Beanie Feldstein Dishes On Her New Film Drive-Away Dolls: A BUST Interview

by Lisa Butterworth

An evocative actor whose roles make feminists want to stand up and cheer, Beanie Feldstein is both a generational talent and a deeply relatable force in popular culture. Here, she opens up about her surprising new role in Drive-Away Dolls, her new wife, and the new way she’s discovered to honor her late brother by helping grieving children find joy again

Jonathan Cohen Dress; Christian Louboutin Shoes; Almasika Earrings; Effy and Melinda Maria Rings. 

Beanie Feldstein is one of us. That’s what I thought when I saw her in each of these three girl-culture classics—Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird (2017); How to Build a Girl (2019), based on Caitlin Moran’s novel of the same name; and the Bechdel-test-crushing high-school movie Booksmart (2019). I thought this again when she helped set the record straight for one of the most maligned young women in U.S. modern history, playing Monica Lewinsky in the FX series Impeachment: American Crime Story (2021). When we chat over Zoom, she basically confirms my suspicions right away. “I love everything that you guys stand for,” Feldstein says about BUST, from her kitchen table at home in New York City. “I’m such a big fan.” 

Her newest movie—a totally kooky, totally queer caper comedy—is one of her BUST-iest yet. In Drive-Away Dolls, directed by Ethan Coen, who wrote it with his wife, Tricia Cooke, Feldstein plays Sukie, a cranky cop who has just broken up with her girlfriend, Margaret Qualley’s Jamie. As Jamie embarks on a post-breakup road trip-turned-heist to Tallahassee, FL, with her friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), Sukie beats up bad guys, tries to rid herself of Jamie’s dog (named Alice B. Toklas), and continuously flexes her alpha cop attitude. It’s a version of Feldstein we’ve never seen before, set in a hilariously idiosyncratic world only Coen—one of the guys who brought us The Big Lebowski—could create. 

“When I was sent [the script], as I was reading it, I think I had my hands over my cheeks, just like, Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” Feldstein says, reenacting her reaction to one of the early scenes, which has her hysterically crying while trying to remove a wall-mounted dildo. “But I immediately felt enamored by the world that they had created.” In the script, her character’s name was originally Jennifer, but Coen changed it as soon as Feldstein was cast. “He was like, ‘I just felt you were not a Jennifer and instead you were Sukie Schenkelman,’” Feldstein says. “And I was like, ‘I feel like you really see me in a profound way to just come right at me with Sukie Schenkelman. That is kind of my badass, bitter alter ego, and I’m obsessed with it.”

Feldstein, who is gentle, gracious, and generally delightful IRL, embraced the part. “She’s nothing like me whatsoever,” Feldstein says. “But I do really love playing women who don’t let up for anyone.” In fact, she’s built a whole career on it. 

Feldstein, whose given name is Elizabeth, grew up in Los Angeles, where she started taking toddler dance classes at a creative arts studio run by her childhood best friend’s mom. She doesn’t remember this, but her mom has recounted the story of taking a tiny Beanie to a show the theater students put on: “I was in a ballet outfit, and I was like, ‘I want to do that. Please let me do that,’” Feldstein says, pointing to an imaginary stage. “I’ve always been just a performer to my core.” She started doing community theater and it snowballed from there (including a role at age 10 as the only Jewish orphan in a professional production of Annie).

  Feldstein saw college, however, as a chance to delve into her love of academics. Rather than hit NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts like her theater-obsessed peers, Feldstein went to Wesleyan, a small liberal arts school in Connecticut, and studied sociology. “I could have seen myself going to grad school, becoming a professor or a social worker or something that’s just completely different,” Feldstein says. But her desire to act won out. “I couldn’t get that voice out of my head that said, You gotta try.” 

Her first role after graduation was in the 2016 comedy Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, which established Feldstein as seriously fucking funny. Lady Bird came the year after. Feldstein plays the musical theater-loving bestie to Saoirse Ronan’s Lady Bird in the film, which explores friendship and mother-daughter relationships in a way only writer/director Greta Gerwig can. “I will never forget reading that script; it just felt like reading a part of my soul or something,” Feldstein says. When she read for the role, Gerwig fed her lines as Lady Bird. “[It was] the only time in my life that I actually left an audition skipping,” she says. “I felt like sunshine had been poured on my face after 10 minutes with Greta Gerwig.” The Lady Bird experience, however, set the bar “really, really, really high. It’s scary at 23 to have a bar set like that,” she says, “because I was so privileged and so lucky, but where do I go from there?” 

Luckily for Feldstein, she went to Booksmart, her first co-leading role opposite Kaitlyn Dever. In Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, they play Molly and Amy, two overachieving high school best friends who decide to get wild just once before graduation. It immediately joined the teen girl coming-of-age canon. Feldstein remembers when the movie premiered at South by Southwest and the out-of-body experience she had going up to the stage afterward for a Q&A. “This girl came up to the mic and started crying in front of over a thousand people. She said she was valedictorian. And in that last speech that I gave at the graduation as Molly, she felt very, very, very seen,” Feldstein says. “I still have chills when I think about it. As a person—forget as an actor—as a person, all you want in life, or at least all I want in life, is to know that people know that I hear them, I see them, I take care of them.” She still gets approached by moms and their daughters, or by best friends, who thank her for portraying female friendships the way they actually feel. “Nothing is higher stakes than your relationship with your best friend,” she says. “The connections that young girls make over those two movies, I just feel so lucky that they’ll always exist. They’re the sleepover movies now.”

Perhaps one of the roles Feldstein is best known for, however, is the one that didn’t pan out. After making her Broadway debut alongside living legend Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! in 2017, in 2021, it was announced that she would star in the long-awaited revival of Funny Girl, the show that made Barbra Streisand a superstar. For Feldstein, who has said she “came out of the womb with jazz hands,” landing the role of comedian Fanny Brice was the pinnacle she’d been working toward since pointing at that stage as a tiny Bean. But after lukewarm reviews, a Tonys snub, and some serious Broadway bitchery, she left the show early, only for it to be announced less than 24 hours later that she was being replaced by Lea Michele, which further stoked the gossipy scandal’s flames. Feldstein has yet to comment on the experience, and that doesn’t change with our conversation. “One day,” she says, when I ask if she’d like to say anything about what happened. “But it’s just not that day. I know I will have the words one day, but I just don’t quite yet.”

Batsheva Top; Victoria’s Secret Bra; B-low The Belt Belt; Commando Pants; Lucasheva Shoes; Melinda Maria Earrings and Rings.

Drive-Away Dolls is her first foray back into the spotlight since then, and for Feldstein, this movie resonates in a whole other way. It’s the first where she plays a queer character—the film’s portrayal of the thriving late-’90s lesbian bar scene alone will make you want to jump in a time machine. “As a queer person myself, it was so fun and special for me to finally get to play a queer character, to dig into my identity in that way,” Feldstein says. “It was just this little added meaningful layer.” The 30-year-old came out at the end of 2018, with a superb tweet: “My girlfriend wears ‘boyfriend jeans.’ Honestly, the patriarchy is real.” 

Feldstein met that girlfriend, who is now her wife, Bonnie-Chance Roberts (whom she affectionately calls “Bon”), while working on How to Build a Girl. The British-born Roberts was a producer on the film, which starred Feldstein as Johanna Morrigan, an English teenager who reinvents her uneventful, working-class life by becoming a hard-drinking, sex-loving music writer. The two were friends from the moment they met, forming an instant connection. “I was like, Oh, I’ll know this girl forever,” Feldstein says. “Turns out, I’m going to marry her.” The two kept their relationship on the DL until the movie wrapped, something that didn’t come naturally to Feldstein. “I don’t like to not do things the way they’re supposed to be done. So that was a little bit rebellious for me,” she says. “I am such a rule follower and such a goody-goody. Bon certainly has much more of a rebellious, ambitious, adventurous spirit than I do.” In fact, that dichotomy is part of why they work. “I think there was just something inevitable about us being together,” she says. “I grew up in L.A., she grew up on Penny Lane in Liverpool, truly opposite worlds, but we just knew we were meant to be.” 

The two got married last May—Feldstein in a lacy floor-length Gucci gown, Roberts sporting a pale pink satin Gucci suit with a cream-colored vest and bow tie. Sarah Paulson, who played Linda Tripp to Feldstein’s Lewinsky, was a bridesmaid, Ben Platt sang their first dance song (James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves”), and Caitlin Moran gave a speech (“She definitely made me blush really hard at my own wedding”). All the sumptuous photos are over at vogue.com, and apparently the day was just as magical as it looked. “I am an anxious queen,” Feldstein says. “I am anxious sitting here. I’m anxious packing my purse. I’m anxious at the grocery store. I need you to know that I said this sentence during the wedding, and I stand by it—I’ve never been less anxious. I was cool as a cucumber. I had the best possible time of my life.” 

Mara Hoffman Dress; Lucasheva Shoes; Ashaha Earrings; Effy Ring. 

One of her favorite moments came during the ceremony. Even though it was pouring rain, the two were determined to get married outside on the lake amidst the trees at Cedar Lakes Estate in upstate New York. The downpour stopped moments before they walked down the aisle toward their officiant, a close family friend Feldstein calls her “guncle”—“he’s like our elder gay energy.” But just as Feldstein and Roberts were about to exchange their vows, a dense fog rolled in, completely obscuring the lake and shrouding the ceremony so that all anyone could see was the couple, the chuppah, and their closest friends and family. “The fog was mystical and beautiful. It truly felt otherworldly,” Feldstein says. “My friend Jen said, ‘We were in Brigadoon!’ Like there was no other place in the world. It felt like being in a snow globe, like a moment captured in time.” 

The wedding had a summer camp theme—s’mores at the rehearsal dinner and friendship bracelets for guests—something super close to Feldstein’s heart. She grew up going to camp. Her parents met at camp. Both sets of her grandparents met at camp. “Summer camp runs through our veins,” she says. And more recently, her love for camp has taken on new meaning. In 2017, her oldest brother, Jordan, the originator of her nickname, died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism. (Her other brother is actor Jonah Hill.) In an essay Feldstein wrote for InStyle afterward, she called the grief “unbearable” and “unremitting.” 

Jonathan Cohen Dress; Christian Louboutin Shoes; Almasika Earrings; Effy and Melinda Maria Rings. 

But last year, she came across a TikTok about Experience Camps, an organization that runs no-cost, one-week camps all over the country for kids who’ve lost someone incredibly close. By August, she was volunteering at one of their camps in Maine. “As a 30-year-old, living in a summer-camp bunk with 11-year-old girls and knowing that all of them have been through something really profound and terribly sad, I didn’t know what to expect,” Feldstein says. “It was the single most visceral week of my entire life. These children have been through so much. And most of the volunteers and staff have a connection to loss and are grieving ourselves. When you get kids who have lost a parent or a sibling to laugh and dance and fall off a boat on a lake and scream and make friendship bracelets and write notes to each other and share stories and secrets, there’s just nothing like it.” 

For Feldstein it’s the perfect way to honor her brother. “Jordan was intensely generous and had such an incredible gift with kids, of just lighting them up. So, the fact that I found Experience Camps is not really that surprising to me,” she says, another connection that was meant to be. Feldstein recently joined Experience Camps’ board, working to raise money for the organization and help kids find the camp. It’s sort of the Feldstein way. “Me and my siblings and my parents are so different from each other, but two pillars of our family would be hard work and generosity,” she says. “That was instilled in us from a very young age.” 

So was Feldstein’s feminism. I ask if she considers herself a feminist while she happens to be taking a sip of water, and she almost does a spit take. “Of course!” she says, laughing. “One thousand and ten percent, yes.” It came from her mom, who she calls an “absolute force. She taught all of us, but she exemplified specifically for me that I could do anything and be anything,” Feldstein says. “But obviously, society does not give us that privilege and freedom and narrative.” As a plus-size icon, Feldstein, however, is helping to change that narrative with every role she takes—whether she’s a teenage valedictorian, a sexually self-possessed music critic, an object of presidential lust, or a badass queer cop. 

Sezane Sweater and Skirt; Effy Ring.

“I know I have so much unbelievable privilege in many ways, but there are aspects of myself that I don’t often see onscreen. And so, to be that person for someone else—I take tremendous responsibility and pride in that. I’ve always been this gal. I’ve been chubby my whole life. And around 16, I just decided that instead of fighting who I am every minute of every day, I just was like: This is who I am, take it or leave it. I always say, ‘They either want the Bean or they don’t want the Bean.’ It’s a mantra,” she says. “The way that you hold yourself does not have to be in relation to the ideology of our society. It’s hard, but once you get there, it’s so freeing. It’s unbelievably freeing. I really believe I can do and be and play anyone I want. Society doesn’t always believe that. And trolls and hateful people on the internet don’t always believe that. But I believe it. So that’s all that matters at the end of the day.”

Photographed by Alexandra Arnold; Styled by Ashley Afriyie, Hair by Peter Butler; Makeup by Katey Denno; Nails by Rita Remark
Location: Love Studios, N.Y.C.; Stylist’s Assistant: Olivia Hoernschemeyer; Photography Assistant: Sarah Gardner.
Top Image Credits: Mara Hoffman Dress; Lucasheva Shoes; Ashaha Earrings; Effy Ring. 

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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