Greta Gerwig is not a household name — yet. But she’s about to enjoy the grandest exposure of her young career starring opposite Ben Stiller in Noah Baumbach’s new comedy, “Greenberg.”
Prior to “Greenberg,” which opened Friday, the Sacramento-born Gerwig, 25, established herself through indie dramas like “Hannah Takes the Stairs” (2007) and “Baghead” (2008).
But this is her biggest role to date, and she was pleasantly surprised when her agent called to say that Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”) wanted her to audition.
Although Gerwig planned to read only a single scene for Baumbach and screenwriting partner Jennifer Jason Leigh, her audition unexpectedly turned into a marathon, with Gerwig taking her character’s lines and Leigh performing the rest of the script in its entirety. Gerwig finished by serenading Leigh and Baumbach to the tune of “Soldier of the Heart” by Judee Sill, then crossed her fingers.
“It was very emotional for me,” she says. “I’m used to not getting parts, but I also know that when you audition, if you do a good job, people will remember you and maybe want you for something later. I thought Noah might want me for a smaller part. But I loved the script, and I was so excited to be in a position to audition for the role that I was determined to have as much fun with it as I could.”
She got the part. But her biggest shock came later.
Gerwig was surprised to learn she had made a splash on the New York Post’s salacious Page Six — accused, in so many words, of calling Americans “prudes.”
She was tickled by the brush with notoriety, but insists she was misunderstood by reporters eager to inquire about her nude scenes in “Greenberg.”
“I never said Americans were prudes,” she says. “I said they were fascinated by nudity. But I was honored to be on Page Six.
“I just thought it was a fascinating contrast. When I did the European press for ‘Greenberg,’ nobody asked me about my nude scenes. But once I got to New York, that was the first thing people wanted to talk about. It didn’t offend me. It was just different. And at the end of the day, I’m grateful just for an opportunity to be in a movie like this and get a chance to talk about it.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Chris Messina, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Written by Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Running time 1 hour 47 minutes