For writer, director, and actress Greta Gerwig, the excitement of a project comes in taking on a film with an “element of adventure.”

“A great thrill that I get is figuring out how to build my wings on the way down, just kind of leaping from the tallest thing I can find,” Gerwig said during an interview with TIME senior editor Lucy Feldman at the 2024 TIME Women of the Year gala in West Hollywood on Tuesday. Gerwig is one of 12 women recognized this year for their contributions to building a more equal world.

Greta Gerwig and TIME senior editor Lucy Feldman converse during TIME Women of the Year 2024. (Kevin Mazur—Getty Images for TIME)
Greta Gerwig and TIME senior editor Lucy Feldman converse during TIME Women of the Year 2024.
Kevin Mazur—Getty Images for TIME

The 40-year-old director became the first person to have her first three solo feature films—Lady Bird, Little Women, and Barbie—each nominated for “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards. The key to a Gerwig film, she says, has to do with her decision to take on ambitious projects, a topic which she expounded on before discussing the possibility of a Barbie sequel.

“Sometimes, because I write and direct, I write things that I genuinely sit back and think, ‘I have no idea how I’m actually going to accomplish that.’ And that’s actually the most exciting feeling. Because then you can gather people— gather your designers, your heads of departments—and everybody kind of figures out something that’s never been done before. And that’s thrilling.”

Gerwig’s latest blockbuster film, Barbie, is nominated for eight Oscars and broke box-office records, with its summer 2023 theatrical release grossing at least $1.4 billion worldwide.

Gerwig said that when she works on a film she has to find an “undertow.” For Barbie, the undertow was the intergenerational struggle behind the doll. “I remember going to Toys R Us and looking at the Barbies, and I loved their hair. And I loved everything about them. And my mom was not sure about it. And I thought that’s the story,” Gerwig says. A sequel to the film would be dependent on her finding a similar element.

Gerwig remains tight-lipped about how that dynamic will manifest in her forthcoming adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia—“that’s just for me,” she jokingly says—but does share that it would be an honor to work with the Barbie cast and crew again.

For now, she says she’s choosing to focus on the other joys in life, monumentally her family, but also more trivial matters.

When asked what she wants her future self to remember about this moment in her life, Gerwig said, “I hope that the thing I remember is how amazing and fun it is,” before adding, “and how—and this sounds totally superficial but you know, when you go to these events and you put on clothes and part of me is like, ‘I don’t know’—I looked great.”

“That’s sort of a hard thing to feel all the time, and I think when I’m 80, I’ll be like, ‘Look at you! You’re 40! You look wonderful.’”

TIME Women of the Year was sponsored by P&G, Rolex, Ray Ban-Meta, Donna Karan New York, FIJI Water, Campari, and Mattel.

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