Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

INTERVIEW: Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan of ‘Ruby Sparks’

It’s a hot and sticky afternoon in Washington D.C. Temperatures are breaking records and it’s definitely not the most ideal time to visit the nation’s capital.

I’m sitting in the interview suite of the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown, anxiously awaiting for the arrival of one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors, Paul Dano, and his talented and cute actress-girlfriend Zoe Kazan. Dano and Kazan have been together since 2008 when the couple met during the off-Broadway production of “Things We Want” and their real life romance eventually blossomed on to the screen.

Kazan had started casually writing about a novelist, Calvin, who has writer’s block; but when he starts to dream about this beautiful mystery girl, Ruby, with bright red hair, she starts to inspire him for his next book. As Calvin continues to write things about Ruby, she magically comes to life and anything he writes about her comes true. Kazan didn’t originally think this idea would turn into a full blown script, but after she kept writing and Dano kept on encouraging her, her unique story eventually turned in to a feature film which was titled “Ruby Sparks.”

Kazan turned to the married directors of “Little Miss Sunshine,” Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and asked them to direct her movie. After a lot of discussion and a few changes, the two Hollywood couples began production.

Dano and Kazan casually stroll in to the room, laughing and talking. Dano is dressed in khakis, a light pink button down and a navy cardigan; she in gray slacks, a comfy striped t-shirt and sporting a Hello Kitty! band-aid on her left elbow. We shake hands, Kazan compliments me on my dress and as they sit down, Dano offers Kazan the bigger, cozier chair, knowing she likes to put her feet up as she sits. They are super comfortable with one another, as Dano is attentive to Kazan throughout the conversation.

DC Film Girl: I have to say, I loved that movie and I thought you both were spectacular in it. I love the fact that Calvin brings this fictional dream girl to life and spends all this time with her; so hyphothetically if you could bring one fictional character from a film or book to life who would that character be and why?
Dano: Beetlejuice.
Kazan: Beetlejuice? (Laughs) Don’t say it three times!
Dano: I don’t know, that’s the first that came to my mind! It’s only for a day, could be a fun day!
Kazan: I might go Heathcliff from “Wuthering Heights” and just have a lot of sex. (Laughs) Lots of sex in petticoats and all. (Dano shakes his head, looks at Kazan and laughs.)

DC Film Girl: I know most films shoot in non-linear order and I know you said some of the ending scenes were shot at the beginning of production. As an actor, how do you emotionally get to the character’s state at the end of the movie, when you haven’t shot the majority of the film yet?
Dano: Well that was particularly hard doing the last scene of the film on the second day of shooting, but sometimes that just happens. It’s happened on other films I’ve done, sometimes it’s harder than others, sometimes it’s not so bad and it weirdly makes sense. It was interesting because the last third of the film really embarked on a real relationship. There were things that I didn’t know that happened [with the character] when we filmed certain scenes and when that discovery happens when doing a scene, I always think, ‘Would it have happened differently if I had done this?” That’s something you might torture yourself with a little bit, but there’s really no point in doing that. But, it’s definitely hard. I’ve shot one film sequentially and I think its a fantastic way to make a movie.
Kazan: It was easy for me, because at the end, it’s almost a different Ruby at that point. Ruby was new to me then too, so it was easy to do that. And I had written it, so I had already gone through it emotionally, in a certain way.

DC Film Girl: Do you create back-stories for your characters? I know Calvin creates the backstory for Ruby, but in past roles, do you create a back story for your character; create their birthday, favorite color, best friends?
Dano: Yeah, for the most part. It’s fun and really helpful, so you’re really comfortable with this person you’re spending all the time with and know them as best as you can. I created things for Calvin, like what his last relationship was like and what was wrong with it and how that affects the one that you see with Ruby. You want to bring a history to it and it’s a really fun preparation to do and it helps me. Some people don’t do it, but I feel lost if I don’t.
Kazan: I didn’t so much for this film, but for other ones it’s definitely a good way of engaging your imagination. You have to take those first steps because you don’t get rehearsal in film. It’s a good way to get your body and emotions engaged. It’s useful to go to the process of picking things out about your character.
Dano: You’re making it your own in some ways, because the writer is going to have it one way, the director another. It makes it personal and private in some way to do that.
Kazan: I love the surprises that come to, like seeing Paul’s wardrobe fitting for Calvin and seeing what the house looked like that they put together. I loved all those surprises of the things I never would have anticipated.

“Ruby Sparks” opens in limited release on July 25.

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