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It wasn’t so long ago that Zoe Kazan was just another theater student at Yale University. Fast-forward a few years and the 25-year-old has blossomed into a promising acting powerhouse. This fall, she’ll appear on Broadway in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull alongside Kristin Scott Thomas and Peter Sarsgaard, and on-screen in Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Not that such co-stars should faze her much: After all, her grandfather is director Elia Kazan and her parents, Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, are screenwriters of flicks such as the Oscar-nominated Reversal of Fortune and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Unlike some of her Hollywood royalty peers, however, Kazan eschews panty-flashing nights out for dinner parties at home in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, with her boyfriend, actor Paul Dano.
WORKING OVERTIME: Kazan shot four movies and did three plays in the past year, but agreed to tread the boards one more time for The Seagull. “I’ve been working without a break,” she says. “I put my foot down to my agents and said I don’t want to do any more plays. I’m tired. They totally consume you—but then this one came up and there was no way I wasn’t going to try.”
This story first appeared in the September 29, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
CHAMELEON: Kazan, who is naturally fair-haired, has done everything with her locks, from dyeing them black and cutting heavy bangs to going blonde and curly. “I wake up in the morning and I have dreadlocks on the back of my head because it’s just so damaged,” she says. “My mom’s like, ‘Please buy a wig [for work].’”
ON THE ROAD: The actress’ shooting schedule has kept her away from home for much of the past 12 months. “I feel like such a gypsy with all my belongings tied on a stick,” says the Los Angeles native, who has spent much of her time in London, where she became a fan of the vintage clothing markets. “I bought a little necklace with copper shoes on it. I saw these little worn-out shoes, and that’s how I felt.”
RED-CARPET DRESSING: You won’t hear Rachel Zoe saying, “I die,” as she pulls clothing for Kazan’s turns in the spotlight. The starlet prefers to pick out her own outfits. “It’s always nice when someone wants to lend you pretty clothes. But I don’t know whether I would feel comfortable having someone play dress-up with me,” she says. “I’m sure I’ll look back, though, and think, ‘What an idiot.’”
The latest actress to win a spot opposite chic-geek Michael Cera is 24-year-old Alexis Dziena, who appears in the coming-of-age comedy Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, out October 3. As maniacal queen bee Tris, Dziena unceremoniously dumps Cera’s title character Nick. “She doesn’t want to be a villain,” says the actress of her on-screen persona, “she just is.”
The New York native’s previous credits include a supporting role in the Kate Hudson vehicle Fool’s Gold and a part in the short-lived sci-fi TV series Invasion. Dziena next stars in the romantic comedy When in Rome, out early next year. The movie also features Danny DeVito, Will Arnett and Dziena’s idol, Anjelica Huston, though the two had inverse shooting schedules. “I’m going to introduce myself at the premiere,” says Dziena, “I just think she’s the coolest chick ever.”
BOYS ON THE SIDE: Dziena, who attended New York’s progressive St. Ann’s school, caught the acting bug early, when she was tapped for a role in a middle school production of Twelfth Night. “There were all these cute older boys fawning over me and I was like, ‘Wow, acting’s great.’”
CAST AWAY: Dziena is the first to admit she was an unorthodox choice for the part of snooty Lady Who Lunches Gemma Honeycutt in Fool’s Gold. “The first images that come to mind are a 5-foot, 10-inch blonde with fake boobs and painted nails,” she says with a laugh, “not a little indie girl like me.”
HARD DRIVE: Though she’s already spent four years in Los Angeles, Dziena hasn’t quite adjusted to the city’s car culture. “I’m too afraid to go on the freeway. It takes me about six hours to get everywhere. I think I only got my license in the first place because my guy from the DMV recognized me from Invasion.”
Sue Monk Kidd’s best-selling 2002 novel, The Secret Life of Bees, hits the big screen in October. Sophie Okonedo, who was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar in 2004 for her role in Hotel Rwanda, plays May, the tenderhearted sister of three strong Southerners who take in a young girl (Dakota Fanning). Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys costar in the drama, making for a very musical atmosphere offscreen. But Okonedo, 39, left the singing to the professionals. “I just played the tambourine in the
background,” she says.
ON MAY: “May’s feelings—they’re sort of much more pumped up than mine,” says the actress. “The grief and sadness and joy and all those human feelings.”
FASHION PHILOSOPHY: The London-born and -based actress doesn’t use a stylist for redcarpet events. Instead, she often pulls clothes from her favorites, like Vivienne Westwood and Giorgio Armani, adding, “I have no problem wearing a dress again. I just think this consumerist world we live in, I don’t need to add to it by demanding new jackets and dresses every time I go out.”
UP NEXT: Skin, the true story of Sandra Laing, a South African woman in the Sixties who was born black to two apartheid-supporting white parents. “I do love stories about Average Joes who overcome,” Okonedo says. “But I definitely need to do a comedy.”
You might expect actress Jennifer Carpenter to suffer from serious nightmares. The 28-year-old stars in the upcoming zombie flick Quarantine (out October 10) and appears in Showtime’s critically hailed serial killer series Dexter. Nevertheless, Carpenter cheerfully calls herself the world’s “happy-go-luckiest” person. “I exorcize all my demons through my roles,” she explains. Her choice of words is apt, given she got her big break as the titular ghost hostess in the 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
This fall she appears in Battle in Seattle. The film chronicles the obstacles faced by a fictional cadre of antiglobalization protesters at the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization and also stars Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron.
Though she’s eager to work with and learn from more established talent, Carpenter doesn’t envy the prey of paparazzi. “Once you let them in, you can’t ask them to leave,” she says. “The few times I’ve been involved in paparazzi situations it felt horrible, like I had just been robbed.”
Alas, Carpenter may find it increasingly difficult to keep a low profile. Quarantine, in which she stars as a TV reporter hounded by zombies, should boost her popularity among horror fans who don’t already know her from Exorcism. Next up, she’s teaming with John Cusack for The Factory, yet another film with dark subject matter—this time, a string of unsolved murders in Buffalo.
James Bond may be a cinematic icon, but not to model-cum-actress Olga Kurylenko. “We didn’t have any of that when I was a child,” says the Ukrainian-born starlet, who only familiarized herself with Western cinema after moving to Paris at age 16. Lately she’s received a crash course in 007 while shooting the latest Bond installment, Quantum of Solace, opposite Daniel Craig, out November 14.
PROJECT RUNWAY: Discovered by a modeling scout in Moscow at the age of 13, Kurylenko transitioned to acting, she says, “because I wanted to do something that involves the head.”
TRAINING DAY: In order to prepare for the action-packed Solace, Kurylenko, 28, endured daily four-hour sessions of fight training, skydiving lessons and rifle instruction. “It’s easy learning the movement,” says Kurylenko, who studied ballet as a child, “but the hard part is endurance. It’s amazing how tired you are the first day.”
IN HER SHOES: If you think Kurylenko is at all intimidated by stepping into Halle Berry’s and Ursula Andress’ bikinis—think again. “There were a lot of girls that were good, and some parts that were more interesting than others. I don’t really think about this stuff.”
A former model, the 24-year-old Alexa Chung landed her first break hosting the U.K.’s Channel 4 youth music show Popworld 22 two years ago. In October, Chung, who dates Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, will join designer Henry Holland to cohost Channel 4’s seven-week series Frock Me, exploring youth culture trends. She’s also fronted an upcoming documentary investigating sweatshops, titled The Devil Wears Primark; is designing jewelry for Made, and has reportedly been reading film scripts on the side.
WWDScoop: Where do you shop?
Alexa Chung: Opening Ceremony in New York, Dover Street Market in London, Colette in Paris. Spitalfields Market in London for antiques, Russell and Bromley for classic mumsy shoes, Mulberry for bags and Marks & Spencer for children’s school blazers.
WWDScoop: Are you more inspired by the fashion or music crowd?
A.C.: The music crowd—they make more mistakes. I don’t like it when people dress too considered.
WWD Scoop: Who’s your favorite designer?
A.C.: I love Luella [Bartley]. I feel like the type of girl she designs for. I love equestrian-inspired garments and dresses that you can get dirty.
Although she toiled in the music business for 10 years, recorded eight albums in English and spent a good deal of time in Berkeley, Calif., Italian singer Elisa Toffoli was unknown to American audiences until this summer when her single “Dancing” was played—where else?—on a reality show.
Her moment on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance propelled the song into iTunes’ Top 20 and sparked more than a million hits on YouTube.
Now Toffoli, 30, is promoting her latest album, Dancing, and will embark on a monthlong North American tour, beginning October 29 in Toronto and traveling through New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle. “I’m really looking forward to seeing Las Vegas—it’s not exactly my style, but who knows, maybe I’ll end up liking it after all,” she says.
Her first album was recorded in Berkeley and produced by Corrado Rustici, who also worked with Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. Toffoli is considered a major star in her home country, having performed with Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli, but sticks with English lyrics on her own tracks and professes a deep love of The Doors.
“When I was 12, I saw the film by Oliver Stone, fell in love with their music and immediately bought a book of Jim Morrison’s poetry,” she says. “I learned English in large part by following the Italian translations of their lyrics in the album liners.”
Kristen Stewart didn’t intend to become an actress. She got a call from an agent out of the blue after the then-eight-year-old sang a song in her elementary school’s Christmas show. Her script supervisor mother and stage manager father had some reservations at first: “They were like, ‘Really? This is something you want to do? Because you know what hell this is,’” she remembers. “I guess I was steadfast.” Last year, she was in Into the Wild, as the dreamy hippie who falls for Emile Hirsch’s character. This fall, the 18-year-old is starring as Bella Swan in the film version of the first of Stephanie Meyer’s cult vampire books Twilight.
PRESSURE COOKER: The huge fan base of Twilight has taken Stewart by surprise. “I sort of figured it would always stay like a cult movie, because Catherine Hardwicke directs good indies. It seemed like it would be not that big of a deal. It has turned out to be the opposite.”
SHE GOES HER OWN WAY: Because of erratic shooting schedules, Stewart opted for an independent-study program rather than regular high school, and has put college on the back burner for now. “I have had so many demands put on me in such a structured way my entire life that at this point, I need a minute. I don’t need someone telling me what book to be reading,” says the actress, who also would like to pursue a writing career. “I definitely have a future in academics, but not right now.”
UP NEXT: She’ll be back in cineplexes in Adventureland, a comedy set in 1987 from Greg Mottola, the director of Superbad. After that, she will shift gears to play a 16-year-old stripper in the drama Welcome to the Rileys. “I’m going to be such a goofball stripper,” says Stewart.