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Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks
A block of text with a blank space forming the outline of a woman. A man carrying a woman over his shoulder.
Directed by Jonathan Dayton
Valerie Faris
Produced by Albert Berger
Ron Yerxa
Written by Zoe Kazan
Music by Nick Urata
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Edited by Pamela Martin
Bona Fide Productions
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • July 25, 2012 (2012-07-25)
Running time 104 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $9,128,263[1]

Ruby Sparks is a 2012 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and written by Zoe Kazan. It stars Paul Dano as an anxious novelist whose fictional character, Ruby Sparks, played by Kazan, comes to life.[2]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Writing 3.1
    • Development 3.2
    • Location 3.3
  • Reception 4
    • Critical response 4.1
    • Box office 4.2
  • Music 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is a young novelist, struggling to recreate the early success of his first novel but unable to commit to any of his ideas. His therapist, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliott Gould), gives him a writing assignment: to write a page about someone who likes his rather uninspiring dog, Scotty. Calvin has a dream in which he meets an attractive young woman, who draws a picture of Scotty and says she likes him. Calvin wakes and is inspired to write about her. In therapy he admits he is falling in love with the character he is writing and tells the therapist all about Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan).

Calvin's brother Harry (Chris Messina) and sister-in-law Susie (Toni Trucks) come to visit and find several articles of women's clothing around the house. The next day, Calvin is stunned to find Ruby in his kitchen, as an actual living person. Thinking he is going crazy, he calls Harry, who does not believe him and advises him to meet with someone else to take his mind off things. Ruby is confused by his behavior and insists on coming along, but he leaves her to shop while he meets Mabel (Alia Shawkat), an underage fan of his book. Ruby finds them and believes he is cheating on her. In the ensuing confrontation, Calvin discovers that others can actually see Ruby, proving that she is a real person and not a figment of his imagination. Calvin explains that he feels overwhelmed, and they make up.

Calvin introduces Ruby to Harry, who is incredulous at first and suggests alternate explanations. However, Calvin soon proves that his writing directly affects Ruby. Saying he loves Ruby, Calvin asks Harry not to tell anyone of Ruby's origins. Although Harry warns him that women are mysterious creatures and that things may change, Calvin insists that since he wrote her into existence, he knows her. He asserts that he will never write about Ruby again.

Months later, Calvin reluctantly takes Ruby to meet his free-spirited mother Gertrude (Annette Bening) and her boyfriend Mort (Antonio Banderas). While Ruby and his family enjoy themselves, Calvin spends the weekend reading by himself, growing jealous of the time Ruby is spending with other people. Ruby's happy spirit begins to dampen at Calvin's increased gloominess.

After they return home to Calvin's house, the relationship is tense. Calvin complains about Ruby's singing while she cooks and he reads. Depressed, she and Calvin have a serious talk. Ruby tells Calvin how lonely she is and suggests they start spending less time together. Calvin is miserable without her and, out of desperation, writes that Ruby is also miserable without him. Ruby returns to Calvin's house full-time but becomes incredibly clingy toward him, afraid to leave his side for even a second. Calvin tires of this and writes that Ruby is instead "filled with effervescent joy," at which point she becomes constantly happy.

After talking with Harry about what he has been doing, Calvin intends to write Ruby back to her normal self, but the wording he uses leaves Ruby confused. Ruby fights with Calvin once more. He attempts to cheer her up and takes her along to a party hosted by author Langdon Tharp (Steve Coogan). At the party, Calvin leaves Ruby and talks with people about his still-unfinished manuscript. He also runs into his ex-girlfriend Lila (Deborah Ann Woll), and they have a heated argument in which Lila accuses Calvin of being uninterested in anyone outside of himself. Langdon sees Ruby alone and flirts with her, convincing her to strip to her underwear and join him in the pool. Calvin finds Ruby about to join Langdon for a swim, and they leave.

At home, Calvin and Ruby fight, with Ruby accusing Calvin of controlling her. As she prepares to leave Calvin, he reveals that she is a product of his imagination and that he is indeed controlling her, capable of making her do anything he writes. He demonstrates this to her by making her perform various ever more frenzied and humiliating actions. In his excitement, he jams the type bars of his typewriter. Ruby, exhausted, collapses to the floor. Calvin hangs his head in anguish as Ruby runs into his bedroom and locks the door.

Calvin writes a final page, which states that as soon as Ruby leaves the house she is no longer his creation, no longer subject to his will, and she is free. He leaves the manuscript outside her door, with a note. The next morning, Calvin finds that the note is gone along with Ruby, and he breaks down sobbing.

Time passes, and Harry suggests he write a new book about his experiences with Ruby. The novel, The Girlfriend, is a success. While walking with Scotty in the park, Calvin sees Ruby, who has no recollection of him. She is reading his book, which she says her friend described as pretentious. Ruby is embarrassed when Calvin reveals himself as the author and asks to begin their conversation afresh. They sit and talk, and she asks him not to tell her how the story ends. Calvin replies, "I promise."


  • Paul Dano as Calvin Weir-Fields, a young novelist who struggles with writer's block having not written a full book since his first publication at 19.
  • Zoe Kazan as Ruby Tiffany Sparks, a woman who initially is a dream and inspires Paul Dano's character to write about her until she eventually manifests herself fully in his life.
  • Chris Messina as Harry Weir-Fields, Calvin's older brother whom he confides in about the true nature of Ruby.
  • Annette Bening as Gertrude, Calvin's mother.
  • Antonio Banderas as Mort, the carefree boyfriend of Calvin's mother. Banderas took on the role for the opportunity to work with Bening.[3]
  • Aasif Mandvi as Cyrus Modi, Calvin's publicist.
  • Steve Coogan as Langdon Tharp, a novelist friend of Calvin who he first met when his first book was published.
  • Toni Trucks as Susie Weir-Fields, Harry's wife.
  • Deborah Ann Woll as Lila, Calvin's ex-girlfriend who left him before the events of the film and has recently written her own book.
  • Elliott Gould as Dr. Rosenthal, Calvin's therapist who encourages Calvin to write a page about anything not caring if it was bad.
  • Alia Shawkat as Mabel, a fan of Calvin's who gives him her number at a book signing.
  • Wallace Langham as Warren
  • Michael Berry Jr. as Silverlake Passerby



The film was written by Zoe Kazan who plays the eponymous character. Kazan was initially inspired by a discarded mannequin, and the myth of Pygmalion, quickly writing twenty pages, before putting the script aside for six months. She returned to the writing when she was clear on the central concept of comparing the idea of love to the actuality of it.[4] During the writing, Kazan thought of Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo and Groundhog Day, wanting to present a slanted version of our own reality. From early in the development she wrote the lead character Calvin with her boyfriend Paul Dano in mind. On the feminist aspects of the story Kazan explains she wanted to explore the idea of "being gazed at but never seen" where a woman is not properly understood but in a way that wasn’t unkind or alienating for men.[5] She rejects the description of Ruby Sparks as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, calling it reductive and diminutive, whereas Ruby Sparks is about the danger of idealizing a person, of reducing a person down to an idea of a person.

Kazan thanks Warren Beatty for his indirect encouragement of Paul Dano to develop their own material, and Dano in turn suggested she write a project.[6]


Kazan shopped the script around and got the attention of Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, who sent it to directing couple Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who took it on as the first project since Little Miss Sunshine in 2006. Faris blamed their delay between films on their own need to be ready for the right project.[7]


Kazan talked about the importance of Los Angeles as the location for the film, comparing it to a character as much as a setting. She sees Los Angeles as a place where it is easy to feel alone and isolated and that fits in with the isolation of Calvin in the story.[4] Directors Dayton and Faris said it was great to show Los Angeles itself, rather than pretending to be another place.

Filming took place around Silver Lake, Los Angeles and Los Feliz areas. Other locations include Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, and the Hollywood Cemetery.

The party hosted by Langdon Tharp is held in a Lloyd Wright-designed house.[8]


Critical response

Ruby Sparks received positive reviews from many critics. Based on 167 professional reviews, Ruby Sparks obtained a "Certified Fresh" seal on Rotten Tomatoes with an approval rating of 79% and an average score of 7.1/10. The sites consensus reads: "Cleverly written and wonderfully acted, Ruby Sparks overcomes its occasional lags in pace with an abundance of charm and wit".[9]

Stephen Holden from the New York Times described it as- "Ruby Sparks doesn’t try to pretend to be more than it is: a sleek, beautifully written and acted romantic comedy that glides down to earth in a gently satisfying soft landing."[2] Online film critic Chris Pandolfi from At A Theater Near You called it "an intelligent commentary on the creative process, insecurity, controlling behavior, idealism, and the fragility of the male ego. It’s all rather ingeniously combined into one of the most likeable films I’ve seen all year – a fantasy, a character study, and a cautionary tale all rolled into one."[10]

Box office

The film earned $2,540,106 at the North American box office, with an additional $6,588,157 internationally, for a worldwide total of $9,128,263.[1]


The score was composed by DeVotchKa's Nick Urata.[11][12]

No. Title Length
1. "Creation"    
2. "Writer's Block"    
3. "Inspiration!"    
4. "Ruby Sparks"    
5. "I Was Waiting for You"    
6. "I'll Go with You"    
7. "She's Real"    
8. "Ça Plane Pour Moi" (Plastic Bertrand)  
9. "Une Fraction de Seconde" (Holden)  
10. "He Loved You"    
11. "Quand Tu Es La (The Game of Love (Wayne Fontana song))" (Sylvie Vartan)  
12. "Psychedelic Train" (Derrick Harriott)  
13. "Roll It Round" (The Lions)  
14. "Miserable"    
15. "Inseparable" (feat. TIMUR (Bekbosunov) on vocals)[13]"    
16. "You're a Genius"    
17. "The Past Released Her"    
18. "She Came to Me"    
19. "Can We Start Over"    
20. "Ruby Was Just Ruby"    


  1. ^ a b c "Ruby Sparks (2012)".  
  2. ^ a b Stephen Holden (July 24, 2012). "She’s Everything He Wants, and Therein Lies the Problem ‘Ruby Sparks,’ Written by and Starring Zoe Kazan". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Challen, Sophie (July 25, 2012). "Antonio Banderas on Annette Bening & RUBY SPARKS directors Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris (Interview)". Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  4. ^ a b Film Society of Lincoln Center (December 7, 2012). "VIDEO: Q&A with Filmmakers and Stars of "Ruby Sparks" | | Film Society of Lincoln Center". Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  5. ^ Tara Brady (Oct 12, 2012). "Reality? Check!". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  6. ^ Patti Greco (July 23, 2012). "Zoe Kazan on Writing Ruby Sparks and Why You Should Never Call Her a ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’". 
  7. ^ Jordan Zakarin (December 7, 2012). "Zoe Kazan's 'Mind-Eff' of an Indie Romance". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  8. ^ Locations Featurette. 
  9. ^ "Ruby Sparks (2012)".  
  10. ^ Pandolfi, Chris (June 25, 2012). "Ruby Sparks: Film Review". Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
  11. ^ "CD Review: Ruby Sparks". Film Score Click Track. July 31, 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  12. ^ "Ruby Sparks: Nick Urata: MP3 Downloads". Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  13. ^ "All Music credits". Retrieved 2013-12-23. 

External links

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