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Art and work are interchangeable for actress Greta Gerwig
Updated 6/6/2012 10:24 AM ET
LOS ANGELES — Halfway through an exhibit on postwar modernism at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Greta Gerwig stops in front of a color-blocked storage unit.

"My roommates are set designers, we have that in my apartment," she says, gesturing toward the valuable Eames piece. "It's perfect for record storage."

It's one of many references Gerwig, 28, drops that paint a picture of her bohemian life in New York City, shades of which can be seen in Lola Versus (out Friday in New York and L.A.). Gerwig plays Lola, an academic on the cusp of turning 30, whose fiancé (Joel Kinnaman) breaks up with her, sending her into a tailspin.

"I felt like I had some deep knowledge of (Lola)," says Gerwig, who also has a role in Woody Allen's summer film, To Rome With Love. "I usually don't have this experience of 'I want to go through all this stuff with this character and that's what I felt when I looked at Lola. … She gets to do so much. It felt like really going on a journey with someone through this year."

Lola's world, built by creative duo Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones (Breaking Upwards), is one where eccentric best friends mist marijuana into mouths and the men are artistic, and just as flawed as the women they chase. "I'm slutty, but I'm a good person!" Lola cries after being escorted home by a roller-blading rebound.

In Gerwig's New York, she spent her early 20s sleeping on an air mattress in an unheated apartment and grew up on the festival circuit. Now, she dates filmmaker Noah Baumbach and listens to This American Life while roaming the city streets.

"It's an incredibly idyllic life in a lot of ways," says the actress, who lives in Chinatown and spends time with friends, talking about ideas, books, movies and art. "It feels very vibrant and alive, it's kind of what I had fantasized about when I was young, (of) living in New York."

Might Lola resemble HBO's buzzy Girls, just grown up?

Not exactly, says Gerwig, who is friends with Girls creator Lena Dunham. Their characters "both exist in the realm of vaguely realistic ladies in New York," she says, but with their own vernacular, quirks and influences.

The similarity is in how vibrantly both modern, flawed women are drawn.

Today Gerwig studies the stylized LACMA exhibit, comparing it spatially to the MoMa and talking about modernist influences, '70s filmmakers — and even Barbie. "My mom got me the non-sexualized Barbie family," says the actress, passing the first Barbie Dream House.

Gerwig grew up in Sacramento and moved to New York to attend Barnard College. After school, "I was so broke," she says, sharing a three-bedroom apartment with six girls and working with a band of filmmakers who shared equipment and turned out noted art-house films, including Hanna Takes the Stairs, Baghead and House of the Devil. The work propelled Gerwig; in 2010, she played Ben Stiller's girlfriend in Greenberg. USA TODAY's Claudia Puig called her performance "pitch-perfect." And she starred in Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress, out earlier this year.

In 2011, Gerwig jumped into big-budget comedies Arthur and No Strings Attached.

And what about being anointed into Woody Allen's club?

"I've wanted to be in a Woody Allen movie since I saw Woody Allen movies," says Gerwig, who plays Jesse Eisenberg's jilted girlfriend in To Rome, out June 22. "I feel so honored, but also I can't really believe it. I can't believe that that's a thing that I've gotten to do.

"They say that those things can't keep you warm at night." Gerwig pauses and grins. "A little bit, it does."

Posted 6/5/2012 5:44 PM ET
Updated 6/6/2012 10:24 AM ET
Greta Gerwig found a lot in common with her character in the romantic comedy "Lola Versus," opening Friday in select cities. Next up, she stars in Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love."
By Dan MacMedan,, USA TODAY
Greta Gerwig found a lot in common with her character in the romantic comedy "Lola Versus," opening Friday in select cities. Next up, she stars in Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love."

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