In the new movie How to Build a Girl, Beanie Feldstein, 26, plays her first English schoolgirl, Johanna Morrigan, who’s as precocious as the Californian 12th-graders she portrayed in Lady Bird and Booksmart. Johanna is an ambitious academic wiz. One of her bedroom walls is plastered with pictures of her idols, who include Elizabeth Taylor, Sigmund Freud, Jo March, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and David Bowie. Most of them, impersonated by such stars as Michael Sheen, Lily Allen, and Sharon Horgan, come magically alive—echoing Hogwarts’s portraits of the dead—and offer Johanna advice, or flinch when she stumbles on her journey of moral and sexual self-discovery.
Right now, Feldstein is voluntarily locked down at her parents’ L.A. home. Whose pictures would she pin on her childhood-bedroom walls? “That was my favorite thing to ask every cast and crew member … I’d have Eleanor Roosevelt, Stephen Sondheim, Carole King, Sandra Oh, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, August Wilson. I’m trying to think of every side of myself. I could go on forever. I’m such a devoted-fan type, which is another reason why I loved playing Johanna, because I share the way she loves so many people.”