What we know about the mysterious Barbie movie

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Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock

A mysterious live-action Barbie film with some surprising talent working behind-the-scenes has captivated the internet. Just what on Earth is this movie? Here's what we know so far: 

Who's making the Barbie movie?

A live-action Barbie movie surely wouldn't be generating so much attention among movie fans were it not for one head-scratching detail: it's directed by Greta Gerwig — as in, the acclaimed, Oscar-nominated director of Little Women and Lady Bird.

Not only that, but Gerwig is writing the screenplay with her partner, Noah Baumbach, the Oscar-nominated writer and director behind films like Marriage Story. Their involvement certainly suggests the project is no mere cash grab, and potentially not even a movie aimed at kids.

Who's in the cast?

Margot Robbie is playing Barbie, and Ryan Gosling stars as Ken. Warner Bros. has blessed fans with images of both of them: Robbie's Barbie is seen in a pink convertible, while Gosling's Ken is bleach blond, tanned, and wearing an open denim jacket.

But in May, The New York Times reporter Kyle Buchanan revealed a juicy rumor: Robbie and Gosling supposedly aren't the only Barbies and Kens in the film. According to Buchanan, Simu Liu — who says he waxed his entire body for the role — and Ncuti Gatwa also play Kens, while Issa Rae and Hari Nef play other Barbies. Emma Mackey, who has famously been described as a Robbie doppelgänger, is also in the cast. It isn't clear if she's playing a Barbie, too, though that would certainly make sense.

Then there's Will Ferrell, who's playing the "CEO of a toy company that may or not be Mattel," according to The Hollywood Reporter — pointing to a possible meta twist, as the actual toy company Mattel is producing the film. Other members of the stacked ensemble include Kate McKinnon, America Ferrera, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Emerald Fennell, Rhea Perlman, Alexandra Shipp, and Michael Cera, but their roles haven't been announced. There have also been unconfirmed rumors that Dua Lipa may have a role.

What's it about?

An official plot synopsis for Barbie hasn't been revealed yet. An earlier iteration of the project was said to involve Barbie being expelled from Barbieland for not being perfect enough, but that was when the movie was set up at Sony starring Amy Schumer as Barbie, so it's not clear if any of that has carried over to this Warner Bros. version.

We might be able to glean some clues, though, from an unexpected source: Robbie's alleged secret Letterboxd account. In May, fans discovered a since-deleted profile on the movie review website that was believed, though not confirmed, to belong to the actress, and the account included a list titled "Watch for Barbie" — which would appear to be a collection of movies that inspired the film.

By far the most interesting title was The Truman Show, the 1998 Jim Carrey film about a man who realizes his life is a reality show, which ends with him escaping into the real world. Also included were two French musicals — The Young Girls of Rochefort and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the latter of which was a major influence on La La Land — plus the 1984 Tom Hanks romantic-comedy Splash, about a mermaid living among humans, and the 1981 coming-of-age film Puberty Blues. Could these five films suggest Barbie is a musical romantic-comedy with a bit of a meta sci-fi twist?

Splash's inclusion was also notable because Deadline in 2018 said the earlier version Sony was working on, the one that involved Barbie being kicked out of Barbieland, was a "fish-out-of-water story à la Splash and Big." So might that still be the case?

What have we learned from set photos?

Barbie has recently been filming in California, including at Venice Beach with crowds clearly visible in the background, which already seems to suggest the film will involve Barbie being out in the real world surrounded by people she doesn't fit in with à la Elf. Set photos showed Robbie and Gosling shooting a scene where they're rollerblading in public, both wearing ridiculously bright neon outfits that seem to be inspired by the Hot Skatin' Barbie doll from 1994.

Even more intriguing: other set photos showed Will Ferrell and a group of men in suits also rollerblading at Venice Beach, and he could be heard frantically shouting that "time is of the essence" while rollerblading. Robbie could also be seen at one point talking with men in suits wearing earpieces, who appear to take her away. So might Ferrell and the other men be the villains chasing after Barbie? Could this suggest the plot involves Barbie and Ken escaping into the real world, leading evil Mattel executives to go after them?

Other photos and videos from the set have revealed Robbie's voice as Barbie —  she can be heard excitedly yelling, "Ready for fun? Yay!" while rollerblading with America Ferrera's character — and both Robbie and Gosling dressed in cowboy outfits, for ... some reason.

Will it feature the song 'Barbie Girl'?

Sadly, Variety has confirmed the hit Aqua song won't be included after Mattel's previous legal battle over it, so we'll just have to sing "come on Barbie, let's go party" in the theater ourselves.

What has the cast teased?

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Robbie cryptically teased, "Whatever you're thinking, we're going to give you something totally different — the thing you didn't know you wanted," adding that the film will "surprise people" and "provoke a thoughtful conversation." Simu Liu, meanwhile, revealed to GQ one of his agents told him the Barbie script is one of the best he's ever come across, and Kate McKinnon had similarly high praise, calling the screenplay "one of the greatest things I've ever read."

Barbie hits theaters in July 2023, suggesting Warner Bros. is thinking of it as a summer movie hit. But if Gerwig and Baumbach actually end up nominated at the Academy Awards for a Barbie movie, hey, stranger things have definitely happened at the Oscars. It's Gerwig's Barbie world, and we're just living in it.

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