“I feel like I have enough hats that I’m wearing right now,” says Zoe Kazan about the possibility of directing. She’s open to it, but she has plenty on her plate at the moment as a co-writer and executive producer of “Wildlife” and as a co-star in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” both of which opened this fall. Watch our exclusive video interview with Kazan above.
Kazan wrote “Wildlife” with Paul Dano, her partner in film and in life, but their collaboration “sort of happened by accident,” she says. The film is based on a novel by Richard Ford, and it started as a labor of love for Dano, who was also directing the film. “I could really see him in it,” she explains about the novel. “I could see his artistic sensibility. It seemed like a perfect fit.” He wrote a draft for the screenplay and gave it to Kazan, but “I thought it needed a lot of work. We fought as I was giving him notes on it,” but eventually they decided to work on it together, and “after that initial conversation it was a really easy, lovely collaborative process.”
The more she worked on the film, the more personally she connected to the material herself. The story of a wife and mother (played by Carey Mulligan) forced to reconsider her life after her husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) leaves abruptly to fight a forest fire felt to Kazan like “there but for the grace of God go I. If I had been born in the 1930s and found myself as a woman in my 30s in the 1960s, I think I would have the same kinds of struggles.”
What interested Kazan in “Buster Scruggs” were the Coen Brothers. “They’re the kinds of filmmakers that you wait your whole life to be able to work with,” and she admits that she “would have leapt at the chance if it was one line. But this is a really special part.” The film is a Western anthology composed of six stories, and Kazan stars in “The Gal Who Got Rattled” as Alice Longabaugh, a woman experiencing a series of hardships on a wagon train. “She’s a very interesting kind of woman that you don’t get to see on screen a lot … I felt so protective of her. She’s a very vulnerable person in a very vulnerable position.”
“Wildlife” opened in limited release on October 19. “Buster Scruggs” hit theaters on November 9, and the Netflix film started streaming instantly on November 16. Kazan thinks “Buster Scruggs” is best experienced on the big screen, but appreciates that Netflix will also make it available to viewers who might not otherwise have access to limited-release art house films. And she also appreciates the creative opportunities that that has opened up: “Netflix is employing a lot of my friends, so my hat is off to them.”
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