insi-De The Wise Up Issue, Paul Flynn talks to the writer, producer, director and star of Girls, Lena Dunham about her rapid rise to fame and that naked Emmy performance.
“I think Girls is realistic, but not close to reality. When I pitched it I was definitely thinking this is the first generation of girls raised on reality TV and the internet, all believing we had ADD and ADHD.” Lena Dunham
After watching the first few episodes of the HBO TV series, Girls, Lena Dunham was instantly re-christened in my head as Victoria Woody Allen. Clearly, from the little stories she was telling in such a big way on her hit TV show, the 26-year-old screen prodigy had that neurotic Jewish New York wordiness going on at an acutely intellectual, self-regarding level. Yet she had the intuition and feeling to temper it with homespun, parochial, observational charm; the silly, funny stuff you laugh at about modern life, planting this timeless rites of passage in the present tense.
Can you talk me through the first approach you got from HBO about Girls? It started in April 2010. I don’t know whether you have this expression in the UK but I was doing generals, where you go from couch-to-couch sort of plying your wares. I can’t drive so I was completely panicked getting cabs from place-to-place and it turned out that was ok because in LA being five to ten minutes late is considered on time. I would sit down and talk about what I was interested in doing. When I sat down with HBO it was clear that we were really talking about real ideas. So I told them the kind of thing that I wanted to see as a television show and they responded so beautifully.
How professionally were you pitching yourself at that point and at that age? Oh my God, yeah. It was only two years since I’d graduated. I was almost 24 and I didn’t really pitch myself, I had a very awe/shocked attitude. People would give me a compliment about Tiny Furniture and I would be amazed that they had even watched it. I give HBO a lot of credit because most companies would really, really, really make sure that a project was a totally known commodity before they put any money into it. The fact that I had made one tiny independent movie and they were putting in out into the world was completely unreal.
Why do you think they made that leap of faith? Because of Tiny Furniture it was so clear what the TV show would look like. I’m not saying it was a great piece of filmmaking but I had such a cear template of what I could do. It wasn’t like I was walking in saying, ‘Ok, it’s like Die Hard meets Heathers.’ HBO is a very intuitive company. I’d never worked for a corporation before, and my parents are artists so I didn’t know anybody who did, but I will say that how HBO work is very counter to the way networks and corporations work. They had a slot that they’d been trying to fill since Sex and The City, where women all stick together on a Sunday night and drink together and talk about their problems and watch the show. They wanted to fill that and they were willing to try outside the box manoeuvres. I think Girls ended up being something different but it might have been born of that instinct.
Lena wears Top Corey Lynn Calter. Skirt Carven.