EXCLUSIVE: Zoe Kazan Moves Beyond Demure

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It’s hard to believe Zoe Kazan, who gained notoriety for the
2012 fantastical love story Ruby Sparks and earned an Emmy
nomination for HBO’s Olive Kitteridge, is already experiencing something
of a creative drought in her career. 

As Kazan explains, it’s the sad reality that actresses over
30 face in Hollywood. “I had so many more auditions at 23 than I do at 33,” she
tells ET by phone. “We, in our culture, tell stories about young girls and tell
stories about mothers. There’s a desert in the middle.” 

Even more limiting for the actress, who still passes for 16
in the Off-Broadway play Love, Love, Love, is the fact that she’s
admittedly played the same ingénue part onscreen in the string of romantic
comedies that followed Ruby Sparks. It’s thanks to “me looking demure
and having big eyes and being kind of small and looking young,” she says.   

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It’s one of the primary reasons she fought to play an
ill-equipped mother in director Bryan Bertino's new horror film, The Monster, on demand and in
theaters on Nov. 11 and available now exclusively on DirecTV. “Getting this opportunity to play someone very far away
from myself was exciting to me,” Kazan says. “I’ve gotten to play a more
diverse group of people on stage than I have on film.” 

On stage, she’s played an agoraphobic Mormon housewife in Angels
in America
, a betrayer-turned-Roman Catholic nun in The Prime of Miss
Jean Brodie
and 21 years in the life of a put-upon daughter in
playwright Mike Bartlett’s scathing comedy Love, Love, Love. The
Roundabout Theatre Company's limited engagement ends on Dec. 18. 

“It’s not that I like doing stage more than film,” Kazan
told ET last summer, from the Ottawa, Canada set of Monster. “It’s that I like doing
parts that are further away from myself, if given the choice. For a while, [the
roles sent to me] were fitting into one kind of part. I tried to make them as
different as I could, but you also have to play true to the material.”

Joan Marcus

While life in theater, especially Off-Broadway, is
unsustainable, she does appreciate the challenges it’s afforded her. “Playing
Harper Pitt in Angels in America, you know, that’s one of those roles
that stretches you beyond your capacity,” Kazan says. And in Love, Love,
she’s enjoying the precise rhythm of Bartlett’s script. “I feel like
an athlete or a concerto musician,” she says, adding: “There’s no room to mess

To combat the creative constraints onscreen, Kazan told her
agent to stop sending her romantic comedy scripts. “I didn’t want to see them,”
she says, acknowledging that, in some ways, she’s limiting her opportunities to
work. But she’s also been taking more control of her work, following in the
footsteps of her parents, screenwriters Robin Swicord (The Curious Case of
Benjamin Button
) and Nicholas Kazan (Matilda). 

“I write as much as I can and I try to write for women in an
interesting way as much as possible,” Kazan says. Of the screenplays she’s
recently been working on, Wildlife just began its first week of
production, with boyfriend Paul Dano directing. 

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Adapted from the Richard Ford novel by her and Dano, Wildlife’s
female lead is “a really wonderful role for a woman” that’s gone to friend and The
co-star Carey Mulligan
. “That's one way that I think I'm trying to
add to the conversation,” she says of trying to combat the Hollywood mentality
facing her and friends. 

“When you have the desire to play a lot more character parts
and you look young and cute -- the way that people think I look cute -- it does feel
limiting in some way,” Kazan says. “I do feel a curiosity about what will be
there for me in 10 years.”