The story tells the tale of frustrated writer Calvin (Dano), who is struggling with penning a second novel, when a writing exercise from his therapist finds him typing reams of pages about Ruby (Kazan) -- who one day appears in his kitchen. And as Kazan told us in an interview last week, the idea for the movie itself appeared just as unexpectedly. "One night I was coming from work and there was a mannequin discarded in the trash and I thought it was a person, it scared me. And I immediately…got a picture of Pygmalion -- and the sculpture in his dark studio -- turning his head and thinking he saw the statue move," she said. "Something about that picture triggered something in me and I woke up the next morning and I had Calvin and Ruby in my head. The first ten pages of the movie were there and I wrote them down and then I sort of realized I was after something more meaningful or deeper than just a broad romantic comedy, and so I put it away for a little while until I had a better sense of what I was really writing about, and then I wrote it really quickly."
But of course, "Ruby Sparks" is no ordinary relationship film, toeing the lines between fantasy, romance and comedy equally, in a very unique screenplay. And Kazan acknowledges that the script could have been much broader, playing up the more imaginative portions of the story. "I was tempted to have [Calvin] teach [Ruby] in lots of ways, and have more fun with that…[but] I realized I didn't want to write the broad comedy version," she said. "There's a different version of this movie that's more like 'Click' or 'Bruce Almighty,' and as much fun as those movies can be, I was after a bigger game. Romantic comedies that really move me are movies like 'Tootsie' or 'Groundhog Day' or 'Eternal Sunshine [Of The Spotless Mind]' or 'When Harry Met Sally' that are about something a little bit deeper. Those are the movies that I feel like I return to again and again, because they seem to me to speak to something really real about what actually happens between men and women."
And again it circles back to that core idea, of men and women, and how those dynamics of power and gender play out when positioned in a relationship. It's a lot of moods to balance and carry, but Kazan knew she had the right helmers in Dayton and Faris. Not only did they strive for the same ultimate goals, even if their perspectives on love were different -- Kazan says she's more cynical, while the directors are more romantic -- but they also made involved and comfortable collaborators.
Of course, the inevitable question is how it was working with her boyfriend, Paul Dano, in a situation and job that brings with it long hours and stress, in a movie about unpredictable relationships. "Making a movie together the way that we did is a little bit like having newborn baby. Nobody is getting enough sleep, nobody is getting enough sex, there's something outside of the relationship that seems more important than the relationship, and all your energy is going to toward it," Kazan shared candidly. "It was definitely a challenge, but one I would do again in a heartbeat."
"Ruby Sparks" opens on July 25th.