Were we ever so young as when we thought that Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach secretly having a baby together was a surprise? Now, three months later, a much more shocking development about the cinematic power couple has come to light: Their next long-awaited collaboration, which comes on the heels of fan favorites Mistress America and Frances Ha, will be none other than Warner Bros.’s upcoming film adaptation of Barbie, starring Margot Robbie.
It almost goes without saying, but Barbie is quite the departure from the pair’s usual projects (aka small-scale, indie-esque films that are invariably described as “quirky”). As with Frances Ha, Gerwig and Baumbach are set to cowrite the script. Gerwig, who was nominated in the Best Director catagory at the Oscars for 2017’s Lady Bird and is currently working on an adaptation of Little Women, is also rumored to direct. And Twitter users are set to continue having a field day; “Barbie Ha,” “Lady ‘Barbara’ Bird,” and “Even Littler Women,” are just several of the title suggestions for “mumblecore Barbie” that have poured in so far.
Production may not have even started, but the Barbie film already has quite the long history, which began in April of 2014 when Sony announced that it had approached Mattel with the intentions to make a live-action barbie movie—and, according to a source, an “unexpected, clever, and truly funny” one at that. With Amy Schumer and Diablo Cody confirmed to star in and write the film, respectively, that seemed not only doable, but promising. Or at least it did, until Schumer dropped out from the film in 2017, and Cody followed just over a year later, at which point the film was pushed back until 2020. As it turned out, Cody was never as attached to the film as initially thought. As she put it in April of 2018, almost exactly four years after the film was announced: “Dude, I never even produced an initial draft. I failed so hard at that project. I was literally incapable of writing a Barbie script. God knows I tried.”
So, are Gerwig and Baumbach now also doomed with an impossible task? It’s not as bad as Cody makes it sound. Let’s step back a few decades, back to when Barbie was still in her (late) twenties; in 1987, the then 26-year-old director Todd Haynes made cinematic history 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 it stars 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.)
Even today, buzzy, up-and-coming directors are still turning to Barbie. Earlier this year, Olivia Wilde made her directorial debut with the critically acclaimed film Booksmart, which primarily stars real-life actors Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever. In one scene, however, their bodies are replaced: It’s only after they’ve transformed into Barbie-like versions of a farmer and an orthodontist that their characters realize they accidentally ingested ayahuasca. “These proportions are insane! Where is my chub?,” Molly (Feldstein) asks, horrified. Amy (Dever), on the other hand, surprises herself by taking a liking to her newfound “perfect, round, huge mounds.”
Whether or not Gerwig and Baumbach decide to go the animated route, there’s at least one place where their storyline might find success: the subculture haven that is Tumblr, where devotees to the Netflix’s Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, a series about Barbie’s life trapped in an “artificially intelligent closet,” have found a thriving home.
Celebrating Barbie’s Best Fashion Collaborations, In Honor of Her 60th Birthday
A Barbie doll wearing Jean Paul Gaultier, taken in Paris on May 24 1985. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Gianmaria Buccellati Barbie doll dressed in Michael Kors on display at the Georges V Hotel, on December 18, 2003 in Paris, France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
One of a selection of Barbie Dolls dressed by leading figures of the art and fashion world were unveiled to celebrate Barbie’s 40th anniversary year. This outfit was designed by Escada. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Barbie doll wearing Moschino displayed at a preview of the exhibiton “Barbie – the Icon” at Palazzo Albergati on May 17, 2016 in Bologna, Italy. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Anna Sui Barbie attends Anna Sui Fall 2006 Fashion Show at The Tent at Bryant Park on February 8, 2006 in New York. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Detail of the ‘New Look’ costume by Christian Dior, made by Mattel in 1947. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Barbie wearing a dress designed by Céline. Fashion designers celebrate Barbie’s 45th Birthday on March 9, 2004 in Paris, France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Barbie wears a Vera Wang gown. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Barbie doll dressed up in a creation of designer Elie Saab is displayed on April 6, 2009 in Paris during the “Barbie Fashion show 2009,” an exhibition dedicated to the world’s most famous toy, that took place at the Galeries Lafayette store to celebrate her 50th birthday. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Barbie wears clothes by designer Hervé Léger in Paris on January 1, 1989. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Barbie doll from the collection of Barbie aficionado Billy Boy wears an outfit by designer Thierry Mugler. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Barbie doll from the collection of Barbie aficionado Billy Boy wears an outfit designed by Christian Dior. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Barbie Dolls wearing limited edition dresses from Versus by Versace in 2004. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Barbie doll from the collection of Barbie aficionado Billy Boy wears an outfit designed by Paco Rabanne in 1985. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Karl Lagerfeld Barbie on display during a preview of the exhibition “Barbie – the Icon” at Palazzo Albergati on May 17, 2016 in Bologna, Italy. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A wax Barbie doll is on display at the Musee Grevin in Paris. The doll is wearing a dress by Christian Dior designer Gianfranco Ferre. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Barbie wears an Alexander McQueen outfit to celebrate her 40th anniversary. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Miley Cyrus attends Jeremy Scott & Moschino Party with Barbie dressed in Moschino on December 4, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Barbie wearing an outfit designed by Stella McCartney for the doll’s 40th anniversary. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Cynthia Rowley Barbie Doll during Cynthia Rowley Barbie Doll Launch at FAO Schwartz in New York City, New York. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Barbie doll wearing Juicy Couture is displayed at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street to celebrate Barbie’s 50th anniversary on February 12, 2009 in New York City. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Barbie doll is displayed at the “Treasures from Mattel’s Vault” exhibit at the Hyatt Regency during a Barbie Convention event in Los Angeles, CA on July 27, 2006. The series included dolls that were dressed by costume designer Bob Mackie. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Designer Bob Mackie with the new Lady Liberty Barbie Doll he designed in 2000. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A Cindy Crawford Barbie wears a dress designed by Roberto Cavalli and created by The Barbie Collectibles Team for the 10th Anniversary Dream Halloween Los Angeles Fundraising Event. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Barbie dolls wearing clothes by designer Yves Saint Laurent, taken in Paris on January 1989. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.