Zoe Kazan Writes Herself A Breakout Role In Ruby Sparks

The indie actor stars opposite her boyfriend Paul Dano in the summer romance.

Photo by Merrick Morton

Zoe Kazan, 28, swears she’s not like Ruby Sparks, the title character of the romance she wrote and stars in with her boyfriend Paul Dano. But today, on the rooftop of the Thompson hotel in Toronto, a few similarities don’t go unnoticed.

Much like Ruby, a quirky dream girl who springs to life fully formed from the hipster-nerd fantasies of Calvin (Dano), she’s a powerhouse of enthusiasm. “I’ve never been to Toronto!” she says, folding her legs underneath her on the outdoor banquette. “I’m SUPER excited.” Asked what she is wearing, she stands up on her knees to show off the tags: a cream Tocca blouse and black leather Balenciaga skirt.

The daughter of screenwriters herself, she brings a literary touch to what could have been a straightforward magical romance—think Pinocchio by way of Pretty Woman. “The real trick of the movie is that she’s not actually a fantasy,” Kazan says. “She’s a real person. She has real problems.”

What was it like to play this relationship onscreen with Paul and then go home to your offscreen relationship?
In one way it’s really great to have a totally different relationship onscreen and feel like you’re not exposing yourself in the same way. But it also means you’re playing out this drama that effects your real life. I felt like there was residual stuff from the day.

It’s like if you have a dream about someone and then you are mad at them when you wake up.
Totally! Paul does this all the time. He will have a daydream that I cheated on him. And then he’ll be mad at me and I won’t know why.

Ruby is the iconic manic pixie dream girl character. How did you figure out how to make that character feel real?
I think the whole idea of the manic pixie dream girl thing is an annoying idea. When people put that category on a character, it erases everything that is individualized about them. Calvin has to come to terms with who she really is and not his idea of her.

You capture that when Calvin’s brother says, “Quirky, messy women who can’t deal with their problems are not real.” How do you see that stereotype in Hollywood?
I think there are really wonderful examples [of roles] where both the man the woman feel like real people. When Harry Met Sally is the perfect example. Those are my favourite kind of love stories. I want to watch real people go through something–not watch idealized people go through something.

Ruby Sparks opens in Toronto and Vancouver on August 3 and Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa, Victoria and Winnipeg on August 10.

Watch the trailer: