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Greta Gerwig: The Oscar-nominated first-time solo director behind the 'magic' of 'Lady Bird'

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"Lady Bird" is Greta Gerwig's solo directorial debut, but it has charmed critics and earned her two Oscar nominations. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Actor and writer Greta Gerwig said she waited to make her solo directorial debut until she was sure she could get it right.

When Lady Bird hit the big screen in late 2017, critics unanimously agreed that she had: Gerwig broke a Rotten Tomatoes record for most "fresh" reviews without a single "rotten" one.

"We put our heart and souls into this movie, and the last step of this deeply collaborative art form of filmmaking is giving the film to the audience and the film critics," Gerwig said when she heard about the record, which has since been broken.

Lady Bird is about a Sacramento teen trying to navigate her senior year of high school in 2002. It became a critics-darling, according to the Rotten Tomatoes critics themselves, because it is a balanced coming-of-age story with a strong sense of place and a real, complex mother-daughter relationship.

"That's the magic of this film," said Laurie Metcalf, who plays Lady Bird's mother. "Mothers go with their daughters to see the movie, and see each other differently after some of the exchanges in the film. And I think that's incredible that art can do that. And Greta not only wrote it but directed it."

Having started out in the small-budget "Mumblecore" genre, Gerwig was able to get experience in a variety of roles early on.

"I got to do everything because there was no one else to do it," Gerwig explained to ABC News. "So I was both acting in the movies, and also writing. And then if I wasn't in the shot, I was holding the boom or operating the camera because it was sort of an all-hands-on-deck situation."

When it came time to direct, she took a hands-off approach, encouraging the actors to spend time together without her and to have discussions with the costume director about how the character would dress without her. Saoirse Ronan, who plays Lady Bird, told ABC that Gerwig's past experiences definitely helped her collaborate with fellow actors.

For the characters and the world she created, Gerwig has been nominated for two Oscars: one for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and the other for Best Director. She said she got teary-eyed being recognized by other directors at the Oscars luncheon.

"Oh my god, this whole thing is so amazing and so surreal," she said. "To be recognized by these people I've looked up to my whole life, and then to be brought into this incredible group of directors, it's just, everything about it is amazing."

Don't miss the Oscars, Sunday, March 4 at 8 p.m. ET | 5 p.m. PT on ABC.

This story is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz USA.
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