Greta Gerwig on the Pivotal ‘Little Women’ Scene Laura Dern Helped Inspire

One of the things that makes Great Gerwig such a phenomenal director is her ability to choose actors who understand her point of view, and who have the intellectual rigor to collaborate with her. “Lady Bird” cemented her director/muse relationship with Saoirse Ronan, introduced the world to the wonder that is Beanie Feldstein, and allowed Laurie Metcalf to strut her dramatic acting chops all the way to an Oscar nomination. In “Little Women,” she got to work with a dream actor for any cinephile: Laura Dern.

The actress is in the middle of a monumental year, with a scene-stealing supporting role as a cutthroat Los Angeles divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story,” directed by Gerwig’s partner Noah Baumbach, as well as taking on the iconic role of Marmee in Gerwig’s upcoming “Little Women” adaptation. During a recent taping in New York City, the two women sat down for an intimate and humorous conversation surveying Dern’s impressive oeuvre as part of the newly re-vamped season of “Inside the Actors Studio.”

In the exclusive clip below, Gerwig thanks Dern for her collaborative nature, illustrating the vitality of working with smart actors.

“When I was re-reading the book […] I was shocked by how many lines just stood out to me,” Gerwig said. “And one of the lines that stood out to me was Marmee saying, ‘I’m angry every day of my life.’ Because that’s not how you think of Marmee; you don’t think of Marmee as an angry person. And I saw in my mind’s eye you and Saoirse just sitting together, just talking, like exactly how the scene is, and you saying that line, and then it came to pass.”

Gerwig then explains how Dern’s exhaustive research, which included combing through letters written by “Little Women” author Louisa May Alcott’s actual mother, factored into the script.

“What was so incredible was that you brought in your research […] that letter that Louisa May Alcott’s mother wrote to her where she says, ‘There are some natures too noble to curb and too lofty to bend, and so is my Louisa.’ And it was that collaboration that allowed us to get to that point, and that scene wouldn’t be what it is if you hadn’t given me that.”

“Inside the Actors Studio — Greta Gerwig Interviews Laura Dern” airs Sunday, November 17 at 10 p.m. ET on Ovation TV. Check out the exclusive clip below.

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