04/26/2012 12:36 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2013

Greta Gerwig, 'Lola Versus' Star, On Watching Herself Onscreen And Making 'To Rome With Love'

"Lola Versus" is not your traditional romantic comedy. In fact, according to star Greta Gerwig, it's not a romantic comedy at all.

"You know post-apocalyptic movies?" Gerwig asked HuffPost Entertainment. "This is a post rom-com. It's after the romance. It does start at the end of it."

She's not kidding: Before the opening credits of "Lola Versus" (out in theaters on June 8 via Fox Searchlight) are over, Gerwig's Lola has celebrated her 29th birthday, gotten engaged to her long-time boyfriend (Joel Kinnaman) and is then dumped just before her wedding day. The film -- written by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister Jones ("Breaking Upwards") and directed by Wein -- charts the next year of Lola's life, and how she picks up the pieces in the shadow of her fast-approaching 30th birthday.

The indie, which co-stars Lister Jones as Gerwig's onscreen BFF, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. Following the debut, Gerwig sat down with HuffPost to discuss nabbing the lead role in the film, what makes it different from other movies being made in 2012, and what she's learned from directors like Woody Allen (for whom she co-stars in the coming comedy "To Rome With Love").

You just finished a press gauntlet for "Damsels in Distress." Are you tired of this yet?
It's a lot of press. I'm going to be excited to act again and not just talk about myself [laughs]. In a way, everything sort of happens at once and then you get kind of good at it. Then it goes away and you forget how to do it. In a way it's kind of nice to get it all done in one chunk. You're getting me at my Olympic best. It's probably going to tip over into terrible.

You were at the world premiere of "Lola Versus" on Tuesday night. Do you like watching yourself onscreen?
I get really nervous. So I watched the first 20 minutes and then I bounced. It's kind of too much to sit in a room and watch yourself, especially when everyone is watching you. In the times that I've sat and watched while the audience is watching, I think I make horrible wrinkles in my face that will last forever. Like when your mom says, "Your face will stay like that!" I think I watch like this [scrunches face] the whole time. It's sort of like watching a horror film, but it's not. So I just had to absolve myself of that.

How much did you know about Daryl and Zoe before signing on?
I knew about "Breaking Upwards," and I actually knew about Zoe before even "Breaking Upwards" happened. She was one of those cool New York actresses who worked and seemed awesome. I would always see her name on sign-in sheets for auditions. If you're of a certain age, everybody gets sort of sent to the same auditions, and you see the same names. You're signing your name and you're like, "It's the usual suspects. All of us." But, she got jobs, actually. She had been on off-Broadway in a big show that was a hit. She would always get those jobs that seemed impossible to get.

Why impossible?
If you're not known, it's like they get every good actress in New York to audition for a small role in "Salt" or something. She would always get those roles. She was like a genius at getting those roles. I would always think, "I don't know how you get those roles. I never got those roles. I never once even got close to getting those roles." I have no idea. Those roles seem the hardest to get.

OK, so how did you get involved in this?
I was sent this script and, when I started reading it, I thought I knew where it was going. I liked how Lola really made big mistakes. It just didn't feel like every other one of these kinds of movies. It felt like it was taking itself with a dose of reality. Even though it's not reality, per se. It's definitely heightened. It's definitely a movie. But it seemed more like "Breaking Upwards"; it seemed more connected. It had a heart to it that seemed alive.

But then -- I don't even know if I'm supposed to say this -- I think, originally, when they met me, they didn't want me. I think they went to a different actress. They wrote me this sweet email that was basically like, "You're great. It's not going to work out." And I was like, "Don't worry about it. It's fine!" Then they came to the premiere in New York of "No Strings Attached," and they saw it and thought I was really funny. I have five really great girlfriends and I always bring them to all the premieres, because they get a kick out of it. None of them are in the entertainment business, and they love the free booze afterwards. They eat all the snacks. They're like, "They're giving out Snickers bars?" Anyway, they have a great time, and they love Daryl and Zoe's first movie. One of my friends got really drunk and accosted Zoe and was like, "I'm gonna get married and I don't know if I should, and your movie made me uncomfortable, but I love it." It felt like it was this fun night and we hung out together. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, I thought, "I bet 'Lola Versus' might come back in some way." I just sort of knew. Then, lo and behold, two weeks later, I got a call that was like, "Do you wanna do it?"

Daryl said there were many actresses interested in this script. Did you have any apprehension about taking the role?
It was scary because it was a big role, which makes me nervous because I'm out in front of it. God, you can really get raked over the coals with this stuff. It's really scary. But it seemed like such a good home [at Fox Searchlight and Groundswell]. I was like, "Man, I can't pass this up." There's not a lot of movies being made with girls like that.

That's an unfortunate reality of Hollywood right now.
If they do [make these movies], they're starring Sandra Bullock, not Greta Gerwig. So, it seemed like this incredible opportunity that -- through some weird turn of events -- had come to me. It was pretty amazing. Sometimes things feel meant to be. I'm gonna walk through this door even though it's nerve-wracking. I think it was also scary because Daryl and Zoe hadn't made a movie that had that much of a budget or that much pressure or that much oversight. Any number of things that come along with making a studio movie -- even though it is a low budget movie in anybody else's mind.

This is a big leap from making "Breaking Upwards" for $15,000.
It's also dealing with unions and days. We shot on film. Stuff like that. It might be the last time I ever get to shoot on film. Nothing is shot on film. Really, nothing is shot on film anymore. I met with a director who said, "There's no reason to shoot on film anymore. It would be like having a television with the big back. You don't need it." Everything's flatscreen. I mean ... I don't really have a dog in that fight. There is this warmth to film that I think people respond to. It still does feel warmer.

Did Woody Allen shoot "To Rome With Love" with digital cameras?
No, he did film. He still says, "Print that take." I've never been on a set where someone says, "Print that take."

That's incredible.
It made me feel like I was in the studio system. It was super cool.

What was it like to work with Debra Winger in "Lola Versus"?
She doesn't step out very much, but when she does, it's awesome. Actually, her and Bill Pullman are wonderful actors. I think younger actors have been trained in more of a get-it-done fashion -- or maybe filmmaking is a little more corporate now, where everybody just does their job and is very good at it. They come from an older model, where they rehearse and take time to find what they're doing. Which is really great to be around because it feels more grounded and -- probably what they did start in -- like theater. They don't respond well to, "We gotta get this shot right now!" They both had this other way, which was heavy on rehearsal and heavy on finding it. They didn't feel this need to perform immediately, and I feel a lot of young actors try to impress [snaps] instantly. I think there's a value to letting it build because then you don't blow your wad right off the bat and you've got nothing left. They find it. They find it with each other. They don't have a ready-made performance.

It sounds like you learned a lot from them; what have you learned from the many great filmmakers you've worked with in the past?
One of my dreams as a person is that I'd like to write and direct my own films. I've done it, but I'd like to be the dictator of my own mini-country. I'd like to do the full-on, written and directed by me! [Laughs] One of the amazing things about being an actor is that you get to be on all these different sets. And directors -- even if they're great directors, and they've made a lot of movies -- they have not been on as many sets as you have, actually. I think there's an interesting tradition of directors who are actors. Or who have worn both hats. Roman Polanski was an actor, and he's like the consummate director to me. It's interesting that he was a very facile actor as well. You get to collect all these little things from different directors. I like directors who keep quiet sets. I think that's something I really respond to. I think it goes along with experience and confidence. They don't scream to get things done. It's never rushed. It feels like they will do that their pace. I don't know how they achieve that because everything gets done, but there is a quality of non-hysteria. Because I think movie sets can sometimes become hysterical places. I think it's good to keep it contained.

"Lola Versus" is out in theaters on June 8.


'Lola Versus' At Tribeca