Spotlight: Paul Dano

The characters are too personal to me to put a word like ‘weird’ over them. That word is just, like, too vague for me.

Paul Dano

I cannot recall how many times I mention various actors and actresses I adore and so many people immediately become owls asking ‘Who?’. After a time listing off movies, I can usually find some sort of recollection from the other person. This happens far too much with Paul Dano and I’m tired of it. So sit back and relax as I talk your ear off write your eyeballs off about him.

First of all, I can’t sit here and lie saying I’ve seen every one of his films. I’m an awful film snob and have yet to see There Will Be Blood. I did however see and read how exhausted Paul was over having to constantly answer the question, “How was it like to work with Daniel Day Lewis?” It’s my least favourite type of question interviewers can pose…especially to young stars. From everything I know of Paul and the film, I’m certain his performance is amazing in it. But to discount all that to ask the actor about another actor rather then the work they put forward is equally rude and lazy. I’d rather a silly on set anecdote. At least it will be about person that is being interviewed.

But back to Mr. Paul Dano…

I wish I could say the first movie I saw him in wasn’t The Girl Next Door but… The movie isn’t awful but it’s not a good jump off point for anyone in the movie. As for the majority of the public, your first real introduction to Paul Dano was Little Miss Sunshine. A pure and true ensemble cast in which everyone has equally moments to shine and Paul doesn’t squander his opportunity. Playing the silent by choice teenager in this, his ability to steal scenes is as aggressive as his inky black hair dye.

Paul as… the generic awkward teen boy, the one and true emo boy that we still accept in 2020 and one half of a pair of twins where one or both like…or don’t like milkshakes. I DON’T KNOW. I’M SORRY!

I’m going to zoom past Where The Wild Things Are and Cowboys & Aliens since Paul is a voice in one and I honest immediately forgot everything that happened in Cowboys & Aliens in display of self protection and love.

Okay. Here is where I’m about to go fully crazy because a little movie called Ruby Sparks. Written by Paul’s also extremely talented girlfriend Zoe Kazen, Ruby Sparks is what I can only call an anti-romcom. Paul plays a writer who cures his own writer’s block by writing about his dream girl to only have her come into actuality. Chaos ensues as it does. I can’t express how much depth is in this little movie. The one of the final scenes is absolutely astonishing both on Paul and Zoe’s part. I’m disappointed to have read recently that the couple will probably never collaborate on another movie again. But I can still hope. No matter the character Paul plays (more to follow on this), you can’t help but to feel for in some regard.

So let’s take a gentle pause to address something that has kind of been Paul’s thing, if you will, in movies. So much so that on IMDb, his only trademark listed is “Often plays characters who receive beatings”. Yes, Paul tends to get beat up in movies a lot. Sometimes warranted and other times not. He’s gotten slapped around by Daniel Day Lewis twice. Some might say that’s an honour. I can feel the jealousy of thirst tweeters from here. Paul has even said this about his frequency of getting beat up in movies: “I guess it’s a masochistic quality that I have, and I like an ass-whuppin’.” Take that as you will.

Below I’ve included for you a super cut of beatings he’s received in movies. Note: there have been new ones and I believe this has even missed a couple.

Anyone who has seen Prisoners knows it’s a rough movie to get through. A great one but still rough especially if you’re like me and love Paul Dano. With each role Paul takes, you can see him challenging himself further and further. This is absolutely no exception. I can’t really dive into this movie without getting too spoilery. Paul is creepy, devastating and dripping with blood and talent yet again.

Paul as… when a Wild Thing is sad, a writer whose words are maybe too powerful and a man who is beaten up metaphorically and physically.

His role in 12 Years A Slave was an essential part of the movie yet probably not a highly sought after role to play. Paul plays a truly awful slave owner in the Deep South. Most of the roles I dare say up until this moment were general likeable characters. This role offered us a chance to see Paul play something completely different and succeed in it.

I can’t say too much about Love and Mercy since I haven’t seen it yet but I have read that he’s the best performance in the movie. So I’ll just set that down and walk away.

I know Swiss Army Man isn’t for everyone. I’d just say you need to look at the bigger picture and message of the movie rather than get wrapped up in how outlandish it might seem and how much gas Daniel Radcliffe has in his dead body. Paul’s performance in this deserves to be seen. Just keep an open mind to this and I think it’s a worthy ride to take.

Paul as… a terrible, awful, horrible and every other synonym you can think of slave owner, a young Brian Wilson and a man finding meaning in life and have a gas discovering it.

Okja sees a return to likeable Dano helping a young girl save her super pig. This also reunites Paul and Jake Gyllenhaal after Prisoners in much different roles. While I enjoyed Paul as the good guy, I can’t help but to appreciate him more playing character who live in a grey area.

Sneaking into TV, Paul also appeared in a series based on the great novel War and Peace. I must be honest and say I haven’t seen it. I also haven’t seen Escape From Dannemora either. There’s too damn much television to watch.

The development of Paul Dano stepping into writing and directing is something I didn’t expect and something that makes me insanely happy. I feel I’m at the moment in this article (if you can call it that. It’s rather my ramblings but whatever…) where I have to say I haven’t seen Wildlife. I’m the most outraged at myself for missing that movie when it came out. Paul writing and directing with Cary Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal starring. I’m a goddamn fool! I’m upset. I need to stop talking about this. I’ll watch this movie. I’M SORRY, PAUL!

What I love about Paul Dano is also probably why he slips under so many peoples radar. How quietly impactful he can be with his acting and how he can so easily slip into characters to the point of becoming unrecognizable. He’s also hasn’t completely dove into being in many mainstream studio movies. But hold the fucking phone everyone. As some of you might have heard he’ll be playing The Riddler in The Batman which I’m so insanely excited for. I need it!

Paul as… The Riddler. Period.

Paul Franklin Dano deserves to be uplifted and praised and not constantly knocked down and pushed aside. He’s more than a literal punching bag in movies. But I am looking forward to him getting his ass handed to him by Robert Pattinson in The Batman. Nevertheless…