Zoe Kazan Plays Ruby Sparks
|Annette Bening and Zoe Kazan|
In the enchanting, reflective and very funny Ruby Sparks, Paul Dano plays Calvin, a brilliant young writer who dazzled the literary world a decade ago when he was a young student. His first novel was greeted with accolades and awards. But since penning that book, he has failed to live up to expectations and that early promise. He hasn’t written anything for a decade. Life changes one sunny California day when Calvin wills the perfect woman into his life by the sheer power of his imagination. Ruby (Zoe Kazan) leaps off the page and into the kitchen of his house, filling it with her warm and joyful personality. But Calvin will have to decide soon what awaits Ruby at the end of his story.
It began with an idea that struck Zoe Kazan nearly as suddenly as Calvin comes up with Ruby Sparks. Kazan – renowned as a promising playwright and a rising actress with roles in Revolutionary Road, It’s Complicated and the indie Western Meek’s Cutoff – was coming home late one night from the set of a film when she was shocked to see a mannequin lying in heap of trash. The sight set off a creative chain reaction as Kazan, a Greek mythology buff, was reminded of the ancient myth of Galatea, in which Pygmalion falls in love with the statue he has crafted with his own hands. That uncanny moment, when the inanimate seemed to come alive, started her thinking about how fantasy, autonomy and identity collide and collude in contemporary relationships.
Zoe Kazan might have created all the tricky layers of Ruby Sparks on the page but doing the same thing as an actress was a completely different challenge. “As Ruby, Zoe had to become the heart of the movie,” notes producer Ron Yerxa, “Zoe plays her as a free-spirited, autonomous young woman. Ruby had a punk past and she’s now an artist. She’s sexy and attractive, but she very much has her own mind.”
For Kazan, it was exciting to explore a character who naturally mirrors some of her own creative outlook but who is in other ways decidedly unlike herself. “I gave Ruby some qualities that I probably possess, but she’s also very different,” Kazan explains. “I like to be taken care of and Ruby’s much more independent. She likes to speak her mind. She’s very brave that way. It was always important to me that she not seem at all like a dream girl, but very real, so the challenge was in figuring out how to do that.”
As Kazan wrote, she began sharing her work with her boyfriend, the actor Paul Dano, and though she had not set out to write something for the two of them, they couldn’t help but envision one another in the lead roles. “I think I was always subconsciously writing Calvin for Paul,” she muses. “But the weirdest thing is that I was writing a character who is writing my character! There was something very meta going on.”
She explains: “I was interested in the theme of control in relationships and the way we bring in ideas of who the person we love should be. How do you love the person you’re with completely without saying ‘I don’t want this part or that part?’ How do you make room in a relationship for two separate people? I’ve been in relationships before where I felt like the person was not seeing me, but something close to me, something just a little off center from me. That is what happens with Calvin and Ruby.”
Find out what happens to Ruby Sparks when it opens in theaters on September 19 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.