Barbie director Greta Gerwig has revealed that the iconic ‘I’m Just Ken’ dance sequence from the film was almost removed from the script. Speaking to Succession creator Jesse Armstrong at the BFI London Film Festival, the filmmaker claimed that the studio executives at Warner Bros. questioned her at a ‘big meeting’ whether the standout scene was necessary. However, she stood her ground and cited the 1952 movie Singin’ in the Rain’s ballet scene as a reference point for Barbie’s ‘dream ballet,’ where all the Kens would be dressed in black and dance across a wide-open, pink and blue-hued space, as they work out their identity issues.
“It just said in the script, ‘And then it becomes a dream ballet and they work it out through dance’,” Gerwig said in the interview (via Variety). “There was a big meeting that was like, ‘Do you need this?’ And I was like, ‘Everything in me needs this.’ They were like, ‘What do you even mean? What is a dream ballet?’” The scene in question does come across as odd in screenplay format, as it just transitions from a musical fight sequence at the Barbie Land beach into a vast emptiness, with Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu beaching off. It appears as though WB was worried whether the quirky change in environment would sit well with a mainstream audience. Also, Barbie was never intended as a musical — in fact, the ‘I’m Just Ken’ track initially didn’t have a solid place until Gerwig heard and ‘loved’ the small version composer Mark Ronson wrote.
The song is now a certified hit, with over 78.5 million streams on Spotify and 10 million views on YouTube, at the time of writing. Gosling, who previously recorded songs for his 2016 film La La Land, was the vocalist for his part in Barbie as well and placed at No. 87 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August. “I was like if people could follow that in Singin’ in the Rain, I think we’ll be fine. I think people will know what this is. So that was the big reference point,” Gerwig explained, adding that she was equally stressed about the sequence totally failing. After all, this wasn’t the only time filming was interrupted, as a Time Magazine story revealed that Mattel president and COO Richard Dickson flew over to the location to ‘argue’ with director Gerwig and lead Margot Robbie over an undisclosed scene that felt ‘off-brand’ to him. The duo changed his mind by performing the scene before him, and it stayed.
Barbie is now the biggest film of 2023, having grossed $1.43 billion (about Rs. 11,901 crore) at the global box office, sitting right above The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Oppenheimer. It perched Gerwig as the first-ever woman director to join the billion-dollar club, and follows the stereotypical Barbie doll (Robbie) living her perfect life in the pink-hued Barbie Land until she starts turning sentient and is forced to face an existential crisis. Wanting to reverse those conflicting thoughts, she sets off on a journey to the real world with Ken (Gosling), where she learns about patriarchy, the troubled lives of women and how barbie dolls have perpetuated stereotypes and led young girls to have a skewed perception of themselves. The film is slated to release on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, and DVD formats on October 17.
Barbie is now available to watch digitally, and is still showing in select theatres across the world.