After solid turns in feminist ”Western Meek’s Cutoff”, ”Me And Orson Welles” and ”Revolutionary Road”, Zoe Kazan does a famous Hollywood name proud once more as the star and screenwriter of the whimsical romance fantasy ”Ruby Sparks”.
She explains what drove the creation of Ruby in Los Angeles.
Were you thinking of Paul Dano for the role of Calvin when you wrote the script?
I showed him some pages and he asked me if I was writing it for the two of us. It hadn’t occurred to me until he said it, and when he did I thought ‘well clearly that’s what I’m doing’. But then I tried to put it out of my head because at that point the characters were just speaking so clearly to me and the story was really unfolding. And that was much more interesting to me than trying to write good parts for us to play. The story came first for me.
What was it like writing the story from a male perspective?
I think it moves between perspectives. It starts out being very much his story and then it becomes more their story as she becomes more real. He’s the protagonist but at a certain point her free will begins to change his story, and even though he tries to get a handle on that and control it, he can’t.
So I don’t really think of it as being from his perspective, even though he’s the main character. I didn’t find it difficult to write Calvin’s perspective because he’s a person before he’s a dude, you know? Our gender is only one very small facet of a larger picture of who we are.
What was the hardest aspect of writing Ruby Sparks?
Probably the climactic scene, just because it was very emotionally intense. It was hard to determine how far we could go before we shot the movie so there was some rewriting on set right before we shot that part of the movie.
The hardest part to action was probably the portion of the film where Ruby’s in Calvin’s house and she thinks they’re in a relationship but he thinks he’s going crazy. When you have two characters out of synch with each other so profoundly it’s hard to play the ignorant party. She’s concerned about how he’s behaving, but how concerned is she really? It was sort of hard to get my brain around that portion of the movie.
How important was it to you that Ruby was real? Was there ever a time when you thought it might be better for Calvin to be insane and her just be a figment of his imagination?
No. That’s a very different story. I was really after a metaphorical door to the issue of what happens in relationships so that conceit of the movie opens that door and then hopefully everything that’s behind it is based on reality.
Part of what was interesting to me to write about was based on my experience of writing, which is that it feels like these people are totally real. When I was writing it they were doing things I felt like I wasn’t making them do. They would reveal themselves to me and I think a lot of writers feel what that’s like. And she’s very real to Calvin from the very start and that was something [directors Johnathan Dayton and Valerie Faris] talked about in terms of how they’d shoot it and how my hair and makeup and clothes would look. We just really wanted her to feel as real to the audience as she does to Calvin.
You once said you didn’t like the image of actors in the industry.
I was just trying to say that the way people think about actors really bothers me because most of the actors I know are incredibly hardworking. When I first started acting people would say to me ‘you’re such a rare breed, nothing like the Lindsay Lohans of the world’. And I just don’t think there are that many people like that. Everyone I know is busting their ass, getting up and doing three auditions in a day and going to their day job. I think there’s just this idea of actors that I don’t like because it propagates a myth that I think is really untrue and unhelpful.
What kind of statement are you making by having Calvin write on the typewriter?
The typewriter was a character choice. It came out of a feeling of this person being romantic to a fault. It would be easier for him to write on a word processor but he has endowed this typewriter with special meaning and he can’t give it up.
Also just a really practical level, a man sitting in front of a computer is now longer a lonely man because it’s a bridge to the outside world. And the typewriter is only asking one thing of you, put words on the page. You can’t play online solitaire or look at porn.
You all kept journals on set from your characters’ points of view to help with the characterisations. Did you learn something more about Ruby and about these relationships by going through that process?
You always learn something when actors come in and take the role on because the character on the page is a sort of platonic idea and then there’s the actor. When those two things meet there’s a new thing that’s created and that’s what you hope for. That’s not a violation of what’s on the page, it’s a fulfilment of it. In a play or a screenplay it’s not finished until an actor steps in.