Greta Gerwig fought studio execs who wanted to cut the 'Barbie' scene with the old woman.

Greta Gerwig Had To Fight To Keep A Small But Important Barbie Scene

“To me, this is the heart of the movie.”

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Life in plastic may be fantastic, but the real world is a bit more nuanced. That’s at the core of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie, in which each small moment feels perfectly sculpted to highlight the struggles and joys of being a woman. At first, the struggles seem much more apparent, but an early scene in the movie captures an extremely powerful exchange between Barbie and her first real connection with a human. It’s a scene that Gerwig revealed was nearly cut from Barbie, but she was able to stop studio execs from deleting it by advocating for the interaction as “the heart of the movie.”

Spoiler alert: This post contains light spoilers from the beginning of Barbie. The moment in question arrives right after Barbie and Ken first enter the real world. Though Ken immediately thrives, Barbie is uncomfortable, and overcome with new emotions as she witnesses feelings of anger, sadness, and even love for the first time. As she takes it all on from her perch on a bench, she becomes mesmerized by the older women sitting beside her. Through tears, she tells the woman that she’s beautiful, prompting her to smile back and admit she knows she is.

The woman on the bench is played by legendary costume designer Ann Roth, and Gerwig revealed she had to fight for the brief exchange to make it in the final cut. The director said execs had suggested she take the bench scene out in order to tighten the movie, but Gerwig couldn’t imagine the movie existing without it.

“I love that scene so much,” Gerwig told Rolling Stone in a July 3 profile. “It’s a cul-de-sac of a moment, in a way — it doesn’t lead anywhere. And in early cuts, looking at the movie, it was suggested, ‘Well, you could cut it. And actually, the story would move on just the same.’ And I said, ‘If I cut the scene, I don’t know what this movie is about.’”

Warner Bros.

“To me, this is the heart of the movie,” Gerwig continued. “The way Margot [Robbie] plays that moment is so gentle and so unforced. There’s the more outrageous elements in the movie that people say, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe Mattel let you do this,’ or, ‘I can’t believe Warner Bros. let you do this.’ But to me, the part that I can’t believe that is still in the movie is this little cul-de-sac that doesn’t lead anywhere — except for, it’s the heart of the movie.”

Gerwig spoke about the exchange even more in a July 11 New York Times interview, suggesting Roth’s character may represent God in that scene. “The idea of a loving God who’s a mother, a grandmother — who looks at you and says, ‘Honey, you’re doing OK’ — is something I feel like I need and I wanted to give to other people,” Gerwig said. “If I cut that scene, I don’t know why I’m making this movie. If I don’t have that scene, I don’t know what it is or what I’ve done.”