For many actors, landing a lead role in a Noah Baumbach film would be an unmitigated dream-come-true. But for 26-year-old Greta Gerwig, the thrill of being cast in Greenberg—Baumbach’s latest venture, in which she stars as a personal assistant who falls for a middle-aged basket case (played by Ben Stiller)—was tinged with terror and self-doubt. “The night before we started shooting, I keptthinking, ‘Oh my god, I can’t mess this up. I’ll never forgive myself if I mess up a Noah Baumbach movie,’” Gerwig says. Indeed, up to that point, the Sacramento, California, native hadn’t been involved in a film project anywhere near as high-profile—although she’s no novice to acting. Gerwig is considered something of an ingenue in the recent indie-film movement critics have dubbed “mumblecore”—the movies of which are characterized by super-low-budget production quality, improvised scripts,and themes of angst-ridden post-graduate hipster ennui. Some of Gerwig’s best-known works, including Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007) and Nights and Weekends (2008), which Gerwig co-directed with Swanberg, were shot with the general impression that no one would ever actually watch them. “It didn’t even feel like low stakes—it felt like no stakes,” says Gerwig. “We weren’t thinking, This is going to fit into the canon in this way. It wasn’t that self-aware. You make messy art when you’re young. I didn’t think anyone would see those films.” Incidentally, it was through these early films that Baumbach discovered Gerwig. (He’s even cited Hannah as a favorite movie of 2007.) Nonetheless, Gerwig—who went to Barnard College and still calls NYC home—isn’t a big five-year planner. “I’m not strategizing about my next move,” she says. “My lease is up, and they’re raising my rent. I don’t even know where I’m going to live next month. So thinking along the lines of, like, ‘I need to get my superhero franchise locked down’ seems a little premature.”
Photo: Greta Gerwig in Los Angeles, January 2010. Coat: MichaelKors. Fragrance: Very Hollywood by Michael Kors. Styling: Moses/Margaret Maldonado Agency. Hair Products: Kerastase Paris, including Vinyle Nutri-sculpt. Hair: Maranda for Kerastase Paris/www.themagnetagency.com. Makeup: Melanie Inglessis for Chanel USA/www.themagnetagency.com. Special Thanks: Siren Studios.