What Beanie Feldstein learned about being a leading lady from Saoirse Ronan

Beanie Feldstein is having a major year. Between starring in the critical darling “Booksmart,” landing a 20-year role in Richard Linklater’s next film and news that she’ll soon play Monica Lewinsky in “American Crime Story,” it’s hard to remember she only rose to fame two years ago.

Since 2017 — when she had her breakout supporting role opposite Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird” — Feldstein has had scene-stealing turns as the sidekick in a handful of projects. But at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, she’s finally getting her turn as a leading lady in “How to Build a Girl.” The movie, based on writer Caitlin Moran’s bestselling book, is about a 16-year-old writer who becomes a successful music critic in the midst of high school.


Starring in a film, Feldstein said, took some adjustment.

“The thing that I did feel when we were filming it was I’m so used to doing ... really friendship-based movies,” she said. “I was like, ‘Where is my buddy? I don’t have a buddy on this journey.’ It’s a story of a girl who doesn’t have friends, and I felt that a lot when I was shooting. I was like, ‘I’m the only one on the call sheet today.’ That’s a very new experience for me.”

To prepare for the journey, she thought back on her experience with Ronan on “Lady Bird.”

“I learned so much, honestly, from Saoirse,” Feldstein said. “I watched her and I just was in awe of how she handled herself with such grace and love and generosity. She really felt like a member of the crew as much of a member of the cast, and I really tried to emulate that.”

Beanie Feldstein, from the film "How to Build a Girl," photographed in the L.A. Times Photo Studio at the Toronto International Film Festival
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)