‘Little Women’: Why Greta Gerwig HAD to Remake This Movie When She Turned 30

There have been many films based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, from silent films in 1917 and 1918, with sound in 1933, 1949 and 1978 and with Winona Ryder in 1994.  Another Little Women made it to theaters in 2018, but writer/director Greta Gerwig made the newest adaptation for Christmas 2019.

Greta Gerwig | Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Releasing UK

As a director, Little Women is Gerwig’s follow-up to the acclaimed Lady Bird. Lady Bird star Saoirse Ronan plays Jo March. Emma Watson is Meg, Florence Pugh is Amy and Eliza Scanlen is Beth. Gerwig spoke at a Q&A following a screening of Little Women, now in theaters, and we’ll have more with Gerwig over the holidays. 

‘Little Women’ was a fixture of Greta Gerwig’s childhood

Greta Gerwig first fell in love with Little Women as a little woman herself. 

“As a lot of people, I grew up with this book,” Gerwig said. ‘It was my book. It was the one that I lived through and I loved. I had read it and read it again and again when I was young and then I actually didn’t read it for 14, 15 years.”

We may have Little Women to thank for Lady Bird too.

Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig | Eric Charbonneau

“Particularly the character of Jo March, I don’t know if I was like Jo March and that’s why I loved her, or I loved Jo March and then I tried to make myself like her,” Gerwig said. “In any case, she was the first character that made me want to be a writer and want to make things.”

Reading ‘Little Women’ at age 30 was a revelation

After putting Little Women down for about a decade and a half, Greta Gerwig’s adult reading of the book was her most pivotal.

Little Women
L-R: Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh | Wilson Webb/CTMG

“I read it again when I turned 30 and I couldn’t believe how, to be honest, how strange it was and how kind of amazingly modern it was. It seems like some of the lines to me felt like they were written in neon. Like Amy’s line, ‘I want to be great or nothing’ or Marmee saying, ‘I’m angry almost every single day of my life.’ It felt like it was just right there in front of me. I felt like I could touch it, what the movie would be.”

Greta Gerwig, Little Women screening 11/23/19

How Greta Gerwig made sure she got to make the movie

Greta Gerwig wrote and directed her first movie, Nights and Weekends, in 2008. Lady Bird came in 2017 but she was already making moves on Little Women.

Little Women
Top: Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern Middle: Eliza Scanlen Bottom: Florence Pugh and Emma Watson | Wilson Webb/CTMG

“I happened to hear that Amy Pascal and the folks at Sony were maybe interested in doing this. I hadn’t directed Lady Bird yet but I got a meeting, I was like, ‘You have to hire me to write and direct this.’ They were like, ‘Who are you?’ Through a miracle, they did actually hire me to write it. So I wrote a few drafts and then I went and directed Lady Bird. Then I came back and then they said, ‘Would you like to direct it?’ and I was like, ‘Ah, I’ve been waiting for this.’”

Greta Gerwig, Little Women screening 11/23/19

‘Little Women’ was as fulfilling as Greta Gerwig expected it to be

With Little Women completed, Gerwig got to realize everything the book always meant to her.

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women
Saoirse Ronan in Little Women | Wilson Webb/CTMG

“To me, it was so many things. The heart of the story is always the heart of the story. It’s about these women who are too big for the world that they’re in but also were the people who showed us how to get where we are and where we’re going. It’s about authorship, it’s about art, it’s about money, it’s about women and it’s about how all those things intersect. I just had a very clear sense of making something that was both honoring the thing as such and also doing something different with it.”

Greta Gerwig, Little Women screening 11/23/19