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Greta Gerwig fought to keep ‘I’m Just Ken’ dream ballet in ‘Barbie’

Greta Gerwig fought to keep ‘I’m Just Ken’ dream ballet in Barbie: ‘Everything in me needs this’

Let Ken be Ken.

Published on October 8, 2023

Can you feel the Kenergy? Greta Gerwig felt the Kenergy long before anyone else did, but getting it from her brain to the big screen was no small feat.

During an interview at the BFI London Film Festival, the Barbie writer-director revealed that the already beloved third act dance sequence — which makes Ryan Gosling‘s Ken the center of an elaborate dream ballet — was almost nixed from the script. Thankfully, she was able to explain to executives why it absolutely needed to happen.

“It just said in the script, ‘And then it becomes a dream ballet and they work it out through dance,'” Gerwig explained in a conversation moderated by Succession creator Jesse Armstrong. “There was a big meeting that was like, ‘Do you need this?’ And I was like, ‘Everything in me needs this.’ They were like, ‘What do you even mean? What is a dream ballet?’ And I was like, ‘A dream ballet? Where do I begin!'”

Greta Gerwig and Ryan Gosling.
Karwai Tang/WireImage; Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In Barbie, a conflict amongst the Ken’s culminates with a musical number that’s half power ballad and half battle sequence. Gerwig, who penned the script with her partner Noah Baumback, cited Singin’ in the Rain as the inspiration for the scene, crediting the musical sequences that function as “a dream ballet inside of a dream ballet.”

“I was like, ‘If people could follow that in Singing in the Rain, I think we’ll be fine. I think people will know what this is,'” she said. “Even though everything felt right to me and was giving me so much joy in the way we were doing it, it was also like, ‘Oh no, this could be just terrible, but now I’m committed.'”

Based on the numbers, that commitment paid off. Gerwig is still riding the high of her groundbreaking success with Barbie, the Margot Robbie-centric film that made more than $1 billion at the global box office, became the highest-grossing movie of the year thus far, and helped her make history as the highest-grossing film from a solo female director.

Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ryan Gosling, and Ncuti Gatwa in ‘Barbie’.
Warner Bros. Pictures

After Armstrong discussed a scene from Frances Ha, which starred Gerwig who also co-wrote, Gerwig noted how she hadn’t acted in while and doesn’t know if she “could anymore in that same way. You get into a particular zone of a writer or director.”

“I just feel out of that headspace now,” Gerwig said. “I like being in the hands of the director and giving them what they want. That’s why I’ve never acted in my films and never want to. I like giving over. I would deny the pleasure of both things if I did that.”

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