Screenwriting is in Zoe Kazan's blood

Actress-screenwriter Zoe Kazan, star of "Ruby Sparks."
CBS News

(CBS News) Marlon Brando won an Oscar for his performance in the 1954 film "On The Waterfront," as did its director, the late Elia Kazan. Now, nearly 60 years later, it's the director's grand-daughter who's in the Hollywood spotlight. Here is Zoe Kazan in conversation with our Mo Rocca:

Zoe Kazan's acting career was chugging along quite nicely. She played Meryl Streep's daughter in "It's Complicated," and Leonardo di Caprio's lover in "Revolutionary Road."

But she wasn't content simply saying other people's words.

She'll admit that "Writing's really hard, yeah!"

She should know. Kazan is the daughter of two screenwriters and the granddaughter of Elia Kazan, the legendary director of some of the 20th century's greatest films, including "A Streetcar Named Desire."

But Zoe Kazan began writing for very much her own reasons.

'''Cause I was bored, to be totally frank," she told Rocca. "When you're a young actor and you're just starting out, you're spending all of your time auditioning and very little time actually acting."

So she hunkered down at her favorite Brooklyn coffee shop and wrote the screenplay for a new movie, "Ruby Sparks," starring Kazan and real life boyfriend, Paul Dano.

A debut screenplay, yes, but she didn't just start writing: "I was, like, a super nerdy kid . . . fully invested in creating narrative from a very young age. Writing stories for my little sister and me to act out. Like a full-on nerd."

"But a narrative nerd?" Rocca asked.

"A narrative nerd. A junkie for narrative," she laughed.

Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano in "Ruby Sparks." Fox Searchlight

In the movie Calvin, a novelist who combats his crippling writer's block (and loneliness) by conjuring up Ruby, a girl who (comes to life and) says and does anything Calvin writes.

She's played by Kazan. "Calvin, for me, is like many guys I've dated," she said. "Like, a really true romantic. And he doesn't create Ruby in order to be able to control her."

But the relationship with his dream girl isn't so satisfying. "The fact that he can control her is this sort of added burden, in a way, to the relationship," Kazan said.

The film is about the rocky transition in many relationships - moving from infatuation with what you imagine the other person to be, to loving someone, warts and all.

"Isn't a little bit of fiction always part of a relationship?" asked Rocca. "A little bit of fantasy? Imagining something about the other person that might not exactly be true?"

"Yeah, absolutely. I don't mean to be disparaging of myself, but, you know, Paul always says to me, you know, that he thinks I'm the prettiest girl in the world. And I objectively know that that's not true, but, you know, he seems to believe it.

"So yeah, that's a fiction that I'm totally willing for him to believe in!"

Filmmaking may be a Kazan family business. Her father Nicholas and mother Robin Swicord have had thriving screenwriting careers. But Zoe says her upbringing in southern California was more family than business.