The People In Calvin's World
"Women are different up close. I love Susie, but she's a weirdo . . . she's a
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Rounding out the cast are Toni Trucks (MUSIC & LYRICS) as Harry's wife Susie,
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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