Barbie‘s America Ferrera says that this morning, she was “a little bit in shock,” in good and bad ways. The good was receiving her first Oscar nomination, in the category of Supporting Actress, which felt “surreal and incredible”; the bad, being the fact that Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the visionaries behind the groundbreaking blockbuster, were snubbed, in the categories of Directing and Best Actress, respectively.
“They’re my girls, and I want to see their incredible, amazing work celebrated. They made history, they set a new bar,” Ferrera told Deadline. “They not only broke box office records, but made something that resonated around the globe, and the impact of what they made is, and will continue to be felt in our culture. I think I join a lot of people in wanting to see them acknowledged for that.”
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To Ferrera, what made Barbie such a unicorn of a project was how unexpected it was, starting with producer-star Margot Robbie’s decision to approach Greta Gerwig to serve as co-writer and director. ” I think right from that moment, people got interested in what Greta’s mind as a filmmaker would do with Barbie, and she just assembled incredible artist after incredible artist, in front of the camera and behind the camera, to bring her vision to life,” said the actress. “The script was so funny and subversive and irreverent, but also dared to really have a heart and a message.”
The movie was made, she says, with an “unabashed joy” and a “generous spirit of storytelling” that she thinks audiences can feel, as well as a great deal of courage. By leading into an unexpected examination of what it means to be human through the journey of a plastic doll, Ferrera finds, Gerwig wound up creating something of great meaning that elicited an unusual kind of catharsis.
“It’s such an incredible, incredibly fun and surprising journey to go on, to come back around and realize that the movie was about us all along, and about the beauty of life, and life worth living. I feel like that’s how great movies make me feel,” said Ferrera. “When I’ve watched a great movie, I feel more excited about not just what’s possible in storytelling, but also what’s possible in life, and I feel like that is what Greta accomplished with this movie.”
But to create a film of such substance, that’s encouraged “countless young women, men, and non-binary people” to express themselves “fully, as [they] are,” and to turn it into “a record-breaking global cultural phenomenon” was, in Ferrera’s mind, the ultimate “magic trick.”
Making history this year as the highest-grossing film in the history of Warner Bros, as well as the highest from a solo female director, at a worldwide take exceeding $1.4B, Barbie sees Robbie playing the “stereotypical” version of the Mattel doll, who comes to suffer an existential crisis after traveling from Barbie Land into the real world with new beau, Ken (Ryan Gosling). There, she comes to discover, via Ferrera’s Mattel employee Gloria, the distinct set of challenges that women in modern society face.
Barbie scored eight Oscar nominations this morning in total, including in the category of Best Picture. Notching two noms in the category of Music (Original Song), as well as a Supporting Actor nom for Gosling, the pic also was recognized in the areas of Adapted Screenplay, Production Design and Costume Design.
Even while being snubbed in the Directing category, Gerwig found multiple ways of making history as this morning’s Oscar nominations were announced. Joining Anatomy of a Fall‘s Justine Triet and Past Lives‘ Celine Song in bringing the ceremony the most Best Picture nominations from female filmmakers it’s ever seen in a single year, she’s also now become the first filmmaker ever to have their first three solo efforts be nominated for Best Picture. Ferrera said the improvement of representation of female directors in Best Picture is “as it should be,” though she’d like to see “even more” in contention. “Why not five? Why not 10?” she wondered. “That is very exciting, and all I can say is more of it, please, more of all different kinds of voices.”
Perhaps her own voice will be among those acknowledged in that category in the near future, as she’s currently gearing up to direct her first feature, an adaptation of Erika Sánchez’s #1 New York Times bestseller, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Ferrera has been practicing the craft of directing going all the way back to middle school and got her first professional experience behind the camera on her NBC sitcom Superstore, as well as the show Gentefied, which she exec produced for Netflix.
She loves the feeling of “firing on all creative cylinders at once,” and shares that she’s “so inspired” to get on set, “especially after getting to witness Greta take on this incredible thing.” From the moment she read Sánchez’s book, she was committed to the idea of adapting it for the screen. She “was just stunned with the perspective of it,” she says, “and this young Latina’s voice that felt so unique in the landscape of how our stories get told.”
At this year’s Academy Awards, Ferrera’s fellow contenders for Best Supporting Actress will include Emily Blunt (Oppenheimer), Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple), Jodie Foster (Nyad) and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers). The ceremony is set to take place on March 10th.
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