In the new romantic comedy What If, Zoe Kazan plays Chantry, a young woman who attempts the seemingly impossible: being just friends with the cute boy she meets at a party. What makes the task all the more difficult is that the guy in question—Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace—is clearly quite perfect for her, and vice versa. Of course, the audience knows this long before the characters on screen do, but that’s part of the pleasure of the film, which was originally titled The F Word and opens this week.
Here, DuJour talks with Kazan about romantic comedy, how it’s easy to fall for Radcliffe and why she’ll never go skinny-dipping in Toronto again.
You played the title character in the 2012 rom-com Ruby Sparks. What made you decide to revisit the genre?
Honestly, it was the script. I read it and I laughed out loud. I was actually on my press tour for Ruby Sparks when I read it and I was not in the mood, but my agent said: ‘You have to read this right now.’ And I just loved it. There is also the fact that I thought this whole movie showed what normally happens inside the music montage of a romantic comedy; you get to spend two hours watching people connect.
Yes, you do get to see the couple do all the sort of adorable things that normally make up the best part of a romantic comedy. What was your favorite bit to film?
The skinny-dipping was definitely the most unusual scene I filmed. I’d definitely never done that before—I’ve never skinny-dipped period in my life—so that was a first for me in many ways.
Didn’t you find out after the fact that the lake you were swimming in was perhaps not an ideal swimming spot?
It’s just that we were given the impression that people swam all the time in that lake, and that wasn’t 100 percent true. At the Toronto Film Festival, we told people that we had gone skinny-dipping in that lake and they were all like, ‘You what?’ I’m not going to malign any lakes in Canada, but it was not as ecologically friendly as people led us to believe.
When you play a role like this, do you end up comparing the character’s experience to your own courtship?
I have definitely had that experience of watching movies and feeling like I really recognized something or had been in that situation. In this film, I more concentrated on the imaginary world and really connecting to Chantry and letting Daniel connect to Wallace.
How do you go about developing chemistry with another actor you’re supposed to pretend to be falling in love with?
I think knowing each other really helps. We were both staying in the same place and we were both in a foreign city, so we ended up spending a lot of time together because we were on location and away from our partners. It was nice to have some company. Anyway, I think what we call chemistry is basically a reflection of curiosity about the other person and that you can have chemistry with almost anyone given a lot of interest in them.
What’s the most off-the-wall thing you’ve done for love?
I think that Paul, my boyfriend, and I have had to do a fair amount of long distance in our relationship just because of our jobs. I’ve definitely gotten on a train to go see him in some crazy place, but I have never surprised him. Unfortunately my life is less spontaneous than that.