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RUBY SPARKS

The Casting of Calvin
"Remember how dad used to say I had an over-active imagination?" -- Calvin Weir-Fields

The chaos that ensues in Calvin Weir-Fields' life once he dreams up Ruby Sparks calls for an actor with the ability to make even the strangest journey seem believable - which was a task that interested Paul Dano.

Like Calvin, Dano had very early success in his chosen field, making his Broadway debut at 12 and his feature film debut at 17, garnering awards and acclaim in the gritty drama L.I.E. Since then, he has gone on to create an unusually diverse roster of characters. He first worked with Dayton & Faris as the willfully mute son in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, portrayed the charismatic preacher Eli Sunday in Paul Thomas Anderson's oil epic THERE WILL BE BLOOD, and most recently played the son of Robert De Niro's slippery con man in the dramatic comedy BEING FLYNN.

As Zoe Kazan's boyfriend, Dano had the advantage of having watched RUBY SPARKS come to life in the raw stages of creativity - but he was surprised in many ways. "Zoe wrote something for me that might use some parts of me, and some of my strengths but she also wrote something that gave me a great challenge," he comments. "Calvin's story is completely different from mine as are parts of his personality. Every day as an actor, I experience a similar form of fear, but for me personally, it's a good fear. It's exciting and it makes me perform well."

But in Calvin's case, fear is holding him back both in his professional and romantic pursuits. "He's definitely missing something in his life. There's an absence. There's sort of a hole," notes Dano. Ruby is custom designed specifically to fit into that hole, but when she shows up in his life she also opens up a whole new world for Calvin, who has long dwelled in the limbo between youth and adulthood, not ready to take the leap. Dano explains, "I think before Calvin can properly love somebody he has to learn to love himself. His relationship with Ruby could be a really beautiful thing but he has to grow up before he can do it right. Calvin is learning that you can't control life and he's got to get comfortable with that."

Calvin also gave Dano a lot of room to explore. "When your character thinks he might be going crazy, that immediately gives you a certain freedom and liberty in the performance to have fun," he says. "But when he goes from thinking he's crazy to deciding to take the leap and embark on a relationship with this woman he created, I found that even more fascinating."

It was Dano's ability to reveal the full spectrum of shock, anxiety, neurosis, uncertainty and ultimately generosity that Ruby evokes in Calvin that makes his performance so relatable, say Dayton & Faris. "You never feel Paul chasing after humor yet he's very funny," observes Faris. "He makes you laugh just by playing Calvin so honestly."

Dayton continues, "We are excited for audiences to see Paul in this role. He's tended to play characters on the darker side of life, but he's a very appealing romantic lead not unlike a young Dustin Hoffman."

Zoe Kazan also hoped the role would show off more of Dano's shadings - and coming full circle, she found a certain joy in writing his character into existence. "Paul's an incredibly funny person, very dry, and I really wanted to see him play something that he hasn't done on screen before," she says, then admits, "I had some fun thinking about things to make Paul do. Like smile. He doesn't like to smile so I would write into the script 'Calvin smiles.' Little things that I knew he would do as this character but not in real life."

In the end, though, she watched him make the role his own. "He did a great job of making Calvin human and fallible and therefore relatable and lovable," sums up Kazan.

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