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Q&A: 'Ruby Sparks' star/writer Zoe Kazan

(Matt Pais/RedEye )
July 23, 2012|Matt Pais | RedEye movie critic

Some have asked Zoe Kazan why “Ruby Sparks,” a comedy/drama about a male author who considers if and how to change a character he writes and then comes to life as his real girlfriend, doesn’t feature a female writer controlling a man.

“That holds no emotional weight for me,” says the movie’s 28-year-old star and first-time feature screenwriter. “I’ve never felt in a relationship like I was the one with the daydream. I’ve always felt like they had a daydream of me and I was somehow trying to live up to it or fulfill it or dispel it so they could see the real me.”

In the film opening Wednesday, fiction blends with reality as Kazan (“It’s Complicated”) stars as Ruby, a novelist’s character who jumps off the page, and Kazan’s real-life boyfriend Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood”) stars as Calvin, the writer who can’t believe the creation he fell in love with has appeared for him to love for real. He then struggles with the realization that if he changes her on the page, she’ll also change in reality. The movie, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris of “Little Miss Sunshine,” intriguingly focuses on a relationship far more complicated than that of the usual romantic comedy, which Kazan says often involves male characters who hate the female characters or a woman who is “hell-bent on marriage.”

At the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, a barefoot Kazan (daughter of Oscar-nominated “Reversal of Fortune” screenwriter Nicholas Kazan and granddaughter of Oscar-winning “On the Waterfront” director Elia Kazan) hops onto the couch and talks about projecting romantic ideals onto a partner, the meaninglessness of the word “quirky” and never considering that Ruby, like some other fantasy creations that come to life in a movie, would go crazy and kill everyone.

Do you think men or women would be more likely to want to take advantage of an opportunity like this, to change their partner?
I think it’s hard to live with someone else. I think it’s hard to love someone truly and to accept them really for how they are. There’s a kind of cliché of women bitching about their husbands or men bitching about their wives, but that difference, that friction I think is part of what makes loving someone interesting. Even if people would change the person that they’re with, I don’t think that they would ultimately like it.

Why is there this fantasy, particularly in movies, of the ultra-quirky girl? I was wondering if the movie would take it to a place where Ruby was so quirky Calvin became irritated with her.
Yeah, I think that’s the broad comedy version of this movie. I was more interested in when you meet someone and you feel attracted to them, you project a lifetime of your romantic ideals onto them. As you get to know them, you have to reconcile that idea that you first had with who the person actually is. And if you’re going to love them, you have to learn to love the real person and not the idea. That’s sort of more what I was interested in. And certain things about Ruby when you first meet her, her sort of mercurialness … or for instance,  she’s really independent. It’s one of the things he likes most about her when he meets her—when he invents her. But I think for him it feels like she’s separate from him from the beginning. And then as their relationship progresses her independence becomes threatening to him. And I think that that’s actually a really normal thing. I know it’s happened even within my own relationship now with Paul.

In what way?
I’m a really physical person. I’m really touchy. And it was one of the things I think Paul really liked about me is I’m warm and I’m affectionate, and I think that was different than how he is maybe naturally and he really liked that. And now I think it can be irritating to him to have me be warm and affectionate with other people and he sort of wants that all to himself. And it’s something that we’ve discussed and is a thing in our relationship. But I say to him, “You have to love that part of me” because that was one of the things he first fell in love with. You don’t get to pick and choose. I’m not so interested in addressing the manic pixie dream girl thing. It was more about what happens when you have to reconcile yourself to the real person.

Paul said he’s seen the “SNL” skit, “Bein’ Quirky with Zooey Deschanel.”
It’s funny.

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