Lady Bird may be the star of this story -- a star in general, she would tell you -- but the movie is more than simply the coming-of-age of a discontented creative type. Lady Bird is equally about her rigid but devoted mom, Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf), and their alternatingly prickly, sweet relationship. "It's a mother-daughter love story," Gerwig puts it.
"We talked about it a lot, like, this is the worst moment of their relationship," she says. "And there's so much love underneath. There's a base of love, and they got on so well, Saoirse and Laurie, so it was underneath it, even if what you were seeing was conflict."
"Laurie makes you feel quite safe, as a person," Ronan jumps in. "I feel very calm and protected when she's around, so I think when you have that relationship with someone, it allows you to go to the darker places and scream and shout at them, because you know it will be fine. Actually, I think that's what Lady Bird and her mom have. They know it will be OK."
Gerwig's own mother, Christine, a nurse like Marion, was one of the first people to see the film. "They, like, loved it. They were crying and called me on speaker phone and were just, you know, very, very emotional," she recalls of showing the movie to her family. "The heart of it is real, but then they know what I made up and how much of it isn't real." When Lady Bird had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, Gerwig's mom was sitting next to her in the theater.
"There's this moment where [Lady Bird's father] Larry says to Lady Bird, 'You both have such strong personalities,'" Gerwig recalls. "And my mom goes, 'That's right! Yes!'"
Ronan's mam, Monica, who lives in Dublin where Ronan grew up, hadn't seen the movie yet at the time. "She's desperate to see it and I was going to try to get her to go see it in Ireland, but I want to see it with her," Ronan says. "Because she's going to bawl her eyes out. She's going to sob. She's going to love it."
"Oh, and also, she's bringing over a present for you," she suddenly turns to Gerwig.
"Ah! Is it cookies?"
"No," Ronan laughs. "The first time she met her, Greta was coming over because I was getting my hair done and mam had just arrived and she was like, 'I'm just going to pop out to the shops and get the guys some bits.' She comes back and she's got, like, boxes of biscuits and pub cakes and a huuuge cake. She just wants to feed everyone."
"And I ate it," Gerwig shrugs.