'Lady Bird' stars, director on what they hope their female-centered film inspires

Saoirse Ronan says she felt empowered to direct after seeing Greta Gerwig.

BySTEFAN DOYNO and ALEXA VALIENTE
February 20, 2018, 5:37 PM

— -- It’s a love-hate relationship nearly everyone can relate to.

With its brutally honest portrayals, the Oscar-nominated film “Lady Bird” explores the often fraught relationship between mother and daughter.

“We’re watching it from the outside looking in. You’re able to totally understand both sides of the argument, you know,” Saoirse Ronan, who plays Christine McPherson, aka Lady Bird, told ABC News’ “Nightline.”

“This is just a little sliver of the time that we’re seeing them. You get the idea,” Laurie Metcalf, who plays Lady Bird’s mother Marion McPherson, told “Nightline.”

PHOTO: Saoirse Ronan and Lucas Hedges in the movie "Lady Bird".
Saoirse Ronan and Lucas Hedges in the movie "Lady Bird".
A24

The critically acclaimed comedy, starring Ronan and Metcalf, has earned a bevy of Oscar nominations -- just as women in Hollywood are raising their artistic voices in an industry long dominated by men.

Lady Bird is a senior in high school, and her long-suffering mother works double shifts at a hospital to keep her family financially afloat.

PHOTO: Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan star in the movie "Lady Bird," which follows a mother and daughter's relationship.
Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan star in the movie "Lady Bird," which follows a mother and daughter's relationship.
ABC News

The female-centric movie is helmed by 34-year-old actress Greta Gerwig, who made her directing debut with the film.

“This kind of movie, it's all it's all about the nuance. It's not bludgeoned. It's a scalpel,” Gerwig told “Nightline.”

“Greta had done it in such a way that it’s made both of them very relatable,” said Ronan, 23.

PHOTO: "Lady Bird" director Greta Gerwig is the only female director nominated for an Oscar for Best Director this year.
"Lady Bird" director Greta Gerwig is the only female director nominated for an Oscar for Best Director this year.
ABC News

Gerwig wrote the film, which was inspired by, but not based on her childhood in Sacramento, California.

“It felt like all of us in this thing -- that I had imagined -- was living in front of me. We sat down and over a couple of afternoons, and we did, you know, we went to every single line and glory because your gift of having a smart actor and a great actor as they give you so much more. They deepen it,” said Gerwig.

“Lady Bird” has been nominated for five Oscars this year, including Ronan for best actress, Metcalf for best supporting actress, best picture and best screenplay. Gerwig was also nominated for best director, only the fifth woman ever nominated in that category.

At this year’s Golden Globes, where Ronan and Metcalf both earned nominations, actress Natalie Portman, who was presenting the nominees for best director, pointed out that there were no women in the category, saying, “And here are all the male nominees.”

“It was so great,” said Ronan. “I was at my table and I was like, ‘Yes, go Natalie.’”

PHOTO: Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig and Laurie Metcalf are pictured on the red carpet for the 24th Screen Actor's Guild Awards in Los Angeles, Jan. 21, 2018.
Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig and Laurie Metcalf are pictured on the red carpet for the 24th Screen Actor's Guild Awards in Los Angeles, Jan. 21, 2018.
Monica Almeida/Reuters

Ronan said watching Gerwig behind the scenes was a light bulb moment for that she might one day be able to be a director too.

“I believed I could do it. I’ve always wanted to do it, like even before I started acting, that was when I was a kid, that was what I was drawn to, and I would always like you know bully my friends into making little films that I had written,” Ronan said. “[I’d] get a JVC camcorder and record it all together and then rewind and do it again. And I’ve always loved it so much, and then you know I was so young but acting took over and it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to sort of try my hand at.”

Ronan continued, “It wasn’t until I watched Greta do press for the movie and speak about her experience and, you know, getting the film made and what she had learned from other directors and how she sort of crafted this style that she had developed and things like that, that I kind of went, like, ‘Oh, she’s a great director. She’s not just an actor-turned-director.’”

VIDEO: 'Lady Bird' director Greta Gerwig on being inspired by women in the industry
Greta Gerwig is the only female director nominated in this year's Oscar category.

Gerwig said she hopes to be an inspiration for aspiring female directors of all ages.

“Women in their 40s and 50s and 60s. I want them to go make their movies. Maybe they've had it locked inside and they haven't done it yet,” Gerwig said. “Of course, the next generation is important, but it's also like the women who have been part of the industry but maybe haven't done it yet. That's also something I hope that they're inspired by.”

While “Lady Bird” centers around an abrasive mother-daughter relationship, life doesn’t imitate art for Ronan and her mother, Ronan said.

“We’re very, very lucky,” Ronan said. “I also understand why this kind of dynamic would happen between a mother and daughter, but you know it’s complicated. And it can be competitive sometimes and things like that, but my mom and I never had that.”

VIDEO: 'Lady Bird' star Saoirse Ronan on how her mom keeps her grounded
"It was very important that even though I was doing a job ... everyone else on set was too," Ronan told ABC News "Nightline" co-anchor Juju Chang.

Ronan called her mom from the FaceTime app at the Golden Globes during her big win.

“She was crying. She was in bits. She’s so supportive and encouraging and also has kept me grounded and you know disciplined and really has just had the right balance of parenting and also being a support through sort of friendship almost. We’re friends,” she said.

The cast said they’ve seen fan reactions to the film, and Metcalf called it, “the magic of that movie.”

“It makes people surprisingly connect,” Metcalf, 62, said. “Or, it’s just like an overwhelming hopeful feeling that you leave it with you know things are going to be OK ... and learn from it and learn from these arguments and fights in this time that they’re in.”

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