Wednesday 26 September 2018

‘She ran across the room and jumped into my arms’ – Beanie Feldstein on bonding with Lady Bird bestie Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird and Julie in Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird and Julie in Lady Bird
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

While Saoirse Ronan earned a well-deserved Oscar nod for her performance in Lady Bird, the actress who played her on-screen bestie still managed to steal a scene or two.

Although she has been acting since childhood, American actress Beanie Feldstein (24) had only appeared on the big screen once before – in Bad Neighbours 2 – but her portrayal of Julie is pitch perfect and, in a movie crammed with perfectly drawn relationships, the teenage friendship between herself and Lady Bird is one of the most authentic in recent big screen memory.

The film, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, is set in Sacremento in 2002 and charts Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson's struggle to make her way in the world.  As well as Saoirse's Oscar nod it earned four more - for screenplay, directing, film and supporting actress (Laurie Metcalfe, who plays Lady Bird's mother).

Saoirse and Beanie have wonderful chemistry on screen and Beanie tells Independent.ie that they shared the same chemistry in real life, from the moment of their first meeting over bagels at director Greta Gerwig’s apartment.

2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals - Santa Monica, California, U.S., 03/03/2018 - Actresses Saoirse Ronan (L) and Beanie Feldstein. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals - Santa Monica, California, U.S., 03/03/2018 - Actresses Saoirse Ronan (L) and Beanie Feldstein. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

“Anyone that is lucky enough to meet Saoirse would know instantly what I’m talking about when I say she is truly the warmest person you’ll ever meet,” says Beanie, whose full name is Elizabeth Feldstein (Beanie is a nickname bestowed upon her by a nanny when she was a child).

“I was so nervous [to meet her] because I was such a huge fan of hers – of all of all of them [co-stars Timothee Chalamet and Lucas Hedges were also present] really – but I knew July and Lady Bird’s relationship was so important so I was so nervous to meet her.

“I walked in and she jumped into my arms, literally ran across the room and jumped into my arms and said, ‘I’m so excited to meet you, I’m so excited to do this’ and we’re both really affectionate, warm people and we have the same sense of humour too which I think is really crucial because we made each other laugh so much.”

She agrees that kind of on-screen chemistry “can’t be falsified” so it was a relief to hit it off with her co-star, who she adds is “hilarious”, with “an incredible sense of timing”.

2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals - Santa Monica, California, U.S., 03/03/2018 - Actresses Saoirse Ronan (L) and Beanie Feldstein. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals - Santa Monica, California, U.S., 03/03/2018 - Actresses Saoirse Ronan (L) and Beanie Feldstein. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Since they were playing school girls attending a Catholic school, they had to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States as well as the Hail Mary for morning assembly scenes. 

“I taught her the Pledge of Allegiance,” reveals Beanie.  “I’m Jewish, I didn’t go to Catholic school.  I’m not Catholic and she’s not American so we had to teach each other those two things, which was very funny.”

Beanie Feldstein
Beanie Feldstein

Although Lady Bird is clearly a stand-alone work, Beanie jokes that she would “play a tree in the background” if she had the opportunity to work with either Greta or Saoirse again.  The reaction to the film has been overwhelming.

“We could never have anticipated people’s reactions to the film and all of the love that it was given,” says Beanie, “I didn’t even expect to be in film!  So it feels very surreal to me and I’m unbelievably grateful to be a part of something I truly loved and am so immensely proud of.”

However, her first reading of the script told her it was going to be something special.

“Even before I got to Julie in the script, I remember reading that first scene between [Lady Bird’s mother] Marion and Lady Bird in the car and feeling like I had never read a scene like that ever, or seen a film like that in a film and knowing that Greta had created something poignant and special.”

*WARNING: MILD SPOILER: That scene sees Lady Bird and her mother argue to the point where Lady Bird opens the car door and throws herself onto the road.  Although few of us would resort to such dramatic gestures, most daughters can relate to their dynamic on some level.

“I was lucky enough to go the Vanity Fair Oscar party and I took my mom and our car ride to that party we were laughing and bickering and literally just playing that scene out,” laughs Beanie.

“I’m so close to my mom and she’s truly the most incredible woman and nothing like Marion but what Greta has done is created something so universal that even though I’m not Lady Bird and my mom is nothing like Marion the space between them is so true to almost every mother and daughter I’ve talked to.

“And I’ve talked to so many women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who say to me, ‘I know I’m a mother, but I also felt like the daughter in many ways watching that’ so that was meaningful too.”

Beanie, whose older brother Jonah Hill is also an actor, was snapped up to perform on Broadway in Hello Dolly opposite Bette Midler following her performance in Lady Bird.

“I remember when they announced, maybe a year in advance of the show, that [Bette Midler] was coming back to Broadway to do Dolly and I tweeted like, ‘ this is the best day of my life, Bette Midler is coming back to play Dolly in Hello Dolly!’” recalls Beanie.

“And then I found myself in a rehearsal room with her in the production.  It was surreal.  She’s a firecracker.  She’s the hardest working person I’ve ever seen in my life.  She doesn’t sit down.  She doesn’t take a break.  She’s 72 years old!

“All of us in our 20s were dancing and glugging water and she was like, ‘We’re going again!’.  She literally never sits down.  She is a lesson in hard work and she is the definition of stage presence.  I’ve never seen someone own a stage the way Bette Midler does.”

Lady Bird will arrive on DVD & Blu-ray on 29 June.

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