Her parents are both Hollywood screenwriters, and her grandfather, Elia Kazan, was a legendary director, so it couldn't have been a surprise when Zoe Kazan chose a career in show business as opposed to, say, becoming an accountant or a park ranger. She started out in the trade as an actress, appearing in films such as Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles (2008) and Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff (2010). Her latest film, Ruby Sparks, is the first that she's written. Directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, it stars Kazan's boyfriend, Paul Dano (who also starred in Faris and Dayton's 2006 indie hit Little Miss Sunshine), as a writer who, Pygmalion-like, brings to life one of his fictional characters, the woman of the title, played by Kazan herself. I spoke to her recently in Boston, where she was promoting the film.
SO YOU'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A WRITER OR ACTRESS? OR BOTH? Well my parents are writers, and I grew up with that as an example. I always wrote as a kid and that was always my first love. But when I started acting in school plays in high school I had an epiphany where I realized that acting was something I loved. And from that moment, for a long time, acting became the number one thing, and writing fell by the wayside. But when I was just starting out in New York, with long stretches of time between jobs, I felt like I was going crazy. My day job was not creatively fulfilling in any way, and auditioning was really stressful, so I picked the writing back up again to keep my head together and stay creative.
MORE ACTRESS ARE WRITING AND DIRECTING MOVIES THESE DAYS, LIKE SARAH POLLEY WITH TAKE THIS WALTZ AND JULIE DELPY WITH 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK. DO YOU FEEL A KINSHIP WITH THEM? I love the way that Sarah Polley has taken this left turn in her career. I wish she would keep acting, because I think she's a phenomenal actress, but I really respect the way she's taking control. And Julie Delpy is really interesting to me. She stepped away from the way she was being typed. It may have hurt her career to do that, but you've got to take control. Acting is such a passive career path in a lot of ways, you're always waiting for someone to give you permission to do your work, to be cast. So writing and creating my own work and just finding different venues for creative work is really important to me.
THE CHARACTER RUBY SPARKS IS KIND OF A CRITIQUE OF THAT PASSIVE TYPE YOU MENTIONED, A SATIRE OF THE MALE-CREATED FEMALE IMAGE THAT HAS BEEN LABELED "THE MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL. . . . " Hm.
YOU'RE FAMILIAR WITH THE TERM? Yes.