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All four March sisters — Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen — turned out for the world premiere of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women on Saturday night, along with additional castmembers Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet and Tracy Letts. However, much of the focus was on Gerwig herself, who both wrote and directed the eighth film adaptation of the 1868 novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott.
Be it the many praising her vision on the red carpet or Chalamet randomly shouting “Greta!” during the introduction of the film, everyone was in admiration of what Gerwig had created; a project that she described as “very personal.”
“This book has meant so much to me my whole life. It was the book that made me believe I could be a writer and be a director and dream big and be ambitious and be all the things that I hoped I would be,” Gerwig said. “So in making this movie, so much of it was part of trying to give that back to people — for the next group.”
As for the cast’s relationship with Alcott’s novel, most explained reading Little Women as children, only to gain a fresh perspective after returning to as an adult.
“I remember it being this full and catastrophic household of all these amazing women, and then of course as you get older you realize the stories that these women are actually trying to tell you, and the things that they have to decide to do, and the things that they have to lose in order to have security,” Pugh, who plays Amy March, told The Hollywood Reporter. “Coming at it from an older perspective — and for example, I do earn my own money now — this story is so important to tell it correctly because these women didn’t have that in their era.”
Dern, the March girls’ mother, known as “Marmee,” described Gerwig’s adaptation as a reflection of not only the Civil War era, but also Alcott’s own life story — something that certainly makes sense when you learn that Gerwig drew most of the screenplay’s inspiration from the author’s letters, diaries and other books.
That said, Gerwig’s Little Women also takes a slew of creative liberties, many of which put a contemporary spin on Alcott’s novel.
“This is a story — I mean, it’s a period piece, but you’re not kidding me — this thing is set in 2019,” said Letts, who plays the tough publisher Ronan’s Jo has to deal with.
Ronan’s iteration of the self-professed “rebel” that is Jo March brings about much of the modernity Letts is describing, but it’s Amy, portrayed by Pugh, that appears more multidimensional than ever before.
“From the get-go, Greta wanted to create a reason for Amy to develop and to have a moment to explain herself and to become the woman that she is in the book,” Pugh said. “Coming to that as an actor, that’s amazing. I had an opportunity to re-create how people feel about this character. For so many years and for so many adaptions, people have hated her because she the person that burns the book and the girl that gets the guy. And it’s a wonderful moment to be given the opportunity to, I suppose, change the face of Amy.”
The “guy” is, of course, the March girls’ next-door neighbor, Laurie. Though he famously doesn’t marry Jo, most of the Chalamet-played character’s attention is dedicated to her throughout the story. There’s a palpable chemistry between Chalamet and Ronan due in part to their having worked together before, and on Gerwig’s solo directorial debut nonetheless.
Letts was also a part of Lady Bird, where he played Ronan’s father. He explained that he built on this initial relationship to play opposite her again.
“The relationship here is very different, and yet the guy has a genuine affection for the person on the other side of the desk,” Letts said. “So that’s not something I had to work for with Saoirse — she’s so damn lovable.”
Little Women hits theaters Christmas day.
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