Paul Dano stars as Calvin who finds true love out his work of fiction. Inspired to write about his ideal girl after a long hiatus, Ruby Sparks suddenly comes to life and in Calvin’s apartment, filling every gap of his once solitary existence. But in Calvin’s case, fear is holding him back both in his professional and romantic pursuits. “He’s definitely missing something in his life. There’s an absence. There’s sort of a hole,” notes Dano.
Ruby is custom designed specifically to fit into that hole, but when she shows up in his life she also opens up a whole new world for Calvin, who has long dwelled in the limbo between youth and adulthood, not ready to take the leap. Dano explains, “I think before Calvin can properly love somebody he has to learn to love himself. His relationship with Ruby could be a really beautiful thing but he has to grow up before he can do it right. Calvin is learning that you can’t control life and he’s got to get comfortable with that.”
Once Calvin is convinced that Ruby is not his own wild hallucination but someone everyone can see and hear, he realizes he is going to have to explain her to the people in his world – from his family and friends to his shrink and agent. Surrounding Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan in these colorful roles are some of Hollywood’s most accomplished and popular actors including Annette Bening as Calvin’s mother Gertrude, Antonio Banderas as Gertrude’s boyfriend, Elliott Gould as Calvin’s psychiatrist, Steve Coogan as his literary rival and Chris Messina as his brother – each of whom were drawn by the story’s mix of comedy, romance and emotions.
Three-time Golden Globe® nominee Banderas and four time Oscar® nominee Bening came aboard to portray Calvin’s New Age mother Gertrude and her bohemian lover Mort – who charm Ruby as much as they irritate and embarrass Calvin with their sexual liberation.
Banderas had a lot of fun with Mort’s cloying charm, and the filmmakers enjoyed watching him dive headlong into the role with no inhibitions. Says producer Yerxa: “Antonio as Mort embodies this kind of overt sexuality and free-form, anti-establishment playfulness. He’s totally effusive and loving and that’s what makes Calvin, who is wound pretty tight, resist him. I can’t wait for the audience to see how Annette and Antonio play off each other.”
Gertrude gave Bening a chance to do something quite different, as producer Albert Berger explains: “The great thing about Annette in this role is we haven’t seen her play this type of woman ever. In many of her roles, she brings both a comic and serious intensity, and extends that in a new direction.”
For Kazan, knowing that Bening would take the role was itself a kind of dream come true. “When I heard she was going to do the movie, I cried, because I knew this was real,” she recalls. “Having her and Antonio together was like a supernova. There was something so connected in them that you feel like these two people could really be a couple.