marni presentation

Review: WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE, Ghibli Enters A New Age With A Melancholic Ghost Story

Studio Ghibli and its catalogue of extraordinary animated films has been built on the back of two men: the creator of its most beloved characters and star of the studio, Miyazaki Hayao and the often over-looked, but no less talented, Takahata Isao.

Last year saw the announcement of Miyazaki’s retirement and the release of his last film, The Wind Rises, followed a few months later by Takahata’s latest, The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Takahata may not have announced any desire to quit, but his advanced age (the director is now 78), and the length of time it takes him to put a film together leaves a question mark over the artist’s ability to helm another feature length work. Regardless of whether we’ve seen the last from the legendary pair, Ghibli is moving into a new chapter with a next generation of filmmakers.

Yonebashi Hiromasa’s first Ghibli feature was 2011’s The Secret World of Arietty and the director has returned with another classic English children’s book for adaptation, Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 ghost story When Marnie Was There. The story follows Anna, a young girl living with an adoptive mother she refers to as ‘Aunt’. Anna struggles to connect with the people around her, a morose and withdrawn attitude has left her alienated at school and so she is sent off to the countryside to see if the fresh air and new surroundings will do her any good. Staying with open and lively relatives in a beautiful coastal town, Anna, who remains a detached loner, finds herself drawn to an old, apparently empty house across an inlet.

After one particularly traumatic night Anna runs away, rowing across the water to the mansion where she meets a little girl. With blonde hair, blue eyes and a period dress the girl appears to be a dream and yet she is real to the touch. The girl, Marnie, is also lonely, ignored by her often absent parents and left in the clutches of a bullying old maid and so the two girls form a secret friendship, meeting nightly by the water after the sun goes down. When eventually a new family moves into the old mansion and Marnie disappears for good, Anna quickly befriends the new girl living there and the two set about discovering the true identity of the phantom friend.

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Allison Williams Discusses Acting, Underwear, and Girls at the 92Y

With the title role of NBC’s Peter Pan Live in her rearview—and the juicy role of Girls’ aspiring musician Marnie on her present dashboard—Allison Williams took the 92nd St Y stage with SNL alum and late-night host Seth Meyers for a conversation on Feb. 18 in New York City. Williams did not shy away from discussing how she broke into acting, her underwear collection versus Lena Dunham’s and, of course, Girls.  

Below, a few highlights from the chat, with Williams’ thoughts on…

…wanting to be an actress: Williams recounted wanting to be an actress when she was 10 years old, playing dress-up and trying out different accents. Her first stage role was as a dog in a ballet. “Ballet wasn’t my calling,” she says, “but at least I never played a tree.”  

…her first acting job: After graduating with a B.A. in English from Yale, Williams earned a living as a stand-in on film and television sets. Her favorite early gig was on the set of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. She remembered wearing an overcoat and fedora, standing in for men that were two or three times her size. After standing in for the actor playing Al Capone, director Martin Scorsese nicknamed her “Aly Capone.”

…her audition for Girls: After Williams graduated from college, she created the video “Man Men with a Twist,” which became a viral sensation as she put lyrics to the Mad Men theme song. It caught the eye of Girls executive producer Judd Apatow, who asked her to audition for Marnie. “I fully understood and identified with Marnie,” says Williams. “The audition scene was about Marnie breaking up with Charlie. I walked into a room of capital ‘A’ actresses who were all ‘pre-crying’ about the break up. But I knew Marnie actually hates Charlie.”

…Lena Dunham: “I immediately clicked with Lena,” Williams says of her first meeting with the Girls creator. “They wanted someone [for the role of Marnie] who was the complete opposite of Lena. And if you took a picture of my underwear drawer and a picture of Lena’s, you would understand the difference between the two of us. Mine is separated by genre of underwear and color-coded. Lena’s, I imagine, is puppies and prints. It’s probably eclectic and great.”

…filming the Girls episode at the beach: Williams mentioned that most of the North Fork fight scenes in Season 3’s “Beach Housewere improvised. “It was incredible to shoot, but really draining,” Williams says of the experience. “When you’re improvising insults about characters that are a shade of you, but not really you….it can get real mean real quick.”

…her favorite Girls characters: “I’m a big Laird fan. He makes me laugh,” says Williams, when asked by an audience member about her favorite character on Girls. “Also, I’m biased, but Rita Wilson playing my mom is so good.” Williams proudly admitted to picking the items Wilson carries in her purse on screen, including a cell phone case with brass knuckles. “Her performance is subtle and cringey,” Williams adds. “It conveys so much about who Marnie is.”