Lena Dunham reveals how Clueless, Slums of Beverly Hills inspired Catherine Called Birdy
Catherine Called Birdy
Lena Dunham hopes her new movie Catherine Called Birdy will resonate with teen girls the same way Alicia Silverstone's Clueless and Natasha Lyonne's Slums of Beverly Hills did for her as a young adult.
"When I first presented the idea 10 years ago, just having started Girls, the people in my life were like, 'What would you like to make next?' And when I said, 'A movie about a 14-year-old in 1290 awaiting arranged marriage,' there was a tempered reaction," Dunham exclusively tells EW about helming the project with Game of Thrones alum Bella Ramsey in the title role. "The movies that made me want to make movies were films that, I feel, honored the intelligence of teenagers, particularly teenage girls, whether it was Clueless or Slums of Beverly Hills or A League of Their Own."
She calls those '90s titles "movies that gave teenagers their due and let them have an inner life." Dunham goes on to praise Birdy's main character for not being a "girl who knows swordplay, she doesn't slaughter dragons, and, all due respect to the Hunger Games of the world, but she doesn't have any special skills except for being herself."
"That's what I needed as a teenager, and it was exciting for me to try and summon it," Dunham adds.
Her version of Catherine Called Birdy is an adaptation of author Karen Cushman's beloved 1994 novel of the same name, and follows a young girl who, in medieval England, resists societal conformation and the cycle of arranged marriage perpetuated by her father (Fleabag's "hot priest," Andrew Scott).
Though Birdy's father engages in outdated practices, Dunham still found ways to round out his character, and admittedly crafted him as a more lovable figure in the movie than he is in the book. But to everyone — including Dunham — he'll always be a hunk, no matter the dressings: Instead of "hot priest," Dunham joked at the film's world-premiere screening at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, "now he's 'hot medieval dad' and we can't change it."
Catherine Called Birdy, also starring Joe Alwyn and Sophie Okonedo, is now playing in select theaters, ahead of its Amazon Prime Video debut on Oct. 7. Watch EW's exclusive video interview with Dunham and the cast above.
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Lena Dunham brings Karen Cushman’s beloved novel about a spirited medieval teen to life with performances from Bella Ramsey, Andrew Scott, and Sophie Okonedo.
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