Oscar Nominee Jesse Eisenberg on Occupy Wall Street, “Zombieland 2,” and making movie magic

Jesse EisenbergIn the new film Now You See Me, Jesse Eisenberg stars as a tightly-wound magician whose performances with three colleagues earns him nationwide attention and notoriety. Eisenberg, who previously earned an Oscar nod for his performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (2010), recently visited D.C. to talk about his new heist film.

During the interview, several other local critics and I spoke to Eisenberg about the connections between his new film and the Occupy movement, his past experiences with magic and the his budding writing career.

Now You See Me Eisenberg

The theme for your film, which is kind of Robin Hood-esque– kind of take from the rich and give to the po0r– how does that resonate with the times that we’re living in right now?  

Eisenberg: When we were filming the movie, Occupy Wall Street was in the news all the time. I guess it’s less in the news now just cause it’s not happening with the same intensity but I think probably the feeling is still there. And so I was kinda surprised when we would perform these magic shows, we would perform for people who were extras. Hired to be the audience members but the reaction that we would elicit when we would talk about what these businessmen have done to a fictional audience with fictional businessmen was so intense that you realize ‘oh, the feeling is in the air even in a fictional circumstance that everybody knows is not real.’ People still really feel angry and so I assume [people] watching the movie and not being a fictional audience– as the audience who watches this movie will be–  will probably feel the same feeling.

Did you bring any of (Mark) Zuckerburg to your character here?

Eisenberg: I guess both of those guys feel like they’re really the best at what they do so I guess they’re both confident except [that] this character genuinely feels that way. He’s not acting out of some kind of insecurity whereas I think [the] other guy’s acting more from feeling excluded. My character genuinely thinks he’s the best in the world at what he does. He probably even is because he’s like the most successful magician.

Now You See Me Cast

What was your first experience with magic?

Eisenberg: I was exposed to magic because my mother was like a clown growing up so she would perform at birthday parties. And she would not perform at my birthday because everybody knew that it was my mother so it would not be surprising. She would barter with a local magician Bruce and Bruce would do my parties for free and my mom would do his children’s parties for free and so I got to be exposed to magic but I just knew him as Bruce and so it was strange to see him put on this persona and that’s what I thought of with this character that I was playing now. My character would be a real person…

Are there any plans to do a sequel to Zombieland?

Eisenberg: No, I think there were but then they decided to do a TV show instead. I guess it would preclude a sequel cause it would be more of the same brand.

Now You See Me Cast 2

We know that you do a lot of writing for the New Yorker so I was just wondering how you got into writing.

Eisenberg: I used to write jokes a lot. I recently went to clean out [the room where I grew up in] and I found some of my old jokes… I’ve been writing jokes since I was very young and I’ve been reading New Yorker humor columns for a long time so I’ve been submitting to them for like five years and they finally started accepting my columns…

Now You See Me is in theaters now.

Photo Gallery: ’42′ Stars Visit the White House with Jackie Robinson’s Wife

First lady Michelle Obama introduced the stars of the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 at the White House.

On April 2, she brought local high school students to the White House for a conversation on the late baseball superstar. Obama, who was clearly inspired by the film, noted that “You have to pick yourself up when somebody knocks you down,” a lesson that underscores the legacy of Mr. Robinson.

The new film 42 tells the true story of Jackie Robinson’s rise to the major leagues in the late 1940′s.

Chadwick Boseman stars as the main character, whose number– the film’s title– was eventually retired in all of the major league teams. Oscar nominee Harrison Ford appears in the film as Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers team executive who supported Robinson’s rise to be the first African-American in the majors.

Boseman, Ford and screenwriter/director Brian Helgeland were accompanied at the White House by Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow who served as an adviser on the film.

Check out some of the pictures below of the event featuring Obama, Helgeland, Boseman, Ford, Mrs. Robinson and a White House aide who asked questions of the panel.

Click HERE for next photo.

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Interview: Actress Summer Qing on ‘Looper’ and the Greatest Misconception about Bruce Willis

In the new movie Looper, two actors portray the same character. Both Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) star as a hired gun named Joe. Willis plays the character late in life while JGL plays the younger version, who is forced to confront his future self. We see the character in both stages of his life in multiple time periods.

When we see the older Joe, we glimpse him with a beautiful woman- and pivotal character- who ultimately changes his life. That character is played by Chinese actress Summer Qing.

In an e-mail interview, Qing responded to some of my questions about the new sci-fi thriller. In her responses, Qing  told me why audiences should see this movie, what attracted her to the project and the greatest misconception people have about action star Bruce Willis.

‘Looper’ is a unique type of science fiction drama. What attracted you to the project in the first place?

Qing: First and most importantly, the script is great. The story is like nothing I’ve seen before, and the setting of China in the future: brilliant! Plus, we have the most excellent and creative cast and crew in the business, including Rian, Bruce, Joseph and Emily. It was such a pleasue [sic] to work with such a great team. Besides, I would be playing Bruce Willis’ wife. Come on! This is Bruce Willis we are talking about!

What was it like working with Bruce Willis and what do you think is the biggest misconception about him as an actor?

Qing: I had such a great experience working with Bruce Willis. The first day I arrived on the set, he came to me, pulled me into his arms, and gave me a big long hug. He didn’t say a word but that said more than enough. We were like an old couple finally reunited, ready to take on another adventure in life.

There is a scene in which we have an emotional conversation in a car. When they were shooting my part, Bruce was off camera to read his lines. Like the superstar he is, he didn’t have to do that himself, but he did anyway. On top of that, he cared about everyone on the set. I really respect him for that, professionally and personally.

As for the biggest misconception, that’s easy: Everyone in the whole universe knows Bruce Willis is one big tough guy. However, in real life, he speaks very slowly and softly. He takes care of people around him, a true gentleman.

In the movie, you are a character who saves her husband’s life when he is struggling with drug addiction. What in your career has been the toughest obstacle you’ve encountered and how did you overcome it?

Qing: After so many years of playing the good girls and the perfect woman-type of characters, I find people have a certain set image of what kind of roles I should be playing, which in a way sets limitations for me. Currently, I’d love to try something different, to play a bad girl or even a villain. For instance, “the Joker” (by Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight, or the Witch from Dark Shadows (by Eva Green), or the girl in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (by Rooney Mara). It isn’t easy for me. Most producers/directors still come to me with the perfect woman kind of roles. As a matter of fact, I think Hollywood has more to offer for what I want. Hopefully, I can work with Rian Johnson again in the near future.

In the film, people from the future are sent back into the past to tie up loose ends. If you had the chance to go back and change something about your past, what would it be and why?

Qing: I would probably tell myself to study English harder and learn to speak like a native speaker. At this point of my career and life, I learned the importance of mastering English.

If a person on the street asked you to tell them why they should see this movie in one sentence, what would you say?

Qing: Looper is the Matrix of this decade. You don’t want to miss out.

Looper is in theaters now.

Behind the Scenes Photos of ‘Looper’

Here are some great behind the scenes photo from the new movie “Looper.” Check out Rebecca’s review and then make sure you check out the film, which is in theaters now.

All photos courtesy of actress Summer Qing, who stars as Bruce Willis’ wife in the film.











































Interview: Writer/ Director Stephen Chbosky on ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’

Perks of Being a Wallflower Author It is unusual in Hollywood for a novelist to write a bestselling book and then- years later- adapt that book into a screenplay and then direct the cinematic version of his or her story. But that’s exactly what happened with writer/director Stephen Chbosky, whose new film The Perks of Being a Wallflower arrives in theaters this Friday. Nearly fifteen years after his acclaimed novel hit bookshelves, Chbosky is bringing his highly-acclaimed story to the big screen.

Chbosky’s movie stars youngsters Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller as Charlie, Sam and Patrick- three high school outcasts who bond together during their tumultuous teen years.

In a roundtable interview with the director, my colleagues and I talked to Chbosky about his new film, working with Harry Potter star Emma Watson and why he (jokingly) wants to punch Stephen King.

Perks of Being a Wallflower Cast Photo

We began by discussing a Q&A that the director did where he noted that of all of the characters, he would most want to catch up with Sam in today’s world.

Chbosky: If I were ever to write a sequel to the book, I would probably title it ‘Sam’ because Charlie’s based a lot on me so I know how he turned out…I love the character of Sam and I love how she embodies a spirit in people that I admire. When people go through bad things and they just decide to turn it into something positive. I love that quality. Emma has it in real life as Emma and she brought it to Sam.

You mentioned a tunnel scene with Emma that you wanted to tell us about. What happened in the tunnel?

Chbosky: Emma is a lovely and proper English girl and she is a team player and she works her [butt] off and the one thing that Emma didn’t get a whole lot of opportunity to do in her life was be a kid. None [of the main actors] did. They all grew up on sets… [We were working on take 3 of the tunnel sequence where Emma stands up through the sunroof slot in the car and enjoys the freedom of the ride]. I don’t know why ‘take 3’ but it was take 3 and we were going through the tunnel and she asked me, ‘Can I please, please, please. Can I do the stunt?’… When she went into the tunnel, she was Emma. When she left the tunnel, she was Sam…I’d never seen a young person happier in my life. And I’d never seen anyone have such a profound moment of freedom. In just a moment as that girl had. As an actor but also as a person.

Perks of Being a Wallflower Dance Scene

Tell us about the books you like to read and what you are reading now.

Chbosky: My favorite author is Stephen King and I love his work so much. I’ve read his books more than anybody else. I’m actually reading [his latest one] right now… I kinda want to punch him a little bit for being so great.

What lessons, especially for young people, do you want readers or viewers to get out of ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower?’

Chbosky: That you are not alone and that what you are going through is valid and deserves respect and deserves to be celebrated. That’s it. If people are feeling down, I want them to have a sense of hope. In a strange way above all, I just want them to have a good time.

Perks of Wallflower Cast in Car

Can you talk about some of the reactions you received about the book when it was first published in 1999 and over the years?

Chbosky: Some letters I received over the years will rip your heart. This is the quote I remember probably more than anything else. One girl wrote to me, ‘The first time that I ever felt loved was reading your book.’ That’ll change you.

How did you maintain control of the story over the years so that you would have the opportunity to direct the cinematic version of it?

Chbosky: I kept control of the book by never selling the book. I have been offered–My agent said that he would get basically a call a week since it was published. People wanting to option or buy it…I just said I’ll do it when I’m ready. I did it completely on spec so by the time we went to the studio, I had the book, the screenplay, my producers, Emma, and Logan [already signed on]. That’s what made the difference because I was either going to direct this movie or the movie was never going to exist. There was no debate about that.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower arrives in theaters Friday nationwide.

Presser: Kevin Durant and the ‘Thunderstruck’ Cast Talk Great Sports Movies and the Importance of Family

In the family drama Thunderstruck, a famous basketball player– played by real-life superstar Kevin Durant– loses all of his skills on the court after an encounter with a high school student. Brian (Taylor Gray), a student with few basketball skills to speak of,  idolizes Durant as the story begins but when the two meet, Durant’s skills are mysteriously transferred to Brian while Brian’s meager abilities are given to Durant.   Soon enough,  Brian’s high school basketball team watches as the former bench-dweller begins making dozens of three-pointers while Durant watches as his career begins to fall apart.

In addition to Gray and Durant, the film stars Brandon T. Jackson as Durant’s frustrated manager and James Belushi as Brian’s easily-excitable coach. But in addition to those well-known stars, the movie features performances by Robert Belushi (James’ real-life son) and a cameo by Wanda Pratt, Durant’s mother.

At a recent press conference, the cast of the movie talked about working with some of their own family members and some of their own personal favorite sports films.

What was it like working with Kevin Durant in his first acting gig?

Jim Belushi: In the scenes themselves… It was like working with a professional that’s been working for fifteen years. He just slid right into it like it was just second nature to him.

Wanda, can you talk about your experience watching your own son onscreen?

Pratt: When I saw the movie, it just was so surreal to me that this was my son in a major motion picture starring him as himself so I feel like I wanna cry now…I cried at the Olympics too [when Durant won a gold medal with the U.S. basketball team]. I’ve been crying all year.

Kevin, there’s a line in the movie where your character notes that ‘Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.’ Is that a personal motto of yours?

Durant: [Yes] I’ve been using it [for] fifteen years. They put it in the movie. My godfather was the first one to tell me that quote and I’ve been using it ever since.

Jim and Robert, I know you’ve worked on some projects together before. What was this particular experience like ?

Jim Belushi: [kidding] Terrible.
Robert Belushi: It’s great working with my father. You hope to work with great scene partners. I know that’s gonna be the case every time I’m on stage with him. The most fun we have is when we’re playing with each other, trying to mess each other up, improvising and [we] tried to do a little of that out here…I always enjoy it. It’s nice. [joking] It’s the only time we get along.

What are some of your favorite sports films?

Jim Belushi: I saw one that really blew my mind. It’s called Thunderstruck. And I’d probably go back to see it again next weekend.
Robert Belushi: There’s a lot of subtleties that you miss on the first viewing that you should see.
Jim Belushi: This is a two/three-timer.
Robert Belushi: Kevin Durant. Taylor. Brandon. You’ve gotta really watch them.
Jim Belushi: Yeah, that’s the best one I’ve seen.
Durant: I guess I’ve gotta say Thunderstruck too. But other than that, I would say Hoosiers actually.
Jim Belushi: Yeah, Hoosiers was good.
Pratt: You gonna ask me that question? Thunderstruck, of course.
Jackson: Thunderstruck and Basketball Diaries with Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s more of a drug movie but it’s a basketball movie at first…
Gray: Yeah clearly, Thunderstruck. I’ve gotta go with that. I love Rudy. That’s another good one.

Did growing up in D.C. lend itself to your success and where you went with your career?

Durant: I think D.C. is so cutthroat. I think my Mom would agree with that. Everybody’s out for themselves most of the time and that made us stick together as a family and as a close group. I was able to work so hard and my Mom was always there to push me..

Thunderstruck is now in theaters nationwide.

Interview: Rashida Jones and Will McCormack talk ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’ and the Island of Misfit Characters

In the new romantic drama Celeste and Jesse Forever, a young couple face life after their short marriage falls apart. But instead of the two going their separate ways, Celeste and Jesse decide to remain best friends. Played by Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones, the couple still spends most of their time together and flirt incessantly. As they struggle with new romances and a life separated from each other, they face the difficulties of staying so close after the separation.

The film itself was written by Jones and Will McCormack, who plays one of Jesse’s best friends  in the film.  I recently sat down with the writing partners for a roundtable interview where we talked about Andy Samberg dramatic turn in the film, the characters that writers leave behind during the process and if a former couple can really be friends after a romance has ended.

I began by asking Jones and McCormack about Saturday Night Live‘s Samberg playing against type in this dramatic film.

Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones in Celeste and Jesse Forever

Can you talk about having Andy Sandberg in this movie because he’s usually known for more comedic roles?

Jones: Yeah, you know. I think Andy’s kind of had this inside him for a while.
McCormack: We sent him the script and we were like ‘can you do this?’ and he was like ‘I got this…’ We went to New York and we read it with him and he was incredible.
Jones: Yeah, he crushed it. He crushed it.
McCormack: So it was fun to watch because you were watching an actor do this for the first time in his life and he’s not ever doing parts like this. It was amazing to watch.

In the movie, the two title characters have difficulty letting each other go. Have you ever struggled with letting one of you own characters go?

Jones: We have a thing called character island where all the characters that used to be in our movies or in our scripts get sent- exiled- to character island. There were some characters in Celeste and Jesse that are gone. There was a little girl.
McCormack: There was a little girl.
Jones: There was a sister and a little girl…We were both totally fine cutting her, right?
McCormack: Yeah, yeah.

What about characters that you yourself played? Have you struggled with leaving them?

McCormack: No. I’m usually so psyched I’m done…
Jones: It’s fine generally. Also, [in comedy] you don’t have to get in deep in a way where you have to let go of this big thing as much…

In many ways, the film can be compared to ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ a film that asked if men and women can simply be friends. What do you think about that? Can men and women be just friends? What do you think this film is trying to say about it?

Jones: Well, this is just a slightly different version because there’s the added complexity of the fact that they were married. So I feel like our version of it is ‘can exes be friends?’
McCormack: Yeah.
Jones: And I feel like my answer is-
McCormack: Depends.
Jones: It depends. A. Were you friends to begin with? I’ve dated people that I definitely shouldn’t have dated because I would never be friends with them. So why would you date somebody you wouldn’t be friends with? And then B. You need a little bit of time for healing, I think. I don’t think you can go right into being friends…
McCormack: I think they can. I’m friends with most of my exes because I’m sort of proud of my ex list. I’ve dated some really great girls. With time. I think the interesting thing about- hopefully- our movie is that they are hasty. They sort of try to be friends without doing the necessary emotional work that needs to be done. Or Celeste doesn’t even think she needs to do any…

How’d you get the idea for the film?

Jones: We had a lot of friends who were in a similar situation to this. And, y’know, stole from their lives like good friends do. And we both had unhealthy relationships with long-term exes. We just felt like it was something that we kept seeing. Like this kind of guy and this kind of girl. Like a guy who’s kind of chill and not really that interested in getting out there and pursuing his career and a girl who was kind of on top of it. That dynamic.

Have you ever done a project where you felt a big transition in your career like the characters go through a transition in the film?

McCormack: This for sure.
Jones: This was huge.
McCormack: This was the biggest growth spurt of my life.
Jones: Me too. As an actress, as a producer, as a writer, as everything.
McCormack: This was professionally and personally the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was the most gratifying too. It’s really intense to write and make a movie and produce it and have it come out in the world. It’s a very vulnerable thing. We tried to write a comedy about heartbreak to the best of our ability and we weren’t trying to be cynical or satirical at all in the emotional parts of the movie…As an actor, I’ve sort of not had a lot of fear but as a writer, I have a ton of fear about exposing myself. It was great to go through the process. I would do it again but it was hard…
Jones: As an actress too for me, I never had to carry anything before…[In playing the complex character] It was a challenge. I was in it so I was feeling every emotion in a way that I don’t like to feel emotion cause they’re scary. But yeah, it was challenging but great.

Celeste and Jesse Forever arrives in theaters nationwide today.

Interview: Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan Talk ‘Ruby Sparks’ and a Hollywood Couple they look up to

In the new romantic drama Ruby Sparks, a young writer named Calvin (Paul Dano) invents the perfect girlfriend for his new novel. Little does he know that the woman he created would one day jump off the page and into his kitchen. Zoe Kazan, who wrote the screenplay, stars as the title character who enters Calvin’s life and forces him to re-evaluate what he puts on the page.

Dano and Kazan, a romantic couple in real life, worked with directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (another real-life couple) in bringing these characters to the big screen. I recently had the chance to sit down with both couples in roundtable interviews . Here is what the real life stars of the film had to say about Ruby Sparks, the film’s “changed” ending and finding another Hollywood couple that they looked up to.

I began by asking Kazan about her writing process and if she knew that she would be playing the title character as she was writing the piece.

Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan in Ruby Sparks

Kazan: Well, it wasn’t the title character when I wrote the script. That happened in retrospect…

Not unlike Calvin, I had a dream and I woke up in the morning and the scenes for this movie were in my head and I wrote it down as fast as I could so I wouldn’t lose it and then showed those five or ten pages to Paul and he said ‘you’re writing this for us, right?’ It really hadn’t occurred to me and then it was completely obvious to me that that’s what I was doing but I had been so taken by it by the—if you’ll excuse the expression- by the balls by it that I hadn’t even stopped to think so from that point on, I knew I was writing for myself … And then it wasn’t until later when I was actually having to do it that I was like, ‘oh God, what have I written?” For so long, I was just thinking about it as a writer that it wasn’t until the very last month of preparation that I even started thinking about acting it.

Paul Dano in Ruby Sparks
How did you think about the characters you would be playing?

Dano: You just sort of take the basic building blocks that the script gives you so in this case, [Calvin's] gotten out of a long relationship. He does not have any friends. His brother, rather, is his only friend. He lives in a big house alone. Got a dog to try to help him meet people but that doesn’t seem to be working out. His father’s passed away. He’s had huge success but he cannot follow up and has writer’s block. And so those are all just great, great, great starting points to sort of then figure out ‘okay, how do you feel about those things’ cause each of those is a big thing and a big feeling and you can start to figure out what happened before that, especially with his book and how he got into writing and what his relationship with his father is like and with the ex-girlfriend. You just sort of build it up but you start with what’s on the page that’s given to you and then just fill in the blanks…You respond to it the way Calvin would.

How do you create a character that is so changeable ? (In the film, Calvin’s written words force Ruby to do whatever he puts down on the page.)

Kazan: The main thing that Jonathan and Valerie and I talked about in the writing and then the playing of her was that we wanted her to feel very real and we never wanted her to feel like a fantasy. Or like the idea of a person. We wanted her to feel like a person. Part of that was just obviously in the writing of it. Like doing my preparation. Who is Ruby and finding things out about her as I wrote. She’s a very forthright person and she’s sort of a person in charge of her own desires. She knows what she wants. She’s more straightforward than I am, I think, as a person and there was some surprise in that especially when we started playing it in rehearsal. Where she lived. Where her voice is. Where her energy is…

A part of it was just sort of moving away from the writer’s head, which was all about the story and how these people interact and then moving into my body and feeling who she was physically. That was a real moment of discovery for me which I wasn’t anticipating. I sort of thought when writing it I would know everything but I learned a lot just in the first week we were rehearsing. And then the important thing for me [were] the changes that happened to Ruby…He’s changing her. Bringing out a different side of her so those things were fun to play because they were an exaggerated quality. But we were always trying to keep it grounded in reality.

Did you have any particular actors in mind when writing the screenplay like Antonio Banderas and Annette Bening?

Kazan: We mostly just got extremely lucky with casting. Except for writing for Paul and myself, I didn’t have anybody else in mind while I was writing and then there were a lot of surprises along the way including Antonio. Paul, do you want to-
Dano: That was a call one day from Jon and Val saying we have this crazy idea. His [the character's] name is Mort so we never were thinking of anyone like Antonio. Zoey and I would be home making up lists of who would be good to suggest or who would be great in this part. That was a really fun call to get cause that was something that if we were making the film alone, I don’t know if we would have gotten there. It turned out to be definitely an inspired choice.
Kazan: And I will say that Jonathan and Valerie [are] really decent people. They’re really good people. And kind and incredibly hardworking. They’re kind of like the best coaches of a little league baseball team. They’re really good at galvanizing a group and I think the quality of the cast speaks to that. People want to meet them and want to work with them.  They have this ability to sort of make people want to do their best and be better than they are. Not just in the cast but in the photographers, the production designer, costume designer, hair and makeup. Everybody was sort of coming at it like a labor of love.

Can you compare working with the directors on Little Miss Sunshine to this?

Dano: This was certainly- not only because I’m older and have had more experience and more of an adult– but this was a much more intimate working relationship. Probably about ten pages into Zoey writing, we knew we wanted Jon and Val to direct the film…

They’re really caring and you just feel like you can trust them and give them everything. Give them all of you. Every actor on Little Miss Sunshine loved working with them. Every actor on this film did so I feel very lucky to have gotten to work with them again. I would say just the biggest difference was spending a lot more time together.

It’s unusual to one couple working behind the scenes on a film and one in front of the camera. What was that like?

Kazan: They’re freaks. (laughing) No, they’ve been working together and living together and raising their children together and married together since their early 20’s. They just have this incredible symbiotic relationship that I can’t really describe. Like it happened today. We were walking out of an interview and one of them started to tell a story to me and then I walked to catch up with the other one and the other one started telling me the same story. Like their brains are on the same wave length totally and it’s a beautiful thing to watch but it also makes it very easy. I said to Paul after the movie, “How does one person do that job because it seems so perfectly divided between the two of them.’ It’s like a tag team or something. They both deal with different things. There’s no clear division of labor.
Dano: It was nice to have a couple to look up to as well in working together in this capacity. And it felt like a collaboration too in a way where we had this shared thing and Jon and Val came to it romantically as a couple and we can bring ourselves to that as well and I think they brought a lot out in us just through their experience of love and how the material affected them even though we both knew the material really well before they got it…

Can you talk a little bit about the ending? There’s a rumor out there that the ending was changed from what you originally wrote.

Kazan: I think this is a little of a misnomer because the whole reason this got out there in the first place is that someone asked me ‘was there anything significantly changed’ and that was just the first thing that came to mind was that there had been a slightly different ending… I rewrote the script for nine months for Jonathan and Valerie and a lot of that rewriting had to do with making the highs higher and the lows lower like just going deeper into what I’d already written and also tailoring it to what they wanted to do with the camera and a romantic moment that they wanted to infuse so by the time I finished that process, it really felt like our movie and not my movie anymore in a great way…

What happened was very early. I think it was the first note that they gave me. They said ‘we think that the ending feels like a different movie than this movie’ and I agreed and we talked about it and very similarly to having the idea in the first place I woke up one morning and the ending was in my head and then I knew it was the right ending. Sometimes I feel like in writing there are things that are placeholders. Like you know something has to go here. I’m gonna write this scene for now and then something else will take its place. The right thing will take its place eventually and that was one example of that where it felt like ‘oh, that was the ending from the very start’ and we just had to find it. It’s one of the wonderful things about true collaboration is that you feel like you push each other to the best.

How do you choose your different roles? Is there something you look for in a script?

Dano: I don’t really know. You just look for something to light you up in some way… It’s so much more fun and so much easier if you just feel naturally inspired by the words or by some facet of the character. And sometimes you’re thinking consciously ‘okay I just did a romantic comedy. Maybe I wanna go do a drama.’ As actors, sometimes we’re subject to what’s out there so think about that kind of thing too much is only so helpful. Really, you know a good script when you read it and then the filmmaker involved is probably the biggest thing for me. I know that’s incredibly vague but I have no clue. I like being surprised by something.

As an actress, was part of making this movie showing some of your frustration in not seeing the roles that you want to play?

Kazan: In this case, I felt like- I really did experience a feeling of these characters coming to me and then just feeling ‘okay, Paul and I should play them.’ It wasn’t so much a feeling of wanting to write myself a great role or something. But me writing in general does come out of that feeling of frustration which has to do with feeling bored essentially. Like being in a play or a movie and not feeling fulfilled by the work I was doing and feeling like there was this whole other creative part of me that was unanswered. And that’s why I started writing my plays and this movie and the other screenplays I’ve written so I’m definitely doing it out of frustration. It’s just not quite the frustration that you named.

Paul, knowing that a character was being written for you, did you want to be influential in the creation of that character?

Dano: No, I’d probably rather not be influential. Just because then Zoey would know anyways better what would be challenging for me or interesting for me. I like that element of surprise. It was very fun to see pages as they came…

Ruby Sparks arrives in theaters nationwide today.