Inside Greta Gerwig's Relationship With Barbie Co-Writer Noah Baumbach

"Barbie" is one of the biggest movies of 2023, but writer-director Greta Gerwig wasn't always the filmmaking superstar she is today. When she began her career, she starred in a series of films that fell under the "mumblecore" genre. These movies, like "Hannah Takes the Stairs" and "Baghead," were low-budget and often improvised. They also didn't make a ton of money, which Gerwig joked about in a 2008 interview with Vulture. She had her eye on bigger Hollywood films even then, admitting, "I'm not terribly precious about who I am. I'm from a really middle-class background — my mom's a nurse, and my dad does small-business loans — so anything that would pay me would be great!"

One person who helped Gerwig get into bigger films: her "Barbie" co-writer, Noah Baumbach. The director is also Gerwig's real-life partner, their relationship running in parallel to a decade of creative collaborations. Before they met on the set of "Greenberg," Baumbach was best known for directing films like "Margot at the Wedding," which starred his then-wife Jennifer Jason Leigh... who co-wrote "Greenberg."

In other words, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach's history is a complicated one, full of movies and marriages, falling-outs and films. Read on for a look inside their creative partnership and their romantic one, and how the two intersect!

She starred in Noah Baumbach's film Greenberg

Noah Baumbach was a fan of Greta Gerwig's work before casting her in his 2010 film "Greenberg." According to New York Magazine, he watched Gerwig perform in "Hannah Takes the Stairs" and was so impressed that he told his agent to reach out to her; soon, they had the same agent. Baumbach then invited Gerwig to audition for a role in the Ben Stiller film. He'd written the script with his wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh.

"Jennifer and I had her come to our apartment to audition, and she'd memorized the whole script," Baumbach recalled in an interview with Tribeca News. He explained that he wasn't a fan of actors doing that, but he was so impressed by Gerwig's audition that he did, indeed, go through the whole script with her. "From that point forward, I really tried to stay out of her way," he said. "I wanted her instincts to take over ... She's a great actor."

To study for the role of Florence, a personal assistant, Gerwig worked in that capacity for Leigh's mother, screenwriter Barbara Turner. Turner turned out to be very particular about her coffee. "If the foam descends before you get it home, you have to go back and get a new one," Gerwig told New York Magazine. The film was a critical success; while it would prove to be the first collaboration of many for Gerwig and Baumbach, it was the last for Baumbach and Leigh.

Jennifer Jason Leigh soon filed for divorce

In late 2009, the National Enquirer broke the news that Noah Baumbach's wife Jennifer Jason Leigh was pregnant. "Having children is something they have wanted for some time. They are overjoyed with the news," a source said (via AceShowbiz). The tabloid added that Leigh was due in March 2010, and the source concluded, "Noah and Jennifer are so in love — and they're going to make great parents."

"Greenberg" was released in March 2010, the same month Leigh had been tipped to give birth. However, the couple didn't go public with details about their son, who we would later learn was named Rohmer. Instead, in November of that year, Leigh filed for divorce from her husband and "Greenberg" co-writer. People reported that Leigh was seeking primary custody of Rohmer (who was born seven months earlier), adding that she cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the breakup.

People also noted a previous interview with the director wherein he gushed over his then-wife. He had told the magazine shortly after their wedding, "I expect to be with [Leigh] for the rest of my life." It was, ultimately, not to be.

They fell in love while making Frances Ha

In 2011, the year after Jennifer Jason Leigh and Noah Baumbach's marriage ended, Greta Gerwig collaborated with her "Greenberg" director on a new film. This time, just as Baumbach and Leigh had done for "Greenberg," Gerwig co-wrote the screenplay with Baumbach. Somewhere along the way, the collaboration turned into not just an artistic endeavor, but a romantic one as well. Baumbach told The Globe and Mail that they emailed parts of the script back and forth. Gradually, they developed a character named Frances, and "Frances Ha" was born. Baumbach said, "In a lot of ways, I was letting Greta lead the way. I was there to make sure the movie honored her." According to the outlet, they made their relationship official a month into shooting the movie.

Gerwig spoke about their creative partnership in similarly glowing terms, telling Indiewire that she felt like she was collaborating on music with someone who "heard" the film the same way she did. "I'm not comparing us to The Beatles," she said, going on to compare herself to the Beatles. She explained that while John Lennon and Paul McCartney could both write great songs on their own, it was different when they collaborated. "Something happened when they wrote together, which was impossible for either of them to achieve alone, but with both of their voices somehow writing the same song," she said. "So I obviously felt like we were writing the same song."

They went public with their relationship

"Frances Ha" made the rounds at various film festivals in 2012 before hitting theaters the following year. As the movie began to receive glowing critical acclaim, news began to get out about the fact that Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach were more than just co-writers. A 2012 Los Angeles Times article confirmed that they were a romantic couple, and Baumbach said that the film represented a new stage in his career, one where his films were more than just melancholy. "The hopefulness in this one was never in question," he said. "I always wanted to reward Frances at the end of this movie. The character was hopeful, the process of making it was hopeful."

In 2013, when "Frances Ha" had a wider release, a joint profile in The New Yorker reiterated that they were together. This time, though — while the reporter followed the couple to business meetings about an animated film that never materialized and through the process of shooting the film that would become "Mistress America" — Gerwig and Baumbach had something they wanted to get straight. According to the New Yorker, both stated "firmly" that they did not get together until after he had separated from Leigh. 

In 2013, Noah Baumbach's divorce was finalized

"Frances Ha" was released on May 17, 2013, cementing the arrival of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach as a powerhouse filmmaking duo. Several months after the film's release, Baumbach's long-gestating divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh was finalized. After obtaining court documents, E! News reported that they were able to work everything out between themselves, explaining that the couple had "equally divided all of their community assets and liabilities." In addition, they worked out a custody agreement for their son, although details of what that agreement entailed were not made public.

A few years later, in 2016, Leigh spoke with The Guardian about the divorce. She wasn't happy with the attention the situation had received in the entertainment press, telling the outlet, "I don't think it's that important for people to know." However, she did have a compliment for her ex-husband, revealing, "We co-parent really well." Gawker had initially reported that Leigh sought full custody of their son, so clearly they were able to work out an arrangement.

In 2019, Baumbach revealed that he and Leigh were on good terms. He showed her his film "Marriage Story," which chronicles a couple going through a protracted divorce and learning how to co-parent. "I showed her the script, and then I showed her the movie a little bit ago," he told The Wall Street Journal. "She likes it a lot."

Mistress America was released in 2015

After "Frances Ha," Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach collaborated on "Mistress America," another film they co-wrote. Like "Frances Ha," Gerwig was the star and Baumbach the director. The film follows a college student named Tracy (Lola Kirke) who befriends and idolizes a late-twenty-something woman named Brooke (Gerwig); Brooke turns out to not be as great as she's made herself out to be. Gerwig told Indiewire that a driving force behind the film was their desire to work with the same crew as "Frances Ha," and they began to devise their follow-up before "Frances Ha" was released. "It almost felt like making a second album," she said. "Getting the band back together."

Speaking with Collider, Baumbach elaborated on why he and his partner worked so well together. "We really share a lot of the same sensibilities, we like a lot of the same movies," he said. "In writing, behavioral building blocks are interesting to both of us, so when we start talking about doing something together, there's a lot of common ground, even though we're bringing in our own perspectives and our own lives to it, but it feels very easy."

The film was a critical success, currently standing at 82% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. This second film would, however, prove to be the final movie that Baumbach and Gerwig collaborated on in quite this way; as of yet, they have not co-written another script for Baumbach to direct and Gerwig to star in.

Don't call Greta Gerwig a 'muse'

After a male director makes multiple films centered around a younger female ingenue, there's a tendency to credit him rather than her. That certainly happened after "Greenberg," "Frances Ha," and "Mistress America," with publications as varied as The Economist and The New York Post referring to Greta Gerwig as "Noah Baumbach's muse."

That didn't fly with Gerwig, who began to speak out about the label once she started directing films on her own. In a 2017 Vulture interview, Gerwig said that the term rang false because she knew she was working on her own projects, and she knew that she had contributed quite a lot to their collaborations as well. "I did not love being called a muse. I didn't want to be strident about it or say, 'Hey, give me my due,' but I did feel like I wasn't a bystander," she said. "It was half-mine, and so that part was difficult."

It's a topic Gerwig returned to in a 2020 Vogue profile, once she had both "Lady Bird" and "Little Women" under her directorial belt, having wholly proven herself as a talent on her own. Admitting that her relationship with Baumbach made her entry into the industry easier, Gerwig flipped the script, suggesting that Baumbach was, in some ways, her muse. "He's also this incredibly important collaborator and influence on me," she said. "The most important."

They made their red carpet debut in 2018

Though Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach had been together for years by the time her film "Lady Bird" was released, the two had never actually appeared together on a red carpet. That changed in 2018 when Gerwig attended the Golden Globes and the Oscars in support of her film; Baumbach was on her arm, and they were photographed holding hands for the first time.

"Lady Bird" won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. When Gerwig went up to accept the award, she didn't thank her partner, an omission that didn't go unnoticed online. She explained herself in an interview on "The View" soon after the Globes, confessing that she had become flustered and forgotten what she meant to say. "I had an entire speech that I was gonna give, and I got up there and none of it came out. I looked at Oprah and I was like, 'It's gone!'" she joked. Getting a little more specific, she added, "I forgot to thank Noah Baumbach, who's my partner, and supporter, and I had a whole thing about him, cause he's my favorite writer and my favorite first reader." Gerwig recalled walking back to her table after the win, noting that her partner immediately told her, "Please don't feel bad." She concluded, "He was very sweet."

They have two children together

Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have two children together. Like many aspects of their private life — as opposed to their public, creative collaborations — they chose to keep the news a secret at first. Eventually, Gerwig revealed that she was pregnant while shooting "Little Women." It wasn't until March 2019, when she was photographed with Baumbach and a stroller, that her reps confirmed to Page Six that they had a child. "We can confirm that Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have welcomed their first child together," the statement read, providing no other details.

Gerwig appeared on the cover of Vogue in January 2020, discussing both her filmmaking career and her new life as the mother of Harold, their son. "I was always scared about being a mother, in terms of what it would mean for what I was able to do," she confessed. She turned to an unlikely source for inspiration: Cardi B's Instagram. "She'd do videos about how her hair looked better, but then she was mad because she had terrible heartburn. Everything. I would eat it up," Gerwig said. "I've just been very moved by women who've claimed all of it."

In 2023, Gerwig and Baumbach welcomed their second child in secret, too. While promoting "Barbie," Gerwig revealed their second son's existence in an interview with Elle UK, though she didn't reveal his name. "He's a little Schmoo," she gushed. "He's a wise little baby."

They were back on the awards circuit in 2020

2019 was a big year for Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. Her film "Little Women" was released to critical acclaim, as was his film "Marriage Story." Baumbach's movie is about a theater director (Adam Driver) who divorces his actor wife (Scarlett Johansson) after having an affair with a colleague; as a result, a lot of people wondered whether the film was a confession of sorts, an artistic admission that he had cheated on Jennifer Jason Leigh with Gerwig. He told The New York Times that was not the case, insisting, "This movie is not autobiographical; it's personal, and there's a true distinction in that."

That awards season, Gerwig and Baumbach made history. Both "Little Women" and "Marriage Story" were nominated for six Academy Awards at the 2020 ceremony, making them one of very few couples to direct two films competing against one another for Best Picture. Things occasionally got awkward, but they made the best of it. Baumbach told The Hollywood Reporter that they were seated at separate tables at the Governors Awards. "We just hoped we were close enough that we could reach over to each other," he recalled.

On the red carpet at the Academy Awards, Baumbach told E! News that they handled the situation well. "We already share a baby, so the nominations, that's easy," he joked. Ultimately, "Little Women" won for Costume Design, while Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for "Marriage Story."

They don't like to label their relationship

At this point, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have been together for more than a decade, working together in their careers and creating a life together when not on film sets, too. Though they have never gone public with any sort of proposal or engagement, a 2018 style piece in Vogue referred to Baumbach as Gerwig's "fiance." They've never publicly discussed a marriage, either, but in 2023, in the lead-up to the release of "Barbie," multiple articles in places like HuffPost called him her "husband."

In a 2020 joint interview with James Corden on "The Late Late Show," they discussed their hesitance to put a label on their relationship. "'Boyfriend' sort of makes it sound like I just met him last week," Gerwig said, adding, "And 'lover' is disgusting. And fiance makes it sound like there's an imminent wedding... and so none of it works." That being said, Gerwig admitted to having a strategy to get around the awkwardness. "I feel like when I'm talking to old people, I always say 'husband,' because it makes them feel very at ease."

Baumbach concurred, agreeing that he often calls her his wife — that is, until people ask for more information, and he has to clarify. Gerwig jumped in, joking, "Not in the eyes of either God, or the state." There you have it, folks; after all these years, they're something to one another.

Greta Gerwig starred in his film White Noise

In 2022, Greta Gerwig was one of the leads of Noah Baumbach's film "White Noise," based on a novel of the same name. She plays Babette, the mother of a family dealing with a mysterious toxic cloud. In an interview with Netflix, Gerwig recalled that her partner worked on the script during the COVID-19 lockdown. At first, Baumbach wasn't sure who to cast. "I was so excited about him adapting it, and then he said, 'Well, who should play Babette?'" she explained. "And I said, 'Me.' But I think I really only said it because everything felt unlikely."

She wasn't serious, thinking that because of the pandemic, the movie might never get made. Luckily for Baumbach, his real-life partner helped him unlock Babette. "I think it gave me confidence in that Greta saw herself in the character," he told the AP. "It allowed me to see that character in a clearer way."

The role was Gerwig's first in years, and she told Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" that she was nervous to act again. In particular, she was intimidated by the cast, including the fact that the movie reunited Gerwig with her "Frances Ha" co-star Adam Driver. "It's nerve-wracking, and it's with Adam Driver and Don Cheadle, and really amazing actors!" She joked that her character's curly wig helped her get into character, considering Cheadle's character calls it "important hair." Gerwig said, "I feel like, as long as I had the important hair, I'd be safe."

They co-wrote Barbie, but he skipped the premiere

Greta Gerwig's third solo feature "Barbie" was released to much fanfare in July 2023; the film grossed more than half a billion dollars in its first week of release. Though Gerwig directed it herself, she co-wrote it with Noah Baumbach. At first, she didn't tell her partner about the project. "He was like, 'Did you sign us up to write a 'Barbie' movie?'" Gerwig told The Guardian. "And I was like, 'Yes, Noah, get excited!'"

"We were making each other laugh and then we got to the end and we started to make each other cry," Gerwig told the audience at CinemaCon (via WorldOfReel). Baumbach liked their script so much that he considered directing it himself, but Gerwig wasn't about to let that happen. "I said, 'Step aside,'" she recalled. "There was a point I was so in love with it that I couldn't imagine anyone else doing it."

Baumbach didn't attend the movie's world premiere; as a member of the Writers Guild of America, he sat it out in solidarity with the ongoing writers strike. (Gerwig is bound by a separate agreement through the Directors Guild.) According to Deadline, Gerwig gave her partner a shout-out at the event. "My co-writer and co-creator, my partner in love and art, Noah Baumbach is not here," she said, explaining the strike. "From the first line to the last cut, this movie is his as much as anyone's. He is a Barbie girl."