What links Aubrey Plaza to Sally Rooney and The White Lotus?

Sashay down the rabbit hole to discover how the Hollywood actor is connected to these cultural touchstones – as well as a medieval sex farce

Bull market

Aubrey Plaza 'Spin Me Round' film screening, Los Angeles, California, USA - 17 Aug 2022
Comedian-turned-actor Aubrey Plaza … Photograph: Lisa O’Connor/Rex/Shutterstock

If buying shares in actors was possible, you’d be advised to invest in Aubrey Plaza. The comedian-turned-actor has been ever-present over the last decade in the likes of Parks and Recreation and Ingrid Goes West. Soon she’ll be seen in the return of The White Lotus – only Jennifer Coolidge survives from its enjoyable first run, as the privileged few holiday in Sicily. And Plaza has rave US reviews for the thriller Emily the Criminal (which she also produced). Buy, buy, buy.

Telling tales

Pier Paolo Pasolini
… appeared in The Little Hours, inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, as was Pier Paolo Pasolini … Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar

Last year Plaza revealed she’d married her partner, the writer/director Jeff Baena. In 2017 she appeared in Baena’s medieval sex farce The Little Hours, based loosely on Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. He’s not the first to take inspiration from the 14th-century classical Italian tales: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s’s 1971 film Il Decameron is one of many artworks drawn from the source.

Big in Italy

Natalia Ginzburg
… who was a friend of novelist Natalia Ginzburg … Photograph: Public domain

Pasolini, who was killed in 1975 (still unsolved), was a towering figure in Italian culture as a director, poet, public intellectual, political activist and more. He was also a friend of Natalia Ginzburg, who was primarily a novelist and essayist but also elected to parliament in 1983. She appeared in Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St Matthew.

Natalia’s lexicon

Sally Rooney
… an epigraph from whose essay My Vocation appears in the latest novel from Sally Rooney … Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images

Ginzburg died in 1991, but has been having an Anglophone revival, with her work reprinted by Daunt and the New York Review of Books. Perhaps best known for “novel-cum-memoir” Family Lexicon, she has been championed by Maggie Nelson and Rachel Cusk. Sally Rooney’s third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, features an epigraph from Ginzburg’s essay My Vocation.

Bear market

Jemima Kirke
… whose Conversations With Friends became a TV series featuring Jemima Kirke, best known for Girls, also starring Christopher Abbot, who was in Black Bear with Aubrey Plaza. Photograph: PA

By Rooney’s standards it’s been a quiet time, with the novel and TV adaptation of Conversations With Friends not reaching the heights of Normal People. Jemima Kirke featured in the recent TV series but remains best known for Girls. Also among the Girls cast was Christopher Abbot, who in 2020 appeared in the meta-drama Black Bear: in the lead was Aubrey Plaza displaying her disquieting deadpan style. “Plaza’s best role yet,” said the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw; more seem to be following. Get investing.

Pairing notes

Read With Dan Murphy, Plaza writes children’s books. Their second effort, The Return of the Christmas Witch, is out in October.

Eat While shooting Jeff Baena’s , and culinary-themed comedy Spin Me Round, Plaza included on Instagram a meeting with chef Massimo Bottura, whose restaurant Osteria Francescana in Moderna is one of Italy’s most garlanded. Start saving.


Larry Ryan

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