Ruby Sparks is one of those small, intimate indie films that has a kind of “let’s put on a show” energy about it. Zoe Kazan wrote a film about Calvin, a novelist suffering from writer’s block who writes about a girl and she appears in his apartment thinking she’s his girlfriend. It was something of a family affair, with real life couple Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano starring as an on screen couple, directed by old friends Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris the married couple that gave the world Little Miss Sunshine. Kazan wrote the film with Dano by her side playing the role of supportive boyfriend with the idea of bringing Dayton and Faris into the fold after having worked with them on Little Miss Sunshine.
The project grew from there into an indie filmmaker’s dream, with Fox Searchlight agreeing to put up the money and distribute, casting coups including Annette Bening, Antonia Banderas, and Chris Messina, and the evolution of a close knit theater troupe that happened to be making a movie.
“They have this incredible thing that they do where we rehearsed before we shot, but its not rehearsals like with blocking and they give you your lines,” Chris Messina, who plays Calvin’s brother Harry, said. “John and Val did this thing – and everyone did it, Annette Bening, Paul, Zoe, me – we’d get into a room and we’d take of our shoes and run around, write in journals and read the entries to each other about our characters; asked each other questions, play darts, eat together. That adds to the magic of it.”
Dano had been close to the project all along, as Kazan’s real life boyfriend from even before the writing process began.