Why Greta Gerwig refused to cut this pivotal Barbie scene: ‘Heart of the movie’

Greta Gerwig on saving the bench scene from being cut.

Barbie filmmaker Greta Gerwig has recalled how she stood her ground when studio executives wanted a pivotal scene removed from the film.

If there’s any filmmaker who anyone knows how to write a nuanced depiction of womanhood, it’s Greta Gerwig. From Ladybird to Little Women, the Academy Award-nominated director has moved cinema goers all over the world with her beautiful, character-driven stories – and Barbie, her latest creation, is no exception.

Inspired by Mattel’s iconic doll, Gerwig’s live-action Barbie adaptation starring Margot Robbie as “stereotypical” Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken enjoyed a historic opening weekend at the box office. Not only did fans praise Barbie for its high-camp energy and spectacular visuals, but the film also struck a chord with its poignant exploration of what it means to be a modern woman fighting for autonomy under the patriarchy.

The film features many impactful moments such as human Gloria’s (America Ferrera) powerful speech on the contradictions of being the “perfect” woman, and Ruth Handler’s (Rhea Pearlman) tearjerking reflections on what it means to be human. But perhaps no scene is more striking than when Barbie meets an elderly woman on a bench and tells her that she’s beautiful.

In the film, “stereotypical” Barbie goes to the Real World to figure out why her perfect pink-hued Barbie Land life has been abruptly been derailed by the emergence of flat feet, cellulite and irrepressible thoughts of death. Upon her arrival, though, the living doll is upset to discover that in the human world, women are not viewed as equal to men.

After stopping to rest on a bus stop bench, Barbie turns to an elderly woman sitting beside her and remarks on her beauty – to which the old woman hilariously responds that she’s well aware of it.

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Gerwig explained to Rolling Stone that she faced pressure from studio executives to cut the scene as it didn’t add to the plot.

“I love that scene so much,” Gerwig told the publication. “And the older woman on the bench is the [91-year-old] costume designer Ann Roth. She’s a legend. It’s a cul-de-sac of a moment, in a way – it doesn’t lead anywhere.”

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“In early cuts, looking at the movie, it was suggested, ‘Well, you could cut it, and actually, the story would move on just the same’,” she said. “And I said, ‘If I cut the scene, I don’t know what this movie is about’.”

For Gerwig, the scene was a “key moment” on Barbie’s journey of self-acceptance, and she stood her ground to make sure it made the final cut.

“That’s how I saw it,” Gerwig added. “To me, this is the heart of the movie. The way Margot plays that moment is so gentle and so unforced.”

Although many fans have shared their surprise at other “outrageous” moments that made it past Mattel and Warner Bros during the making of the film, Gerwig went on to explain that it’s this particular scene that she couldn’t believe got the green light.

“The part that I can’t believe that is still in the movie is this little cul-de-sac that doesn’t lead anywhere – except for, it’s the heart of the movie,” she concluded.

Barbie is in cinemas now.

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