Jeri Jacquin, Movie Maven
Jenise Jacquin, Film Brat
Having finally seen the film RUBY SPARKS, Jenise (Film Brat) and I had the opportunity to talk with the writer and star of the film Zoe Kazan. What we didn’t anticipate was the openness of this very focused actress who held nothing back as we spoke about her relationship with co-star Paul Dano, how the characters spoke to her and what is expected in relationships – good and bad.
MM: First off I have to ask, how did you like being a red head in the film?
I loved it but I have to say it’s hard to get out of your hair. I chopped my hair off. It’s hard to keep up. There’s still a little red in there though.
FB: Tell us about working on the movie? You wrote from your experiences?
No, I mean the movie is pretty far-fetched. I think there is a lot of my point of view in there, things that I have experienced in relationships and forming what I think about the way men and women interact. I think the beginning parts of love are about people having an idea of each other and eventually the real person emerges. So how do you reconcile these two things, how do you trust someone for who they are? It was fun to work on because I love Jonathan and Valerie so much. Sometimes everybody sees the movie the same way and this was one of those times were we all had the same vision. Paul too, who is my boyfriend too, plays the main character made if very special that we were all working toward the same thing.
MM: What made you decide to do it from the male point of view?
Part of my inspiration came from the myth of Pygmalion, the Greek myth about the sculptor. He’s creating this statue and she seems so real and he falls in with her and prays to the gods to make her real and they do. I think that that myth has come down to us in a gendered way for a reason. We all start with an idea of a person but I think there is a particular about the way that men are romantic that they can have this idea of the person they love, or an ideal of femininity. I have, in the past, have been defined by that or had to live up to it in some way that I wasn’t being seen because of this sort of preconceived notion or notion of me. It’s not fantasy for women to create a man, its biology. But it is a fantasy for a man to create in that particular way. I think it’s just how the story came to me.
FB: I love the ending that it actually gave you hope for something. Is that something you were striving for?
Yes, we wanted the ending to be hopeful. I believe human capacity for change is one of the most miraculous things in the world. It’s also really scary, especially when you love someone and the idea that they may change is terrifying. I think that’s what Calvin is grappling with in the movie – the unknown is terrifying that a person would change and not want to be with you anymore. Or that they could change and you don’t know them anymore but it’s also the only thing that helps us keep going is to grow and change. At the end of the movie I think Calvin has learned to embrace that, that he can change to and that’s the hopeful ending.
MM: The struggles with Ruby that he doesn’t need to change but instead change her to fit.
I think a lot of people do that actually. I’m always reading some book or newspaper or magazine article that says ‘how to get your man to like….’ or ‘tips on how to be sexy in the bedroom’ geared to women.
MM: Like the job is all on us.
Or that we have to change in some way instead of being in a relationship between two people.
MM: I think Paul is amazing for that role. He has that face that just expresses so much without him speaking.
I know. We’ve been together almost five years and I tend to show him my writing just because he helps me. It helps me to have the feeling that I’m not alone doing it. I showed him the first five pages and he asked if I was writing this for us and it hadn’t occurred to me. As soon as he said it I thought that’s totally what I’m doing. For me it’s knowing that he’s such an expressive actor and he’s so interesting. He brings a lot of empathy to his characters, even when he’s playing someone unlikeable like IN THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
MM: He was amazing in that. You waited because you knew something was boiling behind that sweet and innocent face.
I love that too. I felt that this was a good match for him. Calvin is a very repressed and introspection person and Paul has that quietness in him but there is so much stuff underneath the surface and I thought that was a nice match for Calvin. Also, I know how sweet Paul can be and I’m not sure everyone else knows that yet.
FB: Even the climactic scene you felt for him, even his purpose and what he was trying to do and face?
I’m so glad you felt that way.
FB: I’m very empathetic with that intense scene.
Are you getting pressure to get married?
FB: I reached a point and I started feeling about six months ago watching everyone getting married or having babies. I mean I’m allowed to have a girl moment and think about it.
You and I are on the same path! I am in three weddings and they’ve been together less than me and my boyfriend! I don’t want to get married because we are supposed to. I do wonder what’s going on though?
FB: I feel like society is saying ‘look what’s happening to everyone and you should do it too’. I don’t want to be like that. What are you working on next?
Not a wedding!! So I’m doing a film in Toronto with Daniel Radcliffe called “The F Word.”
MM: So did the story come from all of this?
I don’t think so. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time now. Even in good relationships we can sort of be controlling the other person even without knowing.
MM: Your thinking all this while you’re writing it – your brain had to be going crazy to structure it into a working piece.
Well, once Calvin and Ruby started talking to me, I was just concentrating on the story and listening to them. I wanted their voices to come through. I didn’t want to control them. I wrote it very quickly and then I re-wrote a long time to notes. The first impulse I felt like they took me by the hand and took me forward.
And forward is where Film Brat and I go as we also had the chance to talk with the films directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. If these names seem familiar that may be because they are responsible for the hit LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE which was one of our favorites of 2006.
Jonathan: So you both have seen the movie?
MM: Yes, we saw it last night.
FB: We were there for the showing.
Jonathan: And what did you think?
MM: I really loved it.
FB: Yep, I really did too. We actually agreed on it.
Valerie: We got the mother-daughter agreeing!
MM: We were speaking to Zoe that FB gets it being in a relationship for a long time with someone and she’s at that stage.
FB: We were talking about the similarities in life that she’s been with Paul for five years and I’ve been with my boyfriend almost five years. There comes a point where you decide whether you’re going to keep going or not.
Valerie: That’s right.
FB: But there’s always someone forcing and you have to know when to stop and let it be.
Jonathan: Right, give in to what it is.
Valerie: Yes, maybe not everything is perfect but I’m not going to be able to change that.
FB: And is it okay to be different.
Valerie: The things that are different you have to decide how important those things are.
Jonathan: Do you know who Dan Savage is and he calls it the ‘price of admission’ for a relationship. Things you don’t like are they worth the things that you do.
MM: For me, looking at the movie I thought ‘why didn’t I question things’ or say ‘why didn’t I say I don’t want to be treated this way’. So the movie shows FB how it is because she is experiencing it and I’m seeing it looking back and saying ‘wow!’
Valerie: Looking back and thinking about it, yes.
MM: I wanted the relationship that Bening had with Banderas!
Jonathan: Yes, everyone wants Antonio!
Valerie: And he’s a really good husband. He is kind of amazing. He’s so supportive of his wife.
Jonathan: And a really lovely guy.
Valerie: Nora Ephron did a poem about guys and it was ‘key to life marry and Italian’ because she was married to an Italian.
Jonathan: Sorry honey I failed you in that department
MM: How did you get involved in the film?
Valerie: We had met Zoe through Paul. We stayed in touch with Paul after LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and he brought her over and we instantly fell in love with her. When he first met her he didn’t tell us that he had met Zoe and fell in love with her but we knew something was up. When we discovered it and saw them together it was nice. They brought us the script which was very flattering and love the idea of Paul and Zoe being leads in the film. We thankfully really love the script. At first you get a script and want to like it and luckily it felt like the right thing for us.
MM: Was there one specific thing that made you want to do the film?
Jonathan: There were many things that spoke to us from the script. I like that it was very different from LITTLEMISS SUNSHINE and that it had a fantasy element with a high concept. We were still going to get to tell a story about real human emotions and it was going to be funny, scary and take you on a journey that you normally don’t get in a romantic comedy.
Valerie: We really also loved Zoe’s writing. It felt like it had a lot of depth and we like what it was exploring. So far it’s been a really great experience showing the film and hearing the conversation from those seeing the film. It gives you something to talk about and we felt that too. That’s what we started talking about two years ago with Zoe. You’re getting to explore these ideas as you’re making the movie and hopefully that is carried out when you hand it to the audience to think about. It had a lot of substance and a lot of scripts you read might be intriguing and clever but doesn’t touch on anything real to us.
Jonathan: When you make a movie it’s so much of a commitment, its two years of your life so you better love it and its going to follow you forever when you finish it.
MM: Did you immediately see Paul as Calvin?
Valerie: They were attached to it and that was part of the appeal for us.
Jonathan: It came as a package.
Valerie: After LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE we were interested in working with those actors again because we loved them so much so Paul being part of this project was a huge draw. And we hadn’t worked with Zoe before but as soon as we talked with her about the script and got a sense of our working relationship then it felt so right. She was so collaborative and interested in where we wanted to take the movie and so willing to get into that process and not be precious with what she had done. She’s just a very gifted writer and re-writer. It’s hard to rewrite yourself sometimes.
MM: Especially when you’re attached to something like that.
Valerie: It’s her first screenplay so it’s like giving your baby away.
FB: What’s next for you both?
Jonathan: We are working on a pilot for HBO with Dan Clowes who is a comic book artist and he wrote GHOST WORLD years ago.
Valerie: Its funny with a biting social commentary and the character really spoke to us. We like the idea of setting up a series. Hopefully the pilot will get picked up. There are so many amazing shows on television.
Jonathan: Do you do reviews on television as well?
MM: Yes we do.
Valerie: What are your favorites?
FB: THE WALKING DEAD
Valerie: I haven’t seen that. It’s another one I have to catch up on.
MM: GAME OF THRONES.
Valerie: It’s incredible; there is a lot of good television on. It’s funny the role it plays in people’s lives. It’s like this thing you have that you can count on. It’s like you know you’re going to enjoy that half hour or hour. It’s a different role than movies.
MM: I think television is ready to get in the audiences faces finally.
FB: Like THE WALKING DEAD it is very graphic. It’s the kind of shows that people are talking about it, even in high schools they are talking about what happened on THE WALKING DEAD or SPARTACUS or GAME OF THRONES.
MM: It has been a while since people have been excited about what’s on television and now they plan their weeknights based on their favorite shows. I do so hope HBO sees what you have and we can look forward to it. Thanks for taking time to talk to us today.
FB: We do appreciate it, you are both great!
And that was our chat with the star of RUBY SPARKS! Getting to speak with Zoe and discover the genius mindset that took us on an emotional roller coaster we are not soon to forget. The actress herself is genuine, down to earth, funny and the kind of gal we would hang out with for drinks after work talking about modern day relationship! That’s always a plus in our book.
Jonathan and Valerie as directors saw something relatable in the script Zoe brought them. Taking that vision and putting it on the screen is a testament to their love of film and good story telling without whitewashing it with canned sentimentality that most audiences can see right through.
Opening in theatres today is RUBY SPARKS!!