Lena Dunham Reveals ‘Catherine Called Birdy’ Film Inspirations – The Hollywood Reporter

For writer-director Lena Dunham, Karen Cushman’s 1994 Newbery Honor-winning YA novel Catherine, also known as Birdie Almost a holy book. Following the comic exploits of a young woman in 13th-century England, Cushman’s book trivializes being a teenage girl, an identity that young women feel powerless and beholden to the men in their lives — first their fathers, then their husbands.

Lena Dunham

Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Bella Ramsey (pictured above, with co-star Joe Alwyn) stars as the title character, a 14-year-old who rebels against the patriarchy when her father (Andrew Scott) announces she’s marrying rich. Husband in order to save the family from financial ruin. As she fends off potential suitors to her parents’ dismay, she finds her own voice as a witty, rambunctious young woman with the power to stand out for herself. Dunham remembers first seeing Ramsey when she bought an advance copy of Cushman’s book at Manhattan’s Union Square Barnes & Noble and first obsessing over the character Birdie. The design of the book influenced the look of the Prime Video film, especially the use of color. “That’s all it did [the film], from production design to casting,” he says. “The image is the source of what happened visually.”

The film became a family affair, with Dunham collaborating on the film’s soundtrack with her husband, musician Louis Felber. She played her dog Ingrid in a small part – a la Sofia Coppola’s film debut as Michael Corleone’s infant nephew in Francis Ford Coppola’s. Godfather. “I gave her the role,” Dunham says with a laugh. “People were skeptical, but I believed her!”

Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven Dunham first saw Terrence Malick's 1978 drama while in college, buying a VHS copy (with this cover).

Dunham first bought a VHS copy of Terrence Malick’s 1978 drama (with this cover) when she was in college. “It was the first time I genuinely fell in love with a slow, auteurist, adult film — not just showing interest but actually being enthralled by it,” he admits. Not only did the font on the cover inspire the typefaces used in Birdie, but the narration by then-15-year-old star Linda Manz inspired Birdie’s voice throughout the film.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Dunham first bought a VHS copy of Terrence Malick’s 1978 drama (with this cover) when she was in college. “It was the first time I genuinely fell in love with a slow, auteurist, adult film — not just showing interest but actually being enthralled by it,” he admits. The typeface on the cover inspired the typefaces used BirdieBut then-15-year-old star Linda Manz’s narration inspired Birdie’s voice throughout the film.

Dunham’s dog, Ingrid

Dunham's dog, INGRID

Dunham’s dog, Ingrid

Courtesy of Lena Dunham/@lenadunham/Instagram

“Ingrid was with me writing, scouting and shooting this movie,” says Dunham, whose dog — a Mexican hairless and pug mix — has a cameo in the film as Baby Jesus in a Christmas pageant. “When we travel to these medieval buildings, we see these old paintings of saints and peasants with their dogs. They all looked a bit like Ingrid – she has a very medieval look.

Catherine, also known as Birdie

Catherine, known as Birdie,

Called Catherine Birdie

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

“That was Birdie’s face I always saw,” says Dunham of the title character’s description in the original version of Cushman’s novel. “When I looked at Bella’s face, it called out many of the same qualities that the character has – intelligence with a very classical beauty, [and] with wide-eyed innocence and cunning.”

Girlfriends LA

Girlfriends LA was a shoppable magazine published at the turn of the millennium.

Girlfriends LA

Courtesy of Lena Dunham

It was a shopping magazine published at the turn of the millennium. “My parents get their Hammacher Schlemmer catalog in the mail and so do I Girlfriends LADunham recalls ordering her bat mitzvah dress from the company. “I wouldn’t say my costume designers spent hours Girlfriends LA catalog, but when I saw the costumes, I felt that energy. It’s like Y2K fashion, only from a century before Y2K.

Julia Jacklin crushing

The 2019 album from the Australian singer-songwriter was on frequent rotation, as was Julia Jacklin's Crushing Dunham prequel — and it was an album she bonded with her husband, musician Louis Felber, who worked on the film's soundtrack.

Julia Jacklin

Courtesy of Polyvinyl

A 2019 album by the Australian singer-songwriter Dunham toured frequently while in preproduction — and it was an album she bonded with her husband, musician Louis Felber, who worked on the film’s soundtrack. “Julia’s voice became this kind of troubadour, describing my experience of coming to England and exploring,” says Dunham. The idea of ​​a traveling female inspired Dunham and Felber to include cover songs by singer Misty Miller, who recorded versions of hits like “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “Fade Into You.”

This story first appeared in the December stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, Click here to subscribe.

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