Hollywood couples are a dime a dozen. After all, who else can celebrities date other than each other? But no couple, not Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton or Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy or even Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher, come to fame by mining their very relationship. Except, that is, Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones. When the actors began their first feature film, Breaking Upwards, in 2009, they were in the midst of breaking up.
“It was a messy time in our lives,” explains Wein, a boyish 28-year-old, with uncharacteristic understatement. Suffering from the two-year itch, they decided to date other people, a chaotic bit of semi-singlehood that lasted a year. It was Wein’s idea to chronicle the tumult in a screenplay. “I didn’t want anything to do with it,” Lister-Jones explains. “I thought it was weird to write about our relationship while we were living it.” Wein, who didn’t, enlisted their friend Peter Duchan to complete the screenplay. Then Lister-Jones chimed in. “When they showed me the script after they finished it,” she says “I couldn’t help but want to put my two cents into it.”
After making the film, in which Lister-Jones stars as a character named Zoe, and Wein as one named Daryl, on a tight budget and launching a furious PR campaign—friends and family members were gangpressed, a run at the IFC and a New York Times feature were achieved—the two found themselves not breaking up after all. In fact, Wein and Lister-Jones reconnected, and were encouraged to keep collaborating. They bought a house in Brooklyn and rented another in Los Angeles, where Lister-Jones scored a role on the NBC sitcom Whitney. Wein, meanwhile, took meetings and worked on a new screenplay.
The fruit of their enduring coupledom is the upcoming Fox Searchlight film Lola Versus, which traces the journey of a recently single, familiarly neurotic post-grad named Lola (Greta Gerwig) as she navigates the New York City dating scene, trying to find both a mate and herself. There’s a lot of unsatisfying sex, awkward dates, and drunken soul searching. “We drew a lot from Zoe’s year as a single woman,” explains Wein. This time though, instead of playing herself, Lister-Jones plays her stand-in’s funny best friend, Alice. “I felt like it needed to be told in a different voice,” she explains. As for their future projects, the pair is keeping quiet. Suffice to say, whatever storyline they choose, they’ll probably end up together.