For most people, a year that involved making your debut on Broadway in the hottest show since Hamilton—opposite an iconic performer—would be enough. But consider Beanie Feldstein this year’s overachiever. Not content to star as Minnie Faye eight shows a week in the Bette Midler-led Hello, Dolly!, she’s also winning hearts as the loyal friend Julie in Lady Bird, the best-reviewed indie film of the year. (It currently boasts a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)
Written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Lady Bird follows high school senior Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her best friend Julie (Feldstein) as they navigate impending adulthood in Sacramento, surrounded by a cast of theatre greats including Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s parents. Among other painfully accurate depictions of high school life is their production of Merrily We Roll Along, which involves an extended, hilarious audition sequence. But as it turns out, that Merrily We Roll Along audition sequence became something of a test drive for a Hello, Dolly! audition for Feldstein.
“We were filming Lady Bird in L.A. in August, September,” Feldstein recalls, “and Greta didn’t have any phones on set—which is the most genius idea ever—so I came back to my phone and I had an email about Hello, Dolly!. And I’d heard they were doing it, and I was beyond excited. And when I got the email, it said, ‘Scott [Rudin] and Eli [Bush, his producing partner] have seen the dailies and think you might be right for Minnie Faye.’”
Convinced that a project this dreamy wasn’t in the cards, Feldstein nevertheless decided to do her prep work and give the best audition she could on tape. “And I found out that day! I couldn’t believe it. And I was staying in my childhood home, so I was with my parents when I found out I was going to be on Broadway!”
Amidst the excitement of her impending Broadway debut, Feldstein still focused on her performance for the screen. She was immediately drawn to Julie from the moment she read Lady Bird’s script. “I fell head over heels for it,” she says. “It’s pretty perfect, as far as I’m concerned.” And part of what drew her was Gerwig’s ability to capture female friendships with Julie and Lady Bird, one that Feldstein describes as “incredibly special, vibrant, and loving.” She also saw a lot of herself in Julie, particularly her kindness. “I was so struck by her true kindness. And my friends mean so much to me, and seeing incredible friendships on screen means so much to me as a viewer. ‘You feel like a friend to me’ is the nicest thing you can say to me after seeing the movie!”