Zoe Kazan’s Exploding Career

Zoe Kazan’s Exploding Career (photo)

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“Revolutionary Road” actress Zoe Kazan understands why people still bring up her being the granddaughter of filmmaker Elia Kazan, but the Brooklyn-based beauty should be taken on her own terms, having quietly banked an impressive résumé of stage and screen credits (including “Me and Orson Welles,” “Fracture” and “It’s Complicated”). Currently, she co-stars on Broadway with Christopher Walken, Anthony Mackie and Sam Rockwell in Martin McDonagh’s oddball comic thriller “A Behanding in Spokane,” which isn’t a shabby gig for someone who only graduated from college in 2005.

On the movie screen, Kazan headlines the introspective indie drama “The Exploding Girl,” written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray (co-writer of “In Between Days”). Stricken with epilepsy, college freshman Ivy (Kazan) ventures home to Manhattan, hangs out with her gawky best friend Al (Mark Rendall) and occasionally fields uncomfortable phone calls from her long-distance boyfriend. A downbeat psychological portrait of a vulnerable girl’s tricky transition into womanhood, “The Exploding Girl” is an unassuming vehicle for Kazan, whose subtle body language brings gravitas and palpable compassion to a seemingly slender day-in-the-life narrative. As I sat down with her at the Oscilloscope Labs offices, we briefly discussed the mutual Facebook friend who once introduced us, although she claims she’ll soon be done with social networking.

Why are you quitting Facebook?

I get so many friend requests every day now, all from people I don’t know. The truth is, I am in touch with the people that I love, and I don’t really need to be with the guy I went to preschool with. It’s not worth it to me, especially getting weird messages from people who feel like they can reach out to you because you’re on Facebook. I’ve been on it since I was in college because Yale was the second or third school that Facebook went to, so I’ve had my account forever. I just don’t use it. It’s a waste, getting 17,000 emails on my BlackBerry every day. [laughs]

03102010_ExplodingGirl2.jpgBradley Rust Gray wrote “The Exploding Girl” specifically for you. I’m a bit confused by that because the character of Ivy doesn’t seem anything like you.

Yeah, she’s not. I auditioned for Brad in the spring of 2006 for a movie that he still hasn’t made. He didn’t cast me, and I thought that was it. But somewhere, I stuck in his head and he definitely stuck in mine. I had seen “Salt” and “In Between Days” and loved them. Then in January 2008, he called up my agent, arranged a meeting with me, and said, “I’ve been thinking about you, and I want to make a movie. Do you want to make a movie with me?” I was like, “What’s it about? What is the character like?” He said, “I don’t know. I can’t tell you.” Okay, sure, let’s make a movie.

For the next few months, we would take these epic eight-hour walks in the cold all around Park Slope or [Tribeca] or the east side of Manhattan, up and down the South Street Seaport. I got bronchitis walking in the cold. Totally his fault. In that process, we became friends, but we didn’t ever really talk about the movie. Sometimes he would ask a question like, “Do you know anything about epilepsy?”

I went off to shoot “Me and Orson Welles” in London, and when I got back a month later, he had a script. Because we had talked so personally for months, I had assumed that there would be something of me in it, and I was actually thrilled there wasn’t because Brad’s mostly worked with non-actors and wrote things very close to the people themselves so they could act it. I took it as a great leap of faith on his part to write something so different from me for me, given that he had only worked in the opposite way before.

Since Gray usually collaborates with non-professionals, did you find anything idiosyncratic about his directorial approach with you?

03102010_ExplodingGirl6.jpgYeah, he took for granted that I would get to the places I needed to without a lot of help. He’s not a hand-holder. Sometimes he’d come over and be like, “The way you’re breathing, that’s not right, that’s not Ivy.” He was always right, that’s the thing. So a lot of the prep was just talking and nudging closer to Ivy. We rehearsed for two days with Mark [Rendall] when he came down from Canada to audition. That was as close as we got to having any rehearsal period, and that’s where Ivy started to be born: “What you’re doing, that’s not it.”

Often when I’m building a role, I talk about it being me plus other things. Like, when I was Masha [in the Broadway revival of “The Seagull”], it was me plus she lives in the late 1800s, so she dresses a certain way. It’s me plus she’s an addict, plus her heart is broken. On this, we talked about stripping things away. Like, it’s me minus my flirtation, minus my confidence, minus my independence as an adult in the world. That was a helpful way of talking about it. By the time we’d shot, Brad and I had known each other for eight months. We were already close friends, so he could run over to me, [make unintelligible sounds] and I’d be like, “Oh, I get it. No worries.” Shorthand, total shorthand. I had so much time to live with the character just in thinking about her that it felt effortless on set.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.