Have you seen Lady Bird yet? If the answer is no, then what exactly are you doing here reading this? Get to a movie theater immediately! But if the answer is yes, then chances are you — like everyone else — have fallen under the spell of Greta Gerwig’s funny, sharp, poignant and generally just wonderful coming-of-age story. The movie is full of fantastic performances from Saoirse Ronan as the titular teen, Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts as her parents, and a crop of new bright young things as her classmates — including Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, and a sit-up-in-your-seat-straighter turn by Beanie Feldstein.
The actress, 24, had appeared in exactly one major movie — she was a bright spot in 2016’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — when she went in to audition for the role of Julie, the best friend of Lady Bird (Ronan). “That performance you see in the film? That’s the one I saw in the audition,” says Gerwig. “She walked out of the room and I said, ‘Who is that girl?’ It’s Beanie!”
Last week, Feldstein arrived full of pep and cheer to a coffee shop in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. She’s been performing on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! in the role of Minnie Fay opposite Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce since March. The night before she met EW, she’d attended Midler’s Halloween party (she dressed as a bull, her close friend and cast-mate Taylor Trensch dressed as a matador) but if she was tired she wasn’t showing it. With an effervescent smile and easy laugh, Feldstein still can’t seem to believe her own fortune. “Gratitude is not a good enough word,” she says. “This moment in my life feels so insane — I actually don’t have enough words to express how overwhelmingly thankful I am.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with an easy one: your older brother is Jonah Hill. Where did the name Beanie Feldstein come from?
BEANIE FELDSTEIN: Hill is Jonah’s middle name. I like Feldstein! As for Beanie, my given name is Elizabeth and I had a nanny from the time I was very young who was British and she took to calling me ‘Eliza-beanie.’ By the time I was 4 or 5 months old, I was just Beanie. It stuck! I like it. Names are important and they have to fit. Beanie Feldstein fits me.
Jonah is nearly 10 years older than you — did seeing his early success inspire you?
Absolutely. It’s been so helpful because he’s so incredible with what he does and is a great sounding board since he’s so talented and successful. I’m his biggest fan. But I’ve been performing since I was 5. I’ve always been totally obsessed with theater — especially musicals. My 3rd birthday party was Funny Girl themed. [Laughs] My best friend is [Dear Evan Hansen star] Ben Platt. We met in high school, and we were both theater fanatics. Our parents are so nice they let us take a New York City trip together in 9th grade and see so much theater. We went and saw August: Osage County and we were wrecked. Then when I was on Lady Bird to see [playwright] Tracy Letts walk by? I’d freak out!
You’d only done one film when Lady Bird came your way. How did Greta Gerwig find you?
I was such a big Greta fan already. My roommate and best friend from college had the picture of Frances Ha as her Facebook cover photo. That movie meant a lot to us. So when I got the script I couldn’t believe it. Just getting to read it made me feel lucky. And before I knew it I was reading with Greta. I’d never wanted anything so much. I read the description of Julie and it was like: 17, sweet, chubby, gets the lead in her high school musical and I was like, what?! Excuse me?
What do you remember from that audition?
I was so nervous but she was so wonderful. She was reading the part of Lady Bird and I was reading Julie. I remember talking about this idea of pillow talk. Something about how these girls, they have this little world that they enter into when they’re together. It’s like the end of the night when you are talking to your roommate in the dark and you can’t see the other person but you know they are there.
What was shooting like?
Most of my stuff was with Saorise. She’s next level for me. I was completely in awe of her — I saw Brooklyn so many times that I made myself stop watching when I got this part. She’s a genius. And then we fell in love, which made our relationship on-screen easy. I feel so lucky to now love her as a friend but also to know how extraordinarily kind and giving she is to work with. I find Julie and Lady Bird’s relationship incredibly moving. We didn’t have our phones on set which I loved, because between takes we’d just talk. Like, we’d lay on the floor together and just hang out. This movie was so fun. When I think about it all we did was dance and eat and sing along to songs. When it was over — I remember talking to Jonah about this — when Lady Bird wrapped it felt like this thing that mattered so much to me was now over. I have never felt so sad. The way I think about it now is a marker on my timeline: before Lady Bird and after.
You were a part of a group of actors that include Manchester by the Sea‘s Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet who also has Call Me By Your Name. It’s an impressive group of young people.
I was the oldest! When I met Timmy he was like you’ve graduated college?!? [Laughs] Thanks for making me feel old! Those boys are so talented. I think everyone that sees this movie or has met Timmy becomes obsessed with him. I took Lady Bird to [Alma Mater] Weslyan recently and screened it there. Timmy’s stuff played like gangbusters. People were rolling around and literally slapping their knees.
And now you’re on Broadway doing Hello, Dolly! As a theater fanatic I can’t even imagine what that must be like for you.
It happened during Lady Bird. It was insane. I get emotional talking about this but I’m just so grateful to Scott Rudin and Eli Bush [producer of both Lady Bird and Hello, Dolly!] who not only allowed me to be in the movie but had the idea for me to audition from watching the film’s dailies. I was in Los Angeles and so just went in and sang a song in this room with a camera. I found out I got the part, like, 90 minutes later. When I saw that my agent was calling I figured the tape must not have worked or that maybe I had gotten a call back. But they told me I got it and I basically was just like, uh, I don’t understand. I happened to be in my childhood bedroom at the time — my dad was downstairs and he likes movies but he loves musicals. He was so excited, my mom was kvelling, it was very special to be with them.
What was opening night like?
I think I was fully blacked out. [Laughs] I don’t remember much. I remember coming out to take a bow and seeing Taylor — we run out together and bow together — and just looking at him. He’s become such an important person to me. This whole cast is so incredible, you have to live up to how amazing they are. Being up there with them and feeling like a family and…getting to bow next to David Hyde Pierce? It’s all so crazy! Greta came to the opening — after the show I saw her and my mom and dad and brother standing together. It was incredible.
What’s next? How do you follow this year up?
I don’t know!
Who are the people on your wish list that you’d like to work with?
As far as theater goes, Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves is one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen. Whatever she writes next I want in. Working with Melissa McCarthy has always been the dream — on Lady Bird, Saorise and I were constantly quoting Bridesmaids lines back and forth. I have a pipe dream that we could play a young Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in something. But you know, I couldn’t have predicted just one of the things that’s happened to me. Like that I’d graduate from college and be in a big studio comedy or that I’d get to be in the best movie and meet all these friends and then get to be on Broadway? I couldn’t have predicted any of it. I feel so overwhelmed by how thankful I am. I’m excited for whatever comes next.