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Next Factor Q&A: 'Ruby Sparks' Star Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan at a Special Screening of "Ruby Sparks" Getty Images

Though "Ruby Sparks" may be one of Zoe Kazan's first leading roles in a movie, she's no stranger to Hollywood. Kazan has had supporting roles alongside such heavyweights as Ryan Gosling ("Fracture"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("Revolutionary Road") and Meryl Streep ("It's Complicated"). Not to mention she's the granddaughter of the late Oscar-winning filmmaker Elia Kazan ("On the Waterfront").

Kazan is now pulling double duty in "Ruby Sparks," which arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week, having written the screenplay and playing the lead. Ruby is a fictional character created by young novelist Calvin (played by Kazan's real-life boyfriend Paul Dano) who suddenly appears in the flesh in Calvin's home the next morning. She's the girl of Calvin's dreams who can also be controlled by whatever he writes with his typewriter. As the movie progresses, their relationship stops being a fantasy and gets really real.

We sat down with this multi-talented actress to talk about writing "Ruby Sparks," Manic Pixie Dream Girls and starring in a new Joss Whedon movie.

Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano in "Ruby Sparks" Fox Searchlight

Did you put any of yourself in the character of Ruby when you were writing the screenplay?
I think that there are parts of me in Calvin and in Ruby, and frankly, all the characters. I think that I was trying really hard, or I really wanted to get out of their way and let the characters speak to me. But I was conscious of the fact that Paul and I were going to play these characters and to not put too much of us in it so that we wouldn’t feel like it was too close to home. And we don't. Watching the movie, I don't feel like I see Paul and me up there. I see Calvin and Ruby.

There are a few French elements to the film, from the music to Ruby speaking French on a couple occasions. What was the reason for that?
Honestly, I thought her speaking French would be a really easy and funny way of having the boys test out Calvin's power, just to have her speak a different language. And I can sort of fake two different languages; one's French and the other one's Spanish. I think French is funnier than Spanish. If I could fake Mandarin, that would probably be even funnier, but I can't so that's why the French language. And [the directors] Jonathan [Dayton] and Valerie [Faris] picked the French music, so you'll have to ask them about that.

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The Manic Pixie Dream Girl has been a phrase thrown around recently, and some people may put Ruby in that category. Would you agree with that label for her?
No, I don't like that label. I think it's really a reductive way of talking about female characters. I actually think it's kind of a misogynist label. It's a way of taking what's individual or interesting about a girl and instead making it seem diminutive and non-specific. I do think there are some movies that probably do deserve that label because they didn't do a full-fledged job of fleshing out their characters, but I'm really hoping that that's not how people feel about this character.

You're starring in "In Your Eyes" next, written by Joss Whedon. Are you excited to be a part of the "Whedonverse" that has such a strong and passionate fan following?
My sister was like a huge "Buffy" fan when I was a teenager, and I think he has such a strong sort of kick-ass girl view of the world, and I like that. I loved getting to make that movie. There was a really cool director. This guy Brin Hill directed it. It was fun to shoot, and I'm stoked for people to see it.

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What was your first acting gig?
My first job was on a movie called "Fracture" that was [with] Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. It was a thriller, and I played Ryan Gosling's secretary. That was my very first job, and I completely fell in love with film acting. I had never done any film acting before, and I thought it was just the most fun that you could possibly have. And then my first theater job was doing "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" off-Broadway.

How did you spend your first Hollywood paycheck?
I think I paid my rent. It wasn't large, and I'm pretty sure I just paid my rent with it. My first major paycheck, what was my first indulgence? I'm pretty thrifty. I don't know. Paul and I took our first vacation two years ago. We went to the Bahamas. That was probably the most decadent, and it wasn't even that decadent.

Mac or PC?
Mac.

New York or L.A.?
Can’t choose. I'd say L.A. for the winter, New York for the spring and summer.

"Harry Potter," "Twilight" or "The Hunger Games"?
"Harry Potter."

Rock or rap?
Rock.

Beer or wine?
Wine.

Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest?
Pinterest.

Justin Bieber or Justin Timberlake?
Timberlake.

Apples or oranges?
Apples.

(Originally published on July 23, 2012, at 12 p.m. ET)

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