Calvin Weir-Fields is a struggling novelist who had a vision of a young woman in his dreams. He starts to put his vision to words and named this woman Ruby Sparks. One day, his creation came to life. This describes the new Fox Searchlight feature “Ruby Sparks.” Recently, TRR reporter Dean Rogers sat down with the stars and the directors of the wonderful film.
First, we talked to Actors Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan. This is their second film together since 2010’s “Happythankyoumoreplease.” For Ms. Kazan, she is making her debut as a movie screenwriter. I asked them the following:
TRR: What were some of the challenges of playing your characters?
PD: Saying the words your girlfriend wrote. Having her around set as script supervisor correcting me on any lines I messed up (laughs). I think it’s a great part and great parts are challenging. There’s a lot going on with Calvin and a lot before basically when the film starts you know where you meet you him in his life. There’s a lot going on in terms of success and people’s idea of him and what they want from him. Stuff with his family, an ex-girlfriend, loneliness, the sound of the typewriter in this big house. You are given a lot to work with as actor at the start of the film. It’s challenging but it’s also really fun because it means you have something you can feel when you read it and you can immediately sink your teeth into and start building character. There were lots of surprises along the way with scenes that I thought were really funny but ended taking on this gravity that I maybe didn’t anticipate or vice versa. It was a character I continue to learn about everyday which was also challenging because you want to feel you’re on firm ground. I was but there were a lot of surprises along the way as well.
ZK: We really wanted Ruby to feel like a real person not a fantasy at all. Make her feel really grounded and you don’t have a lot of time to do that before he starts messing with her. It was in those early scenes, giving her real life and not just being a good girl in a movie. She’s being flirty and fun, filling up her thought process because when I was writing it, Calvin was the protagonist of the movie. My brain was more with him and Ruby was sort of less real to me when I was writing her. Then when I was rewriting and getting ready to play her, that when I was like “Oh, what was Ruby thinking in this scene.” Actually, it changed my writing to go back through and start thinking about acting her.
Next, we also had the honor of interviewing Co-Directors Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, the husband and wife team who previously directed Paul Dano in the 2006 hit “Little Miss Sunshine”.
TRR: The casting of the film is so amazing. How did you pick those certain actors in the right roles and what was the atmosphere on the set like? In one scene, we see Calvin playing God by showing Ruby that she is his creation.
Valerie Faris: In terms of casting, that’s probably the most important thing we do as directors is picking the actors who were going to play the parts. This one came with Paul and Zoe so we didn’t have to do that part and they were perfect for those parts. Casting the brother, Chris Messina, was probably the hardest part to cast because his role was so important to the movie. He sort of represents the audience’s view. He comes into the story and doesn’t believe what’s going on. He has to be sold on the fact that she’s real. Once we saw Chris do the role, we could not see anyone else for the role. He just nailed it for us.
Jonathan Dayton: Antonio (Banderas) and Annette (Bening) were incredible. They’re just such gifted actors. It’s like a master musician, you watch them just play and so free and comfortable that there is no tension. Antonio said to us that right now in his life, he just wants to have fun. He wants to do roles that he cares about and work with interesting people and you can feel that. He was happy doing it. Those scenes were shot in the wee hours in the morning. It was like, unbelievable.
VF: In this crazy house, where we were so worried about breaking anything. The house is exactly as we shot it. One of the scenes was really tough; we were shooting till 4 in the morning and everyone was so tired. That’s the great thing about working with people like Antonio & Annette who are such pros. They are there to work. It helps to keep everybody really motivated. I think for Annette the part was kind of different for her. She liked that she got to play this down-to-earth…little wild [character]. She usually plays the Type-A characters. So for her to have the long hair, pot-smoking with a red-hot Latin lover, it was all good. They were really fun together and that just was three days. It was our little revisit to ensemble work.
JD: And then the final scene that you’re talking about, we knew it would the toughest scene to shoot. Val and I did a lot of rehearsals. We actually worked with other actors, exploring it in workshop. We did it ourselves where we make the other person do what we say. You try to understand the feelings and that scene was attraction to the script. You never saw it in another movie. We’re trying to talk about it as just a place you don’t normally experience in a movie. I don’t want to say its dark, because it’s sad and it’s heartbreaking and it’s a lot of stuff happening in it.
We like to thank Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for taking the time to do the interview.
Ruby Sparks plays in select theatres Today from Fox Searchlight Pictures