Zoe Kazan was midway through writing the screenplay for the new film "Ruby Sparks" when her boyfriend, actor Paul Dano, raised an important question: "You're writing this for us, right?"
"I guess I am," Kazan replied.
Her finished product tells of a novelist named Calvin and his girlfriend, Ruby, a woman of his own invention who appears to literally come to life for him, and the film received a warm audience reception at the Los Angeles Film Festival during a secret screening Sunday evening.
But in a question-and-answer session after the Fox Searchlight movie, which opens in theaters July 25, Kazan said finding filmmakers who would back the script with her and Dano in the leading roles proved to be a challenge.
While both actors have appeared in a slew of positively-reviewed independent films — he in "Little Miss Sunshine," both in "Meek's Cutoff" — neither is exactly considered a box office draw.
"Everyone I met with said, 'We'll never get this made with you and Paul in the leads — it's impossible,'" recalled Kazan, 28.
Eventually, though, they did secure funding and "Little Miss Sunshine" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris signed on to helm the film. But Kazan struggled with giving them the freedom they and her castmates needed to play with her script.
"It was very easy for me to be present with Paul — saying lines wasn't so hard, it was having actors drop full portions of things and not have that register on my face at all which was hard," she said.
Dano, meanwhile, insisted he had no trepidation about working with his romantic partner.
"When I watch the movie, it doesn't look like us to me, which is a real blessing, I think," the 27-year-old said. "Sometimes on the drive home from work, one of us got a little cranky: me."
"Paul and I had already been together almost four years," Kazan said of the experience. "So I liken it to having a baby. It was really stressful and wonderful and meant so much to us. But I don't know if I want a second baby."
— Amy Kaufman
Photo: "Ruby Sparks" stars Zoe Kazan, left, and Paul Dano. Credit: Fox Searchlight.