“I had written two other screenplays before that I did not want to share with the world,” says Kazan, curled on a sofa in a Georgetown hotel suite. “This was the first one where I really felt like I could see the movie it was going to be.”
Ruby has red hair, while Kazan’s is now medium brown; it’s roughly the same shade as that of her co-star and boyfriend, Paul Dano, who’s sitting next to her. Other aspects of Kazan’s appearance, however, seem utterly Ruby: Her bangs hang well past her eyebrows, and she has a sweater wrapped, oddly, around one of her legs. Near her left elbow is a Hello Kitty Band-Aid.
“Ruby Sparks” is about blocked novelist Calvin Weir-Fields, played by Dano, who invents a female character as a writing exercise. The fictional woman, Kazan’s Ruby, comes to life, to Calvin’s initial delight and ultimate dismay. The novelist is the scenario’s prime mover.
Kazan, the daughter of screenwriters Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, says she identified with Calvin because of her own experience of writing.
“Something magical does happen,” she says. “I woke up one day, and these people were in my head and they started talking and I wrote it down. I felt like I was downloading big chunks from somewhere.”
Writing, she finds, is more detached than acting: “I feel like I disappear completely. Even when I’m using bits of my life, it’s like I’m just reshaping them into something new. When I’m acting, I feel like I’m always using myself. I’m using my body and my emotions and my physical experiences, and whatever your physical limitations are that day. Whatever the thing is, you have to bring that. Even if you say you’re not bringing it, you are.”
“With writing, you’re not required to bring yourself in, in quite the same way,” she says. “Calvin says that, in the happiest states, it’s coming through, and not from, you. That’s how I feel.”
Kazan calls the script “personal, but not autobiographical.” The main characters in the movie, which was directed by the “Little Miss Sunshine” team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, contain “very little of Paul and me.”
“It’s not us,” Dano agrees. “It’s not a film where Zoe took things that happened in our apartment and put them in the movie. Of course, there are pieces of us as people in the story. I think that’s always the case, even when you’re playing, like, a serial killer.”
If “Ruby Sparks” is a male-centered movie, that reflects Kazan’s theories on the differences between men and women and how they create. “It’s just a different relationship, I think, because women create with their bodies. They give birth to people. Even though I’ve never done that, I think it’s inherent in my psychology. I could bring a person to life. I just need to get sloppy with birth control.” She laughs weakly, and then again, more robustly.