Greta Gerwig Changed Beanie Feldstein’s Life and Career

The Big Picture

Welcome to a new episode of Collider Ladies Night with
Drive-Away Dolls
star, Beanie Feldstein.

Drive-Away Dolls
follows Jamie and Marian, two friends in search of a fresh start who take an impromptu road trip. Things go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals who want the illicit cargo that’s secretly stashed in their drive-away car.
During the conversation, Feldstein explains why working with Greta Gerwig on
Lady Bird
changed her life and her career.

As you’ll hear in this edition of Collider Ladies Night, Beanie Feldstein is a favorite. She’s a hugely talented individual, with a deep passion for the craft of acting who heavily values the opportunity to create with good people. There’s no doubt a good deal of that was in her from the start, but in revisiting her filmography in celebration of the release of her latest film, Drive-Away Dolls, it becomes abundantly clear that Feldstein is able to stand tall, deliver big and use her voice to change this industry for the better because she’s been well encouraged and supported by some of the best out there.

Feldstein plays Sukie Shankleman in Tricia Cooke and Ethan Coen’s Drive-Away Dolls. Fresh out of a relationship with Margaret Qualley’s Jamie, Sukie is on the warpath. She’s a no-nonsense cop who isn’t about to let Jamie get away with breaking her heart. When Jamie and Geraldine Viswanathan’s Marian get mixed up with some criminals while road tripping to Tallahassee, Sukie has no problem giving the goons the information they need to put them hot on Jamie and Marian’s trail.

Drive-Away Dolls

Jamie regrets her breakup with her girlfriend, while Marian needs to relax. In search of a fresh start, they embark on an unexpected road trip to Tallahassee, but things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals.

Release Date February 23, 2024

Director Ethan Coen

Runtime 84 minutes

Collider Ladies Night interviews are meant to be career-spanning conversations touching on as many titles as possible. In Feldstein’s case, however, the interview often came back to one specific film, which is a beautiful thing. Feldstein told me, “Lady Bird changed my whole life and career.”

The game-changing quality of the Lady Bird experience didn’t begin when Feldstein hit that set, but rather, well before filming — during the casting process. In fact, Feldstein still calls her Lady Bird audition, “the best audition I’ve ever had in my entire life.” She explained:

“I auditioned for Lady Bird in New York. It was the amazing team that cast for The Public Theater in partnership with Alison Jones who is a legendary casting director. And so they were casting east coast, she was casting west coast. I went in across from The Public to their studio. It was just the two of them and Greta, and Greta read Lady Bird’s lines and I read Julie’s lines. Greta was like, ‘Do you ever do musicals? Have you done musicals? There’s a musical component to the role.’ There’s a play within the movie. I was kind of nervous and shy, and it was Greta Gerwig, and I was like, ‘Um, I …,’ and kind of stumbled, and Jordan [Thaler] and Heidi [Griffiths] jumped in and they were like, ‘Beanie’s auditioned for us before and she she can do it.’ And Greta was like, ‘Oh, great! Can we do the next scene?’ And then we moved on and did the other scenes, and I remember just thinking, all I need to do is listen to Greta and she’ll set the tone of what she wants me to do. And
that was the best audition I’ve ever had in my entire life, the only time that I’ve ever left feeling like I did the best I can do and now it’s in the universe’s hands.

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Beanie Feldstein on Greta Gerwig: “She Is a Singular Human Being”

As we now know, that audition scored Feldstein the role of Julie, Lady Bird’s (Saoirse Ronan) best friend. She’d go on to be surrounded by some of the brightest young stars in the business including Ronan, Lucas Hedges, Kathryn Newton and Timothée Chalamet while under the direction of someone who’d go on to score four Oscar nominations and direct the movie that’d wind up becoming the highest grossing film ever from a female director.

Lady Bird may have been Gerwig’s feature directorial debut, but the writing was on the wall. Feldstein immediately knew Gerwig had an incredibly bright future ahead of her.

“I remember Lucas Hedges looking at me when we were filming and he goes,
‘We get to say we were in Greta’s directorial debut,’ and we both just kind of sat with it. We were so young. I have chills even now thinking about it.
She is a singular human being and you know that when you meet her just as a person and when you get to know her and love her, but to witness her on set is to create an environment that no one else is capable of, and it was evident from our first day.”

Seven years after release, the Lady Bird experience isn’t just a bunch of fond memories for Feldstein to look back on. She credits the film with changing her life.

“If you think of your life as a timeline, I’m a very visual person, and, you know, you think of moments that have changed your life,
in my career I think that Lady Bird is the biggest sort of etch on the timeline of just changing my whole life
. And again, Greta just is the best. She just did something that she shouldn’t have been capable of doing with the time and the money, and she made it such a sacred space. Who directs in a prom dress other than Greta Gerwig? You know what I mean? She got in there with us and danced with us and cried with us and laughed with us and was just very much unafraid to be herself in that process of directing.”

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Beanie Feldstein Calls Sarah Paulson “One of the Single Most Brilliant People I’ve Ever Been Around”

Image via FX

Little did Feldstein know at the time, she’d continue to cross paths with game-changing forces in film and television, forces who deliver next-level work themselves and inspire others in the process.

While answering a Ladies Night favorite, a question calling for an actor with a different approach to the work who inspired her to adapt and try something new, Feldstein instantly knew who she wanted to highlight, her Impeachment: American Crime Story co-star, Sarah Paulson.

“I know the adapting because she and I laugh about this all the time, which is Sarah Catharine Paulson.
Paulson is relentless in her quest for authenticity and is one of the single most brilliant people I’ve ever been around.
Also one of the best friends you could ever have in your life. And I think that she pushed me in thousands of ways to be better and more in process. And I’d never done anything like that before so I felt so out of my league and to have her sort of by my side, even though the characters are not by each other’s sides, and to witness her process was so different from my own, but so incredible.”

In addition to finding a stellar creative partner and friend in Paulson on the set of Impeachment, Feldstein also credits that production with helping her find the power of her voice as a leader and as a producer in this business.

“I think on Impeachment, the stakes were just so immensely high. Monica is a person who is living, who was a part of our project, who is a dear friend of mine, and I desperately wanted to rewrite her story for people and re-present her to the world in a light that hopefully is different than they might have assumed or digested at the time. And there were moments in that process — we were contending with pre-vaccine COVID and all of these things, but there was a moment when they wanted to switch the schedule, or they had to try to switch the schedule, and
I really fought for a scene to not be moved up in order to give it the prep that it deserved for her
, and I felt like that was a moment where I was like, ‘This is a worthy use of …’ because I’m not like Sukie in Drive-Away Dolls. I’m normally like, ‘Okay, whenever you want,’ but I had to fight for her through this decision, and that was a moment when I was like, that was a worthy reason to stand.”

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Beanie Feldstein Paves the Way for Women in Comedy with ‘Drive-Away Dolls,’ ‘Booksmart’ & More

Image via Focus Features

Should Feldstein continue to stand up for her roles and for her projects, and I’m certain she will, everyone wins. She wins as a singular artist and the specific project will be better off for it, but that passion and dedication will undoubtedly have a ripple effect and inspire others, just like Gerwig and Paulson did for her.

In fact, earlier in the conversation, Feldstein pinpointed Bridesmaids as a hugely influential film that contributed to her enthusiasm to become a professional actor. “Often in comedies, especially when I was growing up, the women roles were like, nagging wife or angsty daughter. They didn’t have their own comedic style or enough time to develop it.” She added, “Those women changed my life with that movie.”

Feldstein is still only at the beginning of her career, but I am certain she’s had a similar effect on a number of aspiring performers out there through her own work, especially with films like Lady Bird, How to Build a Girl and, of course, one of my favorites of 2019, Booksmart. When I said as much to Feldstein, she replied:

“That makes me want to cry. I saw Bridesmaids the last month of my senior year of high school, so I felt like it was that moment in that time that we go into in Booksmart, you know? That final chapter of high school, Bridesmaids defined that for me.
Kaitlyn and I get too emotional thinking about people watching it at sleepovers and then we just start crying.

Image via Annapurna Pictures

I hope Feldstein is ready for many more happy tears to come because not only will Booksmart continue to inspire, but Drive-Away Dolls looks to have a similar impact. This industry needs more delightfully bonkers, high-energy queer comedies that dazzle as the filmmakers unapologetically craft a ride that’s uniquely their own. Because Drive-Away Dolls exists, others will believe they can do the same.

Looking for even more from my Collider Ladies Night conversation with Feldstein? You can watch the full chat in the video at the top of this article or you can listen to it in podcast form below.

Drive-Away Dolls is now playing in theaters in the U.S. Click below for showtimes.

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