Inside Barbie Land: 19 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From The New Barbie Movie

The attention to detail in Greta Gerwig’s plastic fantastic dreamworld is truly jaw-dropping.
Margot Robbie in a first-look photo from the Barbie movie
Margot Robbie in a first-look photo from the Barbie movie
Warner Bros

Bringing the most iconic doll in the world to life on the big screen is no small feat – but if the first reactions from critics are anything to go by, it seems like Greta Gerwig has pulled it off with her Barbie movie.

As soon as the first trailer dropped earlier this year, it was clear that Greta, along with star and executive producer Margot Robbie and the rest of the film’s production team, went to painstaking lengths to immerse viewers in Barbie’s plastic fantastic world.

The film features full-size Dream House sets, costumes inspired by famous Barbie looks and even nods to Barbie controversies (like the inclusion of pregnant Midge, a doll who caused outrage upon release) – the attention to detail looks impeccable.

From Greta’s unusual pitch to film executives to the cameos that didn’t happen and Ryan Gosling’s costume brainwave, these behind-the-scenes facts should tide you over until the film arrives on Friday 21 July…

The woman who inspired Barbie’s name has a cameo in the film

Barbie meets her namesake in the new film's trailer
Barbie meets her namesake in the new film's trailer
Warner Bros

If you’ve watched the Barbie trailer over and over again (guilty!), you might be familiar with one sequence showing Margot’s character meeting an older lady on a park bench, who tells her: “Humans get one ending. Ideas live forever.”

That woman is none other Barbara Handler, who the first ever Barbie was named after. She’s the daughter of Barbie inventor Ruth Handler (who also named Ken after her son, Kenneth).

The production used so much pink paint, they ‘cleaned out’ their suppliers

Barbie Land is a pastel paradise – causing a shortage of pink paint the world over
Barbie Land is a pastel paradise – causing a shortage of pink paint the world over
Warner Bros

Bringing Barbie Land to life required a lot of pink paint. So much, it turns out, that the film industry’s go-to paint suppliers, Rosco, basically had to hand over all their stock.

Lauren Proud, Rosco’s vice president of global marketing, confirmed that the film “used as much paint as we had” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“There was this shortage, and then we gave them everything we could,” she explained.

This Barbie doesn’t need CGI effects

This shot of Barbie's perpetually-arched feet appeared in the first trailer
This shot of Barbie's perpetually-arched feet appeared in the first trailer
Warner Bros

Sure, Christopher Nolan may have recreated a nuclear explosion without CGI for Oppenheimer, but Barbie still features some pretty impressive practical effects of its own too.

In one instantly memorable shot from the film’s trailer, we see Barbie step out of her fluffy high heels, only for her feet to remain perfectly arched (just like the doll’s).

Greta decided against using CGI for Barbie’s feet (perhaps she’s still traumatised by the Cats movie). “I thought, ‘Oh god, no! That’s terrifying! That’s a nightmare’,” she told The Project.

The shot eventually took “about eight takes”, according to Margot. “I was holding on to a bar, but that’s it,” she told Fandango. “I wasn’t in a harness or anything. I just walked up and kind of held onto the bar above camera.”


Margot Robbie breaks down the high heel scene from the #BarbieTheMovie trailer in our latest BigTicketInterview. Don't miss #Barbie only in theaters July 21! 👠💕 #margotrobbie #movietok #filmtok

♬ original sound - Fandango

Margot and Greta had to perform a scene for a Mattel exec to win him over

According to TIME magazine, at one point during production, Mattel’s Chief Operating Officer Richard Dickson flew over to London to intervene as he believed that one scene was “off-brand” for Barbie.

“[Dickson] says he took a flight to the London set to argue with Gerwig and Robbie over a particular scene, which he felt was off-brand,” the report says. “But Gerwig and Robbie performed the scene for him and changed his mind.” Who could argue with that?

A chance encounter with a Ken doll persuaded Ryan to take the role

Ryan Gosling at CinemaCon earlier this year
Ryan Gosling at CinemaCon earlier this year
Greg Doherty via Getty Images

After reading the Barbie script, Ryan headed outside to mull things over.

“I walked out in the backyard and you know where I found Ken?” he told Jimmy Fallon during an appearance on The Tonight Show. “Face down in the mud next to a squished lemon.”

He took a photo of poor downtrodden Ken, and sent it to Greta.

“I shall be your Ken,” he wrote in the message. “For his story must be told.”

He also came up with the idea that Ken would wear his own branded underwear

Ryan Gosling in character as Ken
Ryan Gosling in character as Ken
Warner Bros./Jaap Buitendijk

When the first promotional picture showing Ryan in full Ken get-up, complete with bleach blond hair, landed online last year, fans quickly honed in on one hilarious detail: the fact that Ken’s underwear was specially branded with his name on the waistband.

According to costume designer Jacqueline Durran, the idea came from the actor, who had the brainwave in a late fitting. “We just rushed to make it,” she told Vogue.

The Barbie gang attended ‘movie church’ during filming…

When production was in full swing, Margot’s production company LuckyChap put on weekly film screenings at Notting Hill’s Electric Cinema, a tradition which came to be known as “movie church”.

The films on the line-up included titles that had inspired Greta’s Barbie vision, including the likes of The Wizard Of Oz, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg and The Red Shoes.

… had a fancy sleepover in a London hotel…

Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig at Barbie's London premiere
Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig at Barbie's London premiere
Gareth Cattermole via Getty Images

That wasn’t the only event that the cast got to attend together. Before filming kicked off, Greta hosted a Barbie sleepover at Claridges and invited some of the female cast (the Kens could attend too, but they weren’t allowed to stay the night).

“Honestly, it just felt like it would be the most fun way to kick everything off,” the director told The Guardian. “And it’s something you don’t get to do that much as an adult. Like, ‘I’m just going to go have a sleepover with my friends…’”

… And went on a night out to see Magic Mike Live

In an interview with Rolling Stone UK, Ncuti Gatwa (who plays one of the Kens) described the cast’s trip to Magic Mike Live as “one of the best nights of my life”.

“I don’t know how I made it through any filming in the week after, my voice was gone from screaming so much,” he admitted. “The videos in the group chat the next morning were the best.

“Greta Gerwig’s assistant was pulled up on stage and given a lap dance and Greta was screaming in delight. Afterwards, we went and danced our hearts out. Margot is a very, very good party host. She’s queen of the vibes.”

Margot left a special ‘beach-related’ gift for Ryan every day during filming

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as seen on the poster for Barbie
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as seen on the poster for Barbie
Warner Bros

Not only did Margot help cast and crew get into the Barbie spirit by mandating a “pink day” dress code once a week on set, she also channeled her character by providing her co-star with some extremely on-brand gifts.

“[Margot] left a pink present with a pink bow, from Barbie to Ken, every day while we were filming,” Ryan told Vogue earlier this year. “They were all beach-related. Like puka shells, or a sign that says ‘Pray for surf’. Because Ken’s job is just beach. I’ve never quite figured out what that means. But I felt like she was trying to help Ken understand, through those gifts that she was giving.”

Oh, and Margot took that ‘pink day’ very seriously

Margot had this pink day once a week, where everyone had to wear something pink,” Ryan told People magazine.

“If you didn’t, you were fined. She would go around collecting the fines, and she would donate it to a charity.”

Greta wrote Mattel and Warner Bros executives a ‘surreal’ poem to get them on side

Greta at a Barbie photocall in London
Greta at a Barbie photocall in London
Stuart C. Wilson via Getty Images

As part of her initial pitch, Greta came up with a poem that she has since described as “surreal” in an interview with The Guardian.

So far, she’s kept quiet on the poem’s contents, but she has likened it to religious writings like the Apostle’s Creed, a Christian prayer, and the lament of Job.

“Shockingly, it does actually communicate some of the vibe of the movie,” she said.

Greta really wanted these two long-time collaborators to make a cameo – but the timings didn’t work

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet appeared in Greta’s first two solo directorial efforts, Lady Bird and Little Women, and the filmmaker had lined up Barbie cameo roles for them too. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out, with Saoirse working on an adaptation of The Outrun and Timothée also being ridiculously in-demand.

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet looking – it has to be said – not unlike Barbie and Ken at a Little Women photocall
Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet looking – it has to be said – not unlike Barbie and Ken at a Little Women photocall
David M. Benett via Getty Images

“It was always going to have to be like a sort of smaller thing because [Saoirse] was actually producing at the time, which I am so proud of her for,” Greta told CinemaBlend.

“And of course, it’s brilliant. But it was going to be a specialty cameo. I was also going to do a specialty cameo with Timmy.

“Both of them couldn’t do it and I was so annoyed. But I love them so much. But it felt like doing something without my children. I mean, I’m not their mom, but I sort of feel like their mom.”

There was another star who didn’t make it into the film either

“Gal Gadot is Barbie energy,” Margot explained.

“Because Gal Gadot is so impossibly beautiful, but you don’t hate her for being that beautiful, because she’s so genuinely sincere, and she’s so enthusiastically kind, that it’s almost dorky. It’s like right before being a dork.”

Gal Gadot
Gal Gadot
MICHAEL TRAN via Getty Images

Unfortunately for Margot and Greta, however, Gal wasn’t available at the time of filming either, meaning we never got to see the Wonder Woman star in Barbie Land.

Margot’s connections with Chanel shaped Barbie’s wardrobe

The majority of Margot’s outfits were custom-made by Jacqueline Durran and her team, but “if Margot wears anything that we didn’t make, it’s pretty much Chanel,” the costume designer told Vogue.

Margot has been an ambassador for the French fashion house since 2018, and the company “sent us anything and everything that we wanted”.

Margot didn’t initially think she’d be the one to play Barbie

Barbie’s journey to the big screen has been a long one. First, Amy Schumer was cast in the role, but later left the project when it became clear that it didn’t align with her vision for the film.

She later revealed that an early sign was when the team behind the movie sent her a pair of Manolo Blahniks to celebrate her hiring. “The idea that that’s just what every woman must want, right there, I should have gone, ‘You’ve got the wrong gal,’” she told The Hollywood Reporter last year.

Amy Schumer was originally supposed to play Barbie
Amy Schumer was originally supposed to play Barbie
NBC via Getty Images

Anne Hathaway then joined the film, but plans fell through.

And even when Margot’s LuckyChap production took the helm, it still wasn’t a given that she would take the lead role, eventually being announced in July 2019, two years before Greta signed on to direct.

The Barbie dreamhouse sets play with scale to make the actors appear more doll-like

In Barbie Land, all the proportions are deliberately a little bit off.

Set decorator Katie Spencer told Architectural Digest that they adjusted the dreamhouse rooms to be 23% smaller than the usual human size. So, for example, the ceilings were “quite close to one’s head”, as Greta put it, “and it only takes a few paces to cross the room”, as would be the case in an actual Barbie house.

The overall effect was to make the actors “seem big in the space but small overall”.

There’s no writing in the Barbie Land sets

You won’t see any proper writing in Barbie Land – instead, the Barbies communicate through scribbles, Margot explained.

“There’s no actual writing in Barbie Land,” she told Architectural Digest. “It’s just scribbled the way kids kind of write endless amounts of, you know, nothing. But it’s all very beautiful.”

Playing Ken helped Ryan ‘make peace’ with his Disney Channel days

Before Ryan was an Oscar-nominated movie star, he was an all-singing, all-dancing member of The Mickey Mouse Club (you’ve almost certainly seen the video clips of his fancy footwork). He thought he’d turned his back on his Mouseketeer past, but playing Ken helped him reconnect with his inner child star.

“At a certain point I thought I had left that kid behind, and I realized that I needed his help to make this movie,” he told EW. “So I had to go back and make peace with him and ask for his help. It was good for me.” We’re certain that his Disney past came in useful when he was filming his epic musical number, “I’m Just Ken”.

Barbie arrives in UK cinemas on Friday 21 July. Watch the trailer below:


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