Talking ‘Pretty’ with Zoe Kazan 

click to enlarge The Pretty One
  • Courtesy photo
  • Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of director Elia Kazan, plays a woman who has a chance to replace her dead twin sister in “The Pretty One.”
Independent-cinema fans know Zoe Kazan from her supporting parts in movies such as “Me and Orson Welles” and “Meek’s Cutoff,” and her lead roles in “The Exploding Girl” and “Ruby Sparks,” the latter of which she also wrote.

Viewers get a double dose of her in “The Pretty One,” in which she plays twins.

The granddaughter of the legendary director Elia Kazan (“A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront”), Kazan graduated from Yale, where she wrote a play. Today, she spends as much time onstage as she does in front of the camera.

Yet she says her role in “The Pretty One” “was a lot closer to what I’ve done in theater than what I’ve done in film.”

Kazan acted as one of the twins opposite a stand-in, and would then turn around and act the other side, much the same way that classic twin movies like “The Parent Trap” and “Dead Ringers” were done.

She says she knew that the stand-in was not going to be doing the same things that she would, so she was constantly searching her emotions during her performance.

“I spent a lot of time imagining things, like an umbilical cord between our bodies,” she says. “And I have a sister that I’m close with, so I was able to use that. You try to let your performance be a surprise.”

Even though the movie is about a pretty girl, Kazan is far less concerned with her looks than with her skills.

“The biggest reason I wanted to be an actor was to get to play different kinds of people,” she says. “Many actors I think are very aware of their looks because it’s part of their performances. I’ve never really felt that way. My favorite actors are character actors who use their faces and bodies in their performances.”

Kazan is constantly struggling not to become a diva, but had a difficult time during a night scene that took place in a chilly swimming pool with her co-star Jake Johnson.

“One of the things about shooting low-budget movies is that you get promised things like a heated pool, that you don’t get,” she says. “My body freezes up. I’m just devastatingly bad at acting in the cold.”

A second pool scene ended up being changed, which embarrassed Kazan.

“It makes you feel like a baby.”


The Pretty One

Starring Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston, John Carroll Lynch

Written and directed by Jenee LaMarque

Rated R

Running time 1 hour, 30 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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