“Imagination, life is your creation.” The lyrics from Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” have seemed to reign true for Greta Gerwig‘s work on the upcoming Barbie movie. However, Gerwig was not the first person to attempt to play with the cinematic concept, which is expected to be a pretty, pink blockbuster.
Sony had initially acquired the rights to the Barbie movie in April 2014, and spent years trying to get various actors and screenwriters on board. Anne Hathaway and Amy Schumer were up for roles, the latter of whom initially exited due to “scheduling conflicts” in 2017, but recently revealed to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live that she thought the original script was not “feminist and cool enough.”
Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody had been attached to write the film in her “idiosyncratic writing style,” in combination with Schumer’s “crass” comedic energy, but bowed out in 2018, then telling ScreenCrush that she “failed so hard at the project.”
“I was literally incapable of turning in a Barbie draft,” she continued. “God knows I tried.”
However, in a recent interview with GQ, Cody unboxed the trouble she was having with tackling the original concept of “an anti-Barbie,” which, according to Cody, “made a lot of sense given the feminist rhetoric of ten years ago.”
“I think I know why I shit the bed,” she told the outlet. “When I was first hired for [Barbie], I don’t think the culture had not embraced the femme or the bimbo as valid feminist archetypes yet. If you look up ‘Barbie’ on TikTok you’ll find this wonderful subculture that celebrates the feminine, but in 2014, taking this skinny blonde white doll and making her into a heroine was a tall order.”
She explained that she felt like she did not have “the freedom then to write something that was faithful to the iconography.”
“They wanted a girl-boss feminist twist on Barbie, and I couldn’t figure it out because that’s not what Barbie is,” she continued.
During this period of dolled up development, The Lego Movie was experiencing tremendous success after its release in theaters under Warner Bros. in 2014. Cody recalled hearing “endless references to [the film] in development,” which messed with her mojo as she attempted to emulate its style, which she described as “meta.”
“Any time I came up with something meta, it was too much like what [The Lego Movie] had done,” Cody explained. “It was a roadblock for me, but now enough time has passed that they can just cast Will Ferrell [who played the evil tyrant President Business] as the antagonist in a real-life Barbie movie and nobody cares.”
Gerwig had her own worries about making the film, telling Vogue in December that she had feared her movie could be a “career-ender.”
“It was something that was exciting because it was terrifying,” she said. “I think that was a big part of it, like: ‘Oh, no, Barbie.’… It felt like vertigo, starting to write it, like: ‘Where do you even begin, and what would be the story?’…”
Gerwig’s iteration of Barbie is making its way to theaters on July 21.