When Boy Writes Girl
US directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ first feature, Little Miss Sunshine, conquered Locarno’s Piazza Grande in 2006, before it was nominated for four Oscars and won two, adding the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature. On their follow-up six years later, Ruby Sparks – also screening on the main square – the married couple collaborated with another twosome, lead actors Zoe Kazan (Sparks) and Paul Dano (Calvin Weir-Fields).
Kazan came up with the idea about boy writes girl - a novelist’s vision which inexplicably comes to life. She started writing what would become her first screenplay, sharing her work with Dano, her boyfriend. Originally she did not intend to bring him into it, “but subconsciously I was probably writing Calvin for him to play, the character who is actually writing my character. There was something very meta going on,” she recalled.
After his successful first novel, literary wunderkind Calvin has been stricken by a case of writer’s block, further complicated by a dismal love life. To reignite his creative spark, he begins to envision a new female protagonist. From the minute he imagines Ruby Sparks, he wants to wrote about her – and then she shows up in his living room, cooking in his kitchen, sleeping in his bed, beguiling him in every way.
Calvin realises he has the power to change her every time he sits at his typewriter, which eventually puts him into a dilemma: what will it take to make this relationship from his imagination work in the real world? He is not the first author with the problem – predecessors with man-made objects becoming human include Shakespeare in A Winter’s Tale, George Bernard Shaw in Pygmalion, Mary Shelley, with a twist, in Frankenstein.
“Although the story is built around a fictional premise, it illuminates so many truths about relationships,” said Dayton. “My wife and I have been together over 20 years, and in a dynamic relationship there are always issues which remain – control, for instance. We felt it was essential for the scenes to feel real and honest.” - Co-starring Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Steven Coogan, Elliott Gould and Chris Messina, Ruby Sparks was released in the US on July 25. It has its international premiere in Festival del film Locarno.Jorn Rossing Jensen