Why Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen Never Had to Prove Themselves to ‘Little Women’ Director Greta Gerwig

The stars of Little Women are not so little. Saoirse Ronan plays Jo March and she’s already got three Oscar nominatios. Emma Watson plays Beth March and she’s got the Harry Potter franchise behind her. Florence Pugh plays Amy March and it’s already her third movie of the year! Next year is Black Widow. Eliza Scanlen made the leap from TV’s Sharp Objects.

Emma Watson in Little Women
Emma Watson in Little Women | Wilson Webb/CTMG

That’s why writer/director Greta Gerwig did not draw out their audition processes. Instead, she used that time for rehearsals to make them a family. Gerwig spoke after a screening of Little Women and discussed how she put her cast at ease and balanced all the overlapping voices in the film. Little Women is now in theaters.

‘Little Women’ may have been the easiest auditions Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan or Florence Pugh ever had

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh probably don’t have to audition much anymore because filmmakers know their work. Most directors offer them roles. Greta Gerwig did mention auditions, but in regards to how easy she made them for her actors.

Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlan
L-R: Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen | Wilson Webb/CTMG

“Auditioning can be really scary,” Gerwig said. “I try to make it as homey as possible, particularly with Eliza or other girls coming to read for different parts. I got my friends to read the other sisters because I wanted it to feel like we’re messing about. You’re not proving anything to me. I know you’re talented. We’re just going to play with this and see how it feels because I remember. I had some dreadful auditions so I was very, very sensitive.”

The March family rehearsed for ‘Little Women’

In Little Women you’ll hear Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlan talking all at one. Even more if it’s a scene involving Laura Dern or Meryl Streep. That wasn’t actually chaos because Greta Gerwig carefully prepared all the overlapping dialogue.

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

“We did rehearse,” Gerwig said. “We had two weeks of rehearsal which was a wonderful luxury that we were able to protect thanks to one Adam Merims who was my line producer. You say you want two weeks of rehearsal and I think everyone’s like, ‘Do you?’ Yeah, I did because this script was so tightly choreographed in terms of the overlaps and all of the cacophony but it wasn’t actually messy.”

How Greta Gerwig taught Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Emma Scanlan to speak in sync

Normally, actors memorize their own lines and wait for cues from their scene partners. In Little Women, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen had to memorize when to interrupt each other.

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

“It was precisely layered,” Gerwig said. “We needed time to just work up the speed of how these lines would come and also time to get it so that it was memorized in that muscle memory where you never have to reach for your line, because at some points we have eight people talking at once. Once the cameras are rolling it’s very hard to create any real sense of safety and play because there’s so much to get through. For me, rehearsal is everything.”

Greta Gerwig gave ‘Little Women’ a modern pace

Even though Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in the 1800s, its themes are timeless. Greta Gerwig just wanted to make sure they felt as modern to the audience of 2019, so she let her actors speak the way contemporary people talk over each other.

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

“We wanted there to be this speed, this pizzicato kind of pace, this driving thing underneath it,” Gerwig said. “We didn’t want anything to feel like it was heavy or taking itself too seriously. We wanted it to be both kind of heightened but completely alive. I think just setting that at the beginning, getting everyone in that right frame of mind, it was a trip to get it all aloft.”