How Greta Gerwig's Own Mother Inspired Lady Bird

Photo: Marion Curtis/Starpix/REX/Shutterstock

If you were one of many fans who thanked their mom after seeing Lady Bird, writer-director Greta Gerwig is right there with you — just for a different reason. The filmmaker and actress revealed in an essay for The New York Times that the titular character's love affair with New York City was partially inspired by Gerwig's own experiences growing up with her former Brooklynite mother.

In the movie, which in November became the best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes, Saoirse Ronan plays Christine, a.k.a. "Lady Bird," who dreams of blowing her Sacramento hometown in order to pursue life on the east coast — specifically, NYC.

Lady Bird romanticizes the city wholeheartedly, and it seems that Gerwig caught a bit of that bug from her mom. She wrote in The New York Times:

"[I] loved the crowdedness of New York City, how when it rained it seemed like the buildings were raining, not the sky. My mom held my hand tight as she walk-sprinted through the city. She was in her element here; everyone was moving as quickly as she was. She was joyfully sweaty. So was I. The Gerwig women belonged in New York."

Ultimately, Gerwig chose to attend Barnard College in Manhattan, and (spoilers!) Lady Bird ends up in the city for school as well. In fact, Gerwig's experience getting lost in NYC in order to learn the city better seems straight out of the last moments of Lady Bird.

"I realized that I was doing alone what my mom had done with me years before. Walking, walking, walking, learning the city by foot, every inch. [My mother] was the reason I believed this was the proper way to introduce myself to the city. And the city felt like my mother. New York City felt like home because it felt like her," Gerwig penned in NYT.

While it's clear to see that at least part of Lady Bird's experience was inspired by Gerwig's relationship with her mother, and their mutual love of New York, that doesn't mean the movie was entirely autobiographical. Gerwig stated in an interview with Variety that while her Sacramento upbringing certainly inspired the film, there was a great deal that was different. For one thing, she didn't rebel in quite the same way against her parents.

"So much of what Lady Bird is was this very flawed but fantasy heroine I created," Gerwig told Variety. "I was so rule-following and people-pleasing and gold-star-getting. I didn’t want to rock the boat."

Let's hope that Gerwig can thank her mom next in an Oscar acceptance speech.

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