There’s finally been some movement on the live-action Barbie movie that director power couple Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach first signed onto back in 2019. That’s given fans plenty of times to wonder what, exactly, the two indie darlings behind Frances Ha, have in mind for whatever it is that goes on in Mattel’s Barbieland. And while there’s been a new wave of developments casting-wise, the most concrete info we’ve so far gotten about the plot consists of a single sentence on IMDb: “A doll living in ‘Barbieland’ is expelled for not being perfect enough and sets off on an adventure in the real world.”
Is Gerwig about to mirror the career trajectory of Chloé Zhao, who went from having a $5 million budget for Nomadland to a $200 million one for Marvel’s Eternals? Or is Barbie about to wade into the quirky waters of mumblecore? Before you place your bets, read all the answers to your questions about the film below.
Who will play Barbie and Ken?
There’s at least one aspect of the film that won’t be quirky: Gerwig, who is directing the film solo but writing it alongside Baumbach, did what most mainstream directors would do and cast two stars who don’t look too far off from Barbie and Ken in day-to-day life. With Ryan Gosling as her sidekick, Margot Robbie will bring the plastic doll to life both as actor and producer through her production company LuckyChap entertainment. “It comes with a lot of baggage!,” Robbie told British Vogue of adapting the franchise last year. “And a lot of nostalgic connections. But with that come a lot of exciting ways to attack it. People generally hear ‘Barbie’ and think, ‘I know what that movie is going to be,’ and then they hear that Greta Gerwig is writing and directing it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I don’t...’”
The plot may be unconventional, but Robbie and Gosling sure look like the traditional Barbie and Ken in the sneak peeks that Warner Bros. has shared so far. (Minus the fact that Ken has “Ken” Calvin Klein-style underwear.) And while Robbie could be mistaken for a character in, say, a ‘60s film like Mother’s Instinct, Gosling most definitely looks like a real-life plastic (though maybe not so fantastic) doll. Who knows how much time he’s spending in the hair and makeup trailer between all that self-tanner and bleach. Hey, it takes time and effort to maintain his character’s signature “Ken-ergy.” And apparently, things aren’t as perfect for the doll as they may appear. “Ken’s got no money, he’s got no job, he’s got no car, he’s got no house,” Gosling told Entertainment Tonight earlier this month. “He’s going through some stuff.”
Who else was considered for Barbie?
It’s been a long, long journey to finding the film’s director and titular star. Sony first hired former Sex and the City writer Jenny Bicks in 2014, only to hire Jennifer’s Body and Tully director Diablo Cody to rewrite the script the next year. Hillary Winston (of Happy Ending and Community) was among three writers to next take over, and by 2016, Winston made it clear this wasn’t going to be your typical Barbie narrative by casting Amy Schumer. Scheduling conflicts led Anne Hathaway to replace her, only to drop out herself. It took until 2019 for the film to settle on its current iteration, with Sony instead of Warner Bros. as the studio, Gerwig and Baumbach as the writers, and Robbie as the star.
Who rounds out the cast?
Production is clearly ramping up, because there’s been a wave of casting developments in recent weeks. Issa Rae and Michael Cera have come on board, marking their first films with Gerwig, and Will Ferrell has been confirmed to play the CEO of a company that “may or may not be Mattel.” Kate McKinnon, who also costarred with Robbie in Bombshell, will presumably take over from Amy Schumer in providing the comic relief, while America Ferrera will stay in the spotlight after joining Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto in the cast of AppleTV+’s WeCrashed. At just 14, Ariana Greenblatt will no doubt be one of the youngest on set, while Marvel star Simu Liu will be what’s starting to look like only a few men.
If you aren’t already familiar with Alexandra Shipp, it’s time to get acquainted with the 30-year-old actor. She’s fresh off her biggest role yet, as the girlfriend of Andrew Garfield’s Jonathan in Lin Manuel-Miranda’s directorial debut, Tick, Tick… Boom! Shipp was confirmed to have joined the Barbie cast on March 18, though details of her role also remain unknown.
When is Barbie’s release date?
Production has officially wrapped, putting the film on track for a July 21, 2023 premiere.
Will it be an indie film?
More likely a blockbuster. Sony doesn’t come to play with its live-action feature films based on toys, meaning that budget-wise, Gerwig is all set. If the film is anything like The Lego Movie and Transformers franchise, the crew won’t hold back when it comes to creating a real-life Barbieland.
Is there really such a thing as an auteur take on Barbie?
Long before directing I’m Not There and Carol, a then 26-year-old Todd Haynes established himself as one to watch with his short film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. The biopic documents the last 17 years of the titular singer’s life until her untimely death of anorexia nervosa—a premise that’s straightforward enough, except that the stars are Barbies instead of human beings. Carpenter’s family successfully banned it in 1990, though it still went on to become a cult classic, which still racks up views on YouTube. Suffice it to say, unlike Gerwig, Haynes did not have Mattel’s approval.
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