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RUBY SPARKS

The People In Calvin's World
"Women are different up close. I love Susie, but she's a weirdo . . . she's a person. You haven't written a person, you've written a girl." -- Harry Weir-Fields

Once Calvin is convinced that Ruby is not his own wild hallucination but someone everyone can see and hear, he realizes he is going to have to explain her to the people in his world - from his family and friends to his shrink and agent. Surrounding Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan in these colorful roles are some of Hollywood's most accomplished and popular actors including Annette Bening as Calvin's mother Gertrude, Antonio Banderas as Gertrude's boyfriend, Elliott Gould as Calvin's psychiatrist, Steve Coogan as his literary rival and Chris Messina as his brother - each of whom were drawn by the story's mix of comedy, romance and emotions.

Three-time Golden GlobeĀ® nominee Banderas and four time OscarĀ® nominee Bening came aboard to portray Calvin's New Age mother Gertrude and her bohemian lover Mort - who charm Ruby as much as they irritate and embarrass Calvin with their sexual liberation.

Banderas had a lot of fun with Mort's cloying charm, and the filmmakers enjoyed watching him dive headlong into the role with no inhibitions. Says Yerxa: "Antonio as Mort embodies this kind of overt sexuality and free-form, anti-establishment playfulness. He's totally effusive and loving and that's what makes Calvin, who is wound pretty tight, resist him. I can't wait for the audience to see how Annette and Antonio play off each other."

After recently working with Woody Allen, Steven Soderbergh and Pedro Almodovar, Banderas was drawn to RUBY SPARKS by the talent behind it. "The story is intelligent, funny, poignant -- which I love," he says. "I was amazed that it was written by such a young woman, and that she was actually going to play the part. I love people who just go for it. And then having the directors who did such a beautiful movie as LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE made it even more interesting."

Once on the set, working with two directors was a novel experience. "This was the first time I worked with dual directors, so I wondered how I would relate to them and who is actually directing you? But they work together and it's almost like one person. And that might be part of their success. Definitely with their first movie they proved an extraordinary capacity to tell a story."

Another treat for Banderas was his first time acting opposite Bening. "Everything that I had in my mind, from seeing her on the screen, I saw it live," he observes. "She's so good - totally committed to her character."

Gertrude gave Bening a chance to do something quite different, as Albert Berger explains: "The great thing about Annette in this role is we haven't seen her play this type of woman ever. In many of her roles, she brings both a comic and serious intensity, and extends that in a new direction."

For Kazan, knowing that Bening would take the role was itself a kind of dream come true. "When I heard she was going to do the movie, I cried, because I knew this was real," she recalls. "Having her and Antonio together was like a supernova. There was something so connected in them that you feel like these two people could really be a couple."

Jonathan Dayton feels similarly. "I think Annette and Antonio really enjoyed inhabiting these characters. They're gifted actors who can be very real while going to the humorous corners of their characters. Annette's improvisations were so funny and I think she really enjoyed getting to shock Calvin and Harry with her rekindled sexuality."

Once Ruby shows up in his life, the only person Calvin can really trust with the implausible truth of what is happening to him is his brother, Harry - who at first is convinced Calvin is having some kind of spectacular breakdown . . .and then begins to relish the sublime possibilities of being able to write your lover's actions.

Playing Harry is Chris Messina, perhaps best known for his role in another distinctive twist on the romantic comedy, Woody Allen's VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA and also appears on "Damages." The filmmakers chose him for an ineffable Everyman quality that gives the story's fantastical elements a foundation in ordinary reality. Dayton comments, "Harry is the audience's representative in the film. He's the one who is thinking 'If I only had a button I could push to control my partner' and 'For men everywhere, you've got to take advantage of this.'" Faris continues, "Because Chris plays everything absolutely real and straight, he grounds this movie in a way that is really important."

Messina says it was Kazan who drew him to the project. "I know Zoe from New York as a theater actress and I was always a huge fan. When I read this script, I was impressed she wrote it," he says, "and I instantly wanted to be involved. I loved how she handled the ideas in it."

He also got a kick out of playing Dano's older brother. "Paul is smart and a really hard worker. We'd go to play golf together and he'd show up in Calvin's clothes," he recalls.

Another screen favorite, Elliott Gould - whose prolific film work spans from the 60s classics M*A*S*H and BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE to the current OCEAN ELEVENS series - takes on the role of Calvin's confidante, the probing Dr. Rosenthal.

Gould put his own stamp on the role. "Interestingly, the role of the therapist was originally written for a woman. For a long time, we were trying to find the perfect person," notes Berger. "Then it occurred to us that Calvin's past difficulties with his father made a male therapist a good way to go. Elliott Gould is just a great American treasure of an actor who we don't get to see enough."

"As his analyst, I'm trying to give Calvin the license not to be afraid to fail and to be outrageous," Gould explains. "He's dealing with more than just writer's block. He's blocked in terms of the whole relationship between his inner life and the outside world."

The notable wit of British comedian and actor Steve Coogan (THE TRIP, TROPIC THUNDER) brought to life another of Calvin's foils: the pompous self-proclaimed literary god Langdon Tharp, who nevertheless secretly longs for Calvin's natural talent.

Coogan had fun playing with Langdon's competitive, love-hate relationship with his fellow author. "Langdon is an admirer of Calvin's and at the same time, he's slightly envious," explains Coogan. "It's like the relationship between Salieri and Mozart: Salieri admired Mozart, but he wanted to destroy him at the same time. So that's the way I played Langdon Tharp."

He adds, "Langdon is sort the Ghost of Christmas Future. Langdon is what Calvin's character could become if he's not careful. He's the slightly darker, cynical side of literature if you like."

Says Albert Berger of Coogan, "Steve brings sublime skills to Langdon. It's a great role for him because it's very defined but at the same time it allows him to show his brilliance at improvisation and freeform dialogue."

Rounding out the cast are Toni Trucks (MUSIC & LYRICS) as Harry's wife Susie, Deborah Ann Woll ("True Blood") in the role of Calvin's ex-girlfriend who makes a surprise reappearance in his life; Aasif Mandvi, best known as a correspondent on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," as Calvin's coaxing agent Cyrus; and Alia Shawkat (WHIP IT) as the obsessive fan who helps him discover that Ruby is real.

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