Greta Lee thought she’d lost the Past Lives lead when a producer confused her for Greta Gerwig

greta lee in past lives
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In Past Lives, Greta Lee gives one of the most moving performances of the year – but she wasn’t always in the running for it…

You can’t move an inch without running into a Greta these days, can you? You’ve got climate activist (and good egg) Greta Thunberg; multi-hyphenate moviemaking whizz Greta Gerwig; the amazing star of Past Lives, Greta Lee… Actually, that’s about it.

But with the overwhelming number of Gretas spilling out of the phone book, it’s easy to see how someone could get confused. That’s what happened after Lee auditioned for the part of Nora in Celine Song’s directorial debut, she told Andrew Scott in a recent Actors On Actors conversation for Variety.

“It was one of those scripts, it made me furious with how much I desperately wanted to be a part of it,” Lee said. “So I put everything I had into that audition and didn’t get the job.

“Then this crazy thing happened that just added to the humiliation of it all. I got this phone call from this producer saying they needed to meet to discuss something really exciting and important, so for whatever reason I assumed I’d got the job. Then I listened to the voicemail again, and it was for Greta Gerwig. It couldn’t have been clearer at that time that [the part] was not going to be mine”.

Luckily, after a bit of time and some more movie-scheduling shenanigans, Lee’s fortunes changed.

“Then a year later I got a call out of the blue asking if I could meet with Celine Song that day because a casting had opened up.

“So I jumped on a Zoom with her, and it was one of those very vulnerable and exposing moments. There was no time to engineer a ‘brilliant performance’, I just had to go in.

“I didn’t have a Korean coach or anything, we just read some scenes, and she played Hae Sung and Arthur.

“She had such clear ambitions for this film, and it felt so antithetical to everything else I had been reading, such a quietly powerful movie in this world that feels more and more about championing the loudest voice in the room.

“I felt like I had nothing to lose, and then she said ‘it’s your job'”.

As much as we love Greta Gerwig, we can’t help but feel things worked out for the best. Still, we’re sure she’s working on her Korean for her next film.

Past Lives is available to rent and buy on Digital platforms and to buy on Blu-ray and DVD now.

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