MEET "THE EXPLODING GIRL" and her Director. Actress Zoe Kazan and Filmmaker Bradley Rust Gray speak about their new movie… and what’s next!

 Zoe Kazan

MEET “THE EXPLODING GIRL” and her Director.
Actress Zoe Kazan and Filmmaker Bradley Rust Gray speak about their new movie… and what’s next!

In Bradley Rust Gray’s new film “The Exploding Girl”, we meet Ivy, a college student who’s home in New York City for spring break. Bright, pretty, and mature, Ivy has epilepsy but keeps her disease in check. The young woman finds herself becoming progressively distressed, however, when she tries in vain to reconnect with her college boyfriend, who’s become increasingly distant from her. The ultimate slap in the face comes when her beau breaks up with her– over the phone! At the same time, Ivy finds herself becoming close to her best friend Al (played by Mark Rendell), causing some complicated feelings to develop. Gray says of his Kazan’s Ivy, “She’s a character I admire because she does control her emotions. She’s very selfless; she doesn’t burden people with her problems. In essence, she has a giving quality But then, I think this film is about this time in her life when she realizes that she can’t go on her whole life alone like that… She doesn’t trust her boyfriend as much as she trusts Al. That’s her closest friend, but she still doesn’t even let him in on what’s going on in her life… or show him the emotions going on inside. But I think that the suggestion is, at the end, that she’s going to learn to do that.” Described by the director as “a character study”, “The Exploding Girl” is indeed largely carried by its two characters Zoe and Al, who convey a world of emotions via Kazan’s and Rendell’s performances. The film has already won two Awards: “Best Actress, Narrative Film” for Kazan at The Tribeca Film Festival in 2009, and The 2010 Producer’s Award for Karin Chien at The Independent Spirits Awards. In case you’re wondering about the title, it’s a play on a song “The Exploding Boy”, the B-side of The Cure’s single “In Between Days”. “In Between Days” was the name of a 2006 movie Gray co-wrote with his wife, So Yong Kim.

Rising actress Zoe Kazan, now 27, is “the exploding girl” of the title. As a testament to her acting ability, Kazan was 25 when she played the college-aged Ivy… and she managed to expertly represent that challenging emotional and physical bridge between being a girl and a woman. “Ivy is so unlike me in so many ways”, she revealed in a round table interview session before the movie premiered. Kazan’s lack of resemblance to the character was actually one of the reasons she was attracted to the part. The actress grew up in L.A. and now lives in Brooklyn. She has appeared in the movies “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee”, “Revolutionary Road”, and most recently in the romantic comedy “It’s Complicated” as Gabby, Meryl Streep’s daughter. Kazan is young, intelligent, and ambitious– but this actress seems to have higher goals than simply appearing on an overly slick, glossy magazine cover screaming “Young Hollywood, 2010!” anytime soon. She’s an actor before a celebrity… meaning that she takes the craft very seriously. She has appeared on Broadway in “Come Back, Little Sheba” and “The Seagull”, and is also a playwright. In 2009, her play “Absalom” premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, KY. To play the character of Ivy, Kazan read a lot of books about epilepsy, watched videos of seizures from medical sites (“Not from You Tube!”, she pointed out!) and even rehearsed having a seizure, asking her boyfriend how “real” it looked. She stated that she not only wanted to do justice to Ivy, who she clearly respects as a character, but also for anyone living with a chronic illness.

Kazan auditioned for director Bradley Rust Gray almost four years ago for another movie he had in mind, which was was never made. However, Gray remembered her, and she remembered him. About a year and a half later, he called her. Kazan recalls Gray asking her, “I want to make a movie with you… I haven’t written it. I have no idea what it’s gonna be about. I have an idea but I can’t tell you about it. Do you want to do it?” Her answer was an unambiguous, “Yes, I do!” After she had finished shooting after shooting “Me and Orson Welles”, she received the new script… and loved it. When asked about whether she prefers mainstream, big budget Hollywood films or smaller, independent films, Kazan recalls using her recent work in “It’s Complicated” as an example: “Nancy (Meyers, the director of “It’s Complicated”) was the screenwriter and director. My mother is a screenwriter and director; her husband is a screenwriter and director; and my dad is a screenwriter and director! Nancy has two daughters that went to private schools in L.A. who are friends with people I know, and I went to private school… There’s a lot of overlap between us, and then in some ways there’s none. Nancy lives in this perfect world where like everything’s from Shabby Chic and looks really beautiful, and I grew up in this kind of grungy Venice world where my parents live and there was never a lot of money turning around. So, in some ways our lives are really similar, and I totally ‘got’ that character’s life… and in some ways I’m like, ‘Why remodel that kitchen?!’ (referencing a scene from “It’s Complicated”) So, when Nancy met me she was like, ‘You’re my girl! You’re exactly who I wrote it on the page!’ And I was like,, ‘That’s not who I am at all!’ So, it’s all about perception.” She points out that like Ivy, most if not all of the characters that she plays are vastly different from her. “You know, everybody needs those mainstreams. I mean, look… I love going to the movies and watching a big cushy movie, and yeah… I really like getting the big cushy paychecks too! But that’s not an issue. Everybody has to do some for the money as it were. But, I definitely prefer a smaller scale… especially, coming from the theater background. My parents are in the industry, and there are the kind of values that I grew up with: the values of collaboration, and doing something all together. On the big budget movies, you’re always squirreled away in a massive trailer, and you’re alone, and you have to look perfect and all that — and that’s not really what I got in it for. I love not having a trailer, I love just being thrown into bathrooms to change, and being with your co-stars all the time.. and not having a thousand people fussing over you . It seems much more conducive to the work.”

One of the busiest girls in showbiz, Kazan is now appearing on Broadway as Marilyn in “A Behanding in Spokane” at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre through June 2010. On screen, she’ll be seen in the two upcoming films; “Meek’s Cutoff” and “Happythankyoumoreplease”. It’s too tempting to say that Zoe Kazan’s career is… well, “exploding”!

Bradley Rust Gray (who also has played the roles of Producer, Editor, and Cinematographer as well as Writer and Director), is currently at work on his new film “Jack and Diane”. While it’s tempting to ask the director if it’s about “two American kids growing up in the heartland”, Gray tells me that “Jack and Diane” is actually a story about “two girls who fall in love”. Gray reveals, “The film is about understanding the way the other person loves you. It’s not just about falling in love, but understanding love from the other person’s point of view. One girl, Jack, talks about it a lot… but the other girl, Diane, doesn’t know how to express herself… so she turns into this kind of ‘creature’!” Now, that’s a character study that promises to have some… bite!

“The Exploding Girl” is now playing. Visit for showtimes.

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