Greta Gerwig is trying to find a picture of Diane Keaton on her iPhone.
“I like the way her hair is,” she says with her eyes still focused intently on the screen in her hand. “I always get overdone for events and so I’m trying to look myself. I wanted to find a good example of Diane Keaton hair because she just had simple hair. It was never like, ‘wooosh,'” she says, making a big sweeping motion over her head.
As one might guess, spending time with Gerwig feels much like visiting with an old friend. Her calm, open demeanor is disarmingly familiar. It’s telling that of all people, she’s trying for Diane Keaton’s ‘do — as the two seem to have kinship for playing fidgety, awkwardly charming women.
Known for her roles in tiny indie films and, more recently, in broader releases like “Greenberg” and “No Strings Attached,” Gerwig is currently promoting “Damsels in Distress,” which was written and directed by Whit Stillman after his 12-year sabbatical from filmmaking. She plays a fussy college coed, convinced that her campus would be a better place if everyone would tap dance, wear perfume and shower more often. She’s not wrong, really.
And though Gerwig and her character, Violet, don’t have too much in common, they do share strong emotional and olfactory connections.
“When I got to high school, every boy wore Polo Sport to all the dances,” she enthuses. “To this day, Polo Sport still is one of my favorite smells because you never have crushes as intense as you have in high school and the smell of Polo Sport — it’s kind of gross — I love it.”
And if you’re looking to befriend Gerwig, there’s one go-to scent that will reel her in.
“All the girls wore Clinique Happy — and there was something about the way that that smelled — even today if I meet a girl who is wearing Clinique Happy, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, she’s really cool,'” Gerwig says, dead serious. “It has something to do with, ‘All the cool girls wear Clinique Happy.’ These scents stay with us.”
Gerwig on comparisons between directors Whit Stillman and Noah Baumbach
“Directors are like their own mini dictators. Dictators are never psyched when people say ‘your country is sort of like this other country.’ I think they’re more like, ‘our country is our own country.’ But they’re similar directors in some ways. They’re both very specific about their scripts — they want all their words said exactly as they wrote them. They do not want you to improvise. And they are tireless in terms of getting exactly the kind of performance that they want.”