The Verge: Zoe Kazan


Believe Zoe Kazan when she says she didn't mean to be so prolific. After first gaining notice last year in Revolutionary Road, the 26-year-old actress has appeared in film after film (after film!) this year, and this holiday season most of all. Kazan spent the early part of 2009 in I Hate Valentine's Day and the Tribeca entry The Exploding Girl, then sparked to Zac Efron in Me and Orson Welles and sparred with Robin Wright in Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. She'll next be seen as the youngest daughter of exes Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in the Nancy Meyers comedy It's Complicated.

In the meantime, Kazan is busy writing and trying to line up her next theater role while scheduling a trip to Sundance in January to support another film she appears in. With all that on her plate, it's a miracle that she carved out twenty minutes to talk to Movieline about Meryl, mandalas, and female directors.

Obviously you've shot all these movies over the last few years, and now they're all coming out at once. Do you like it that way?

It's kind of fun for me, actually. I'm seeing what I did so long ago. When you've just shot something, it can be painful to watch it, but when it's been a year, you can be like, "Oh! That's what I did. I completely forgot." [Laughs]

Something interesting about this clutch of your films, too, is that three of them were directed by women.

That's true! I hadn't thought of that, that's so funny. I guess I'm lucky to have worked with so many women -- it says something good about the time we're living in. Do you remember that year of the Oscars when they were like, "This is the year of the woman!" and there were no women directors? It really does feel like things are changing now with women like Kathryn Bigelow.

Do you feel like female directors are able to get something different out of you as an actress?

Yeah, I guess so. On Pippa Lee and It's Complicated, my primary relationship in the movies is with my mother, and I think it it helpful to have a woman directing when it's about something that primal. Men don't really understand what it's like, the pain and passion that come through in your feelings for your mother when you're a girl. Rebecca and Nancy both definitely helped me tap into that.

It's an interesting sort of whiplash to go from watching you in Pippa Lee, where you're so dismissive of your mother, to It's Complicated, where you practically worship her.

It's true. They're both different sides of one thing: In Nancy's movie, she's writing about a family that's been torn apart by divorce, and I think the children in that family really clung to their mother after that divorce because it was the father who moved on. I think that engenders a very different kind of intimacy, but when the family unit is more stable, like it was in Pippa Lee, I think there's more room to sort of push back at your mother.

How did you get the part in It's Complicated?

Nancy's daughters and I kind of come from similar backgrounds. They grew up with parents who are writer/directors, and so did I...they grew up in LA, and so did I...and they went to the same kind of schools that I did. I think when I read the script, I kind of understood the world where Nancy was coming from, so I felt very connected to the character immediately. I had a really great time auditioning with her, and then I went outside to look for my car and they called me on my cell phone. Nancy was like, "Will you be in my movie?" It was really wonderful to get the part like that right away, because I was facing a red-eye flight back to New York to perform in The Seagull. It's one thing to go back very jet-lagged knowing you have the part, as opposed to not having it. [Laughs]

Didn't Meryl perform in The Seagull several years ago? Did you compare notes with her at all?

I didn't, but Meryl came and saw The Seagull right after I had been cast in Nancy's movie, and she wrote me a really beautiful note that she mailed to the theater saying really lovely things about my performance. That meant more to me than almost anything -- it's really one of my treasures now. We never really talked about it on set, though. Once a play is done, it's sort of like talking about a dead relative. It's like, "Oh, I'll never play that part again."

Many actresses spend their entire lives hoping to work with Meryl Streep. Was it intimidating for it to come so early in your career?

I was so excited, and really scared too. I don't get star-struck that often, but I met her on set when we were doing wardrobe tests, and I think I was shaking. I tried to play it off very cool, but I definitely wasn't feeling very cool on the inside. Once we got on set, she really just became like our mother and it became very normal. I would be having a bad day and be crying and she'd put her arms around me and make me tell her all my troubles. That's pretty nice.

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