “Fuck you, Adrian. Fuck you.”

Oh God.

And everyone in the audience jeered and they were like, “Let him fight!”

Well, you know what? She knew that Clubber Lang was bad news and he was probably going to lose because he wasn’t taking it seriously.

She was ahead of it! She was ahead of it.

Anyway, this is my favorite interview I’ve ever done.

Okay, great. Great. Well, me too. You’re the only one I’ve talked Sly with. I’m so happy to.

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