It was only a matter of time before Zoe Kazan penned her first screenplay. The actress, best known for her supporting turns in "Revolutionary Road" and "Meek's Cutoff," is the offspring of two Academy Award-nominated screenwriters, Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord; granddaughter to legendary director Elia Kazan; and has already seen a play of hers premiere off-Broadway.
With the high-concept romantic comedy "Ruby Sparks" (out today via Fox Searchlight), Kazan now joins the likes of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon -- artists remarkably adept both behind and in front of the camera. Whether she goes on to net a little gold man for her efforts like the famous duo remains to be seen, but whatever the outcome, her screenwriting debut is a total winner.
"Ruby Sparks," directed by "Little Miss Sunshine" dream team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, centers on Calvin (played by Kazan's boyfriend Paul Dano), a revered young author who gets himself out of a writer's block rut after dreaming up his latest protagonist, Ruby. Inspired by his new creation, Calvin begins penning a new novel, only to one morning wake up to the reality that Ruby (Kazan) actually exists.
Indiewire sat down with a bubbly, all-smiling Kazan in Manhattan to discuss her writing process, and her personal connection to Calvin and Ruby.
How long had you been cooking up this screenplay?
I had the original idea in the summer of 2009, and wrote about 20 pages and then put it away because I could see what the broad comedy of the story was. But I knew that's not what I wanted to write. I wanted to let it sit around with me for a little longer before I really started to do it in earnest. Then I did "The Behanding of Spokane" on Broadway in the Spring of 2010 and I had time during the day, so I just tackled it. I wrote it in like three weeks and sent it off to producers. We were in pre-production by April 2012, so it was really fast.
Wait, no April 2011. I'm really bad at dates [laughs]!. Math...
What happened in that in-between stage during the writing process that gave you the confidence to delve into the more dramatic aspect of the work?
I think that this movie is not autobiographical at all, but it's very personal. It draws on a lot of things that I've experienced in relationships where there's been a power in balance, and where I've felt that the person I was with loved some idea of me, and not the actual person. That's a hard thing to write about. The movie goes to a pretty dark emotional place. I just really wanted to be careful before I started writing that I knew exactly what I was trying to write, and that I was in control of the story. I didn't make an outline for this movie. I really felt like they were speaking to me, so I wanted to be in the right shape to receive them. Sometimes when you clamp down, the muse doesn't speak to you.
Sounds like a case of art imitating life, given how Ruby speaks to Calvin in the film, inspiring him to write.
I know! That's part of what my original impulse was. My experience of writing has been so much that they feel totally real to me. Sometimes I feel that the people I'm writing are more real to me than the people around me. When you take that imaginative leap, you're living so much in that world.
So what was it like actually inhabiting that world once you got on set? It must have been surreal.
It was surreal! What was really great about the time leading up was that Jonathan and Valerie gave me notes and I worked with them for nine months, rewriting the script. During that process the movie really became ours, not just mine. I think it was easier to give away because of that.