[The Guardian] [Living with actor Paul Dano for 10 years has made 33-year-old Zoe Kazan] keenly aware of the experience gap between male and female actors. Partly, she says, it’s a straightforward question of gender stereotyping: “We talk a lot right now about ‘toxic masculinity’, but it’s a real thing. Paul is a very emotional person. I mean, he’s also a boy’s boy, really into sports, and people can be surprised by how bro-y he is. But he’s very sensitive and the art he responds to is very emotional. And yet, nine times out of 10 [in a role], I have to cry, and he rarely has to cry. I think once in an audition I had to have a gun and be tough, and his auditions have involved guns or a kind of toughness so many times. I think there’s a difference in the range of roles he is offered, compared with the range I have access to.”
There are other, more overt differences. “There’s so much sexual harassment on set. And there’s no HR department, right? We don’t have a redress. We have our union, but no one ever resorts to that, because you don’t want to get a reputation for being difficult. I’ve told Paul about stuff that has happened on set and it’s almost as if he can’t take it in. It’s too upsetting. And he’s never had to deal with that once.”
Sometimes, Kazan says, the harassment is so subtle, it’s hard to articulate. “I have a lot of girlfriends who are amazing actors, and many times we’ve talked about having to go into a room and give ‘blowj*b eyes’. You know, be flirty with a director or a producer. It’s the sense that your sexuality is somehow baked into this situation. Or there’ll be auditions where they’ll say, ‘Wear something body-conscious’ and then you’re aware that they’re checking out your body. You leave the situation feeling not good about what just happened, but you don’t really have the language for why. You feel like, if you said something, it would reflect badly on you.”
This was not Kazan’s experience on The Big Sick, she adds, which “was a very clean job for me. Everyone was super respectful.”
Was she ever directly propositioned on other sets?
“No. I mean. Hmmm.” There is a long pause. “Like, I had a producer ask me on set once if I spat or swallowed. At work. He’d say, ‘Oh, it’s a joke, ha ha.’ But he was also paying my cheque and then watching me from the monitor as I made out with another actor – so when he tells me I look good, it feels different. I was in my mid-20s at the time. I was not powerful, I did not feel I could say anything.”
There is another long pause. “That has got better as I’ve got older, partially, I think, because I’m better at knowing how to shut that down. But it makes you feel guilty, and bad, as if it’s somehow your fault – that you’re somehow giving that person the signal that it’s OK to treat you that way. And none of that is stuff that Paul has to deal with.”
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Film from Kazan’s Mid-20s:
[Optional] Has anyone at work ever said something overtly sexual to you? What did they say? How did you react?