'There was no smooching for two weeks!'
Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
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What's it about? A struggling writer creates th woman of his dreams on paper – then she appears in real life.
Verdict: A quirky, fun and sizzling rom-com
W hile making her latest film Ruby Sparks, Zoe Kazan quickly realised the perils of mixing business and pleasure.
The up-and-coming star appears alongside her real-life boyfriend Paul Dano in the quirky movie about a young couple embarking on new romance, and the pair were keen to accurately depict the first stages of a relationship.
"It was hard – by the time we made this movie Paul and I had been together for four years, so we had to sort of remember what it was like at the start," the US actress and screenwriter of the project says.
"We did a lot of very silly exercises, like touching each other's skin and we made this pact not to kiss for the first two weeks of filming, so that our first kiss in the film could be our first kiss in a little while."
Off-camera, however, the couple – who met five years ago while starring in an off-Broadway play – found their "method" approach caused some tension.
"We could get very cranky with each other coming home from work," Kazan says.
"I think one of the reasons is that, for a couple of weeks, there was no smooching."
Little Miss Sunshine star Dano plays Calvin, a talented young author who dreams up his ideal woman – the offbeat, fun-loving Ruby Sparks (played by Kazan).
Suddenly, the imaginary girlfriend leaps from the page and turns up for real in Calvin's apartment, blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
Whip-smart Yale graduate Kazan, looking bright-eyed and younger than her 29 years in a sleeveless blouse and skinny jeans, says: "I'd been thinking about the Pygmalion myth, about the sculptor whose statue comes to life, and just trying to think about what a modern kind of update would be, especially from a woman's perspective, and this is the story I came up with."
Kazan admits she was "always subconsciously writing Calvin for Paul".
"The weirdest thing is that I was writing a character who is writing my character," she says. "There was something very meta going on."
Kazan enlisted husband-and-wife film-making team Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who previously worked with Paul on the 2006 comedy Little Miss Sunshine, to direct the film.
"They worked with me on the script for about nine months before we started, with them giving me notes and me rewriting, so by the time we got into the actual production, I felt almost as if I hadn't written it at all," Kazan says.
"I'd done so much work on it that it felt like a collaboration. It was very easy for me to give it away and surprisingly easy to forget that I had written it."
The daughter of screenwriters Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, Kazan knows how rare it is for a script to make it to the big screen.
"It's really hard to get a movie made. I think that this was a miracle, so I don't know if I'm going to be able to have any more screenplays produced. I hope so," she says.
Her parents' background must have helped her get a foot on the film-making ladder?
"I'm sure it helped in the most kind of ephemeral ways, just being around people who are creative for a living as a child, just knowing that's possible," Kazan says.
"Being exposed to all kinds of movies and books and art at a very young age, I think that probably helped me more than anything."
After acclaimed performances on Broadway and a string of small film parts, Kazan landed her breakout gig as Leonardo DiCaprio's secretary lover in the 2008 drama Revolutionary Road. Roles followed in films such as It's Complicated with Meryl Streep, and Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee.
Kazan has no desire to focus on just one discipline, though, and asked to choose between starring in movies and writing them, says: "Both. I want to keep writing and acting if I possibly can."