There’s just something about Zooeys/Zoes. Between Deschanel and Kazan, we’ve been blessed with buckets-full of whimsical charm, not to mention talent. While the former can sing and act, don’t sleep on Kazan, who’s appeared in more than a dozen films including Revolutionary Road and Meek’s Cutoff and also wrote and starred in 2012’s critically acclaimed Ruby Sparks.
These days, the granddaughter of movie biz legend Elia Kazan is co-starring with Daniel Radcliffe in What If, a fun romantic comedy about friends falling in love—plus the mythic, Elvis-approved Fool’s Gold Loaf. We met up with her in Manhattan to discuss classic rom-com subject matter. You know, like World War II non-fiction, Richard Ford and South Dakota oil fields.
A lot of your recent stuff, you’ve played very full, real characters. So what really drew you to Chantry?
The script was really funny and smart. I felt a recognition of a situation that me or my girlfriends could’ve been in. I really admired the way Chantry handled it. I feel like she is a really moral person, and she’s trying to have a moral reaction, but she’s also having feelings, and how she deals with that was interesting to me. And I really loved Goon, the movie that Michael Dowse made right before this, and I thought that he would handle the subject without sentimentality and bring a lot of humor to it. Also to work with Dan.
“The scene when we’re in the diner and we’re talking about poop, a lot of that was improvised, and then, you know, there’s some other stuff.”
You guys had an awesome dynamic in a lot of those scenes.
I loved making this movie with him.
How much of that was on the page or you guys just riffing?
We did a lot of improv because Michael Dowse comes from a comedy background, and he would, whenever possible, put two cameras on us and let us run, but truthfully, not a lot of that ended up in the movie because the script was so strong to start with. You can see it. The scene when we’re in the diner and we’re talking about poop, a lot of that was improvised, and then, you know, there’s some other stuff. There was a looseness on set where you could throw some things in, but there’s really no need to improvise when the script’s that strong.
The script didn’t make it easy on you guys. In a standard rom-com your boyfriend would’ve been a douchebag…
Yeah. Like an over-handsome douchebag. Completely.
As an L.A. native, would you ever want to do an L.A. movie?
Yeah, def. I love L.A. movies. Like Punch Drunk Love. I mean, he’s [Paul Thomas Anderson] one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. But also even movies as silly as Valley Girl, I’m into. I like L.A. culture. Fast Times is one of my favorite movies and Clueless. Some movies I look at, and I’m like, well, I don’t recognize that Los Angeles, but I think it’s a pretty fertile breeding ground for cinema like The Long Goodbye.
I was reading some of Dan’s interviews for What If, he kept mentioning that you were recommending him novels and that you’re very highbrow.
Oh shit. That’s so embarrassing.
What are you reading?
I am reading this book [a Ray Bradbury novel], which is fantastic.
He’s an excellent writer.
He is an excellent writer, and this book is amazing, and my father gave it to me a long time ago, and I just never got around to reading it, and now that I’m reading it, I feel like an idiot for not reading it sooner. It’s so amazing. I’m just starting Mark Harris’ new book [Five Came Back], which is called…fuck, I can’t remember. It’s about World War II films and these five directors who actually went and served time in the war, but it’s really a cool non-fiction book.
That sounds awesome.
It’s sitting on my fucking bedside. That’s so annoying. Mark, I tried to plug your book.
Why does it always rain on we? Conflicted Kazan shares an umbrella with Friend Zone president Radcliffe.
Are you doing any more collaborations with [long-term boyfriend] Paul Dano?
Sort of. He wants to direct a film next year that we are adapting together from Wildlife by Richard Ford.
I really like his stuff.
This is one of his novellas. It’s a really beautiful family story. So that’s sort of a collaboration, but I don’t think we’ll act together again for a while.
Would you try to shoot in Montana?
Yeah. In fact, we’re about to go out to Montana in two weeks to take a look because we want to shoot it this time next year.
Sounds like it’ll be beautiful.
I hope so. I’ve never actually been to Montana. I’ve been almost everywhere else in the Northwest, but I’ve never been to the state of Montana. I really want to go. I’m so excited. We’re going to drive. We’re going to drive from Brooklyn. I want to go to the Badlands and South Dakota.
South Dakota’s crazy with the oil fields…
We want to go see the oil fields. Paul has a friend whose brother works those oil fields, and there’s so much money, but there’s no infrastructure for all those people. So men are making hundreds of thousands of dollars but sleeping in their cars there because there’s no place for them to sleep because the hotels are all booked. Isn’t that crazy?
Yeah, it’s like a lawless gold rush town.
So, changing direction, your thoughts on the Fool’s Gold sandwich?
Disgusting. Disgusting. It’s a horrific thing.
But would you admit it’s less disgusting than you would think it would be?
Yes. I do admit that. I do admit that, but I am disgusted by it nonetheless. If one of those fatty components were removed, I think it would be a delicious thing, but buttering the bread, coating the bread in butter before you bake it…
But that’s what prevents it from being soggy.
You’re not winning yourself any points here. That’s disgusting. That’s horrific. You could just toast it and have the same effect.
That is a very valid argument.