Dano off the big screen, not off the radar
In-demand actor disappears from movie roles to direct Wildlife, star on Broadway and have a child
To the scabrous pile of breakdowns, shutdowns and scandals that will memorialize
2018, a humble submission: Paul Dano, acclaimed 34-yearold actor, did not appear in a single movie.
Granted, this might seem a minor point in the grand scheme. But consider this: To find another 12-month span in which discerning moviegoers were deprived of even one Paul Dano performance — in more generous times, there were as many as four — you would have to go all the way back to 2003, a year when Bennifer, Saddam Hussein and the Chingy song “Right Thurr” were on top of the world.
To be fair, Dano didn’t plan things to work out this way.he loves movies and they love him right back. For the past decade and a half, he’s been a constant, animating (if not always showy) presence in a run of good and strange films, many involving a winning bingo card of the great contemporary directors: Paul Thomas Anderson, Steve Mcqueen, Ang Lee, Spike Jonze, Denis Villeneuve.
That it’s not Dano’s face — a cherubic, inverted teardrop — that first comes to mind when you think of these movies (There Will Be Blood, 12 Years a Slave, Prisoners) is a testament to his most durable gift. Filmmakers and audience members alike believe he is one of them.
And now he really is a filmmaker, with the release last fall of Wildlife, Dano’s meticulous and evocative directorial debut, adapted from the 1990 Richard Ford novel and starring his old friends Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. That’s why the actor failed to visit you at the multiplex last year — he was busy realizing a lifelong dream.
But that’s not all. Hunkering in the editing bay of Wildlife, he missed the physicality of performance. So he accepted an offer — and put on 20 pounds of muscle — to play a tenacious, convicted murderer who tunnels his way out of prison in the seven-episode Showtime limited series Escape at Dannemora with Benicio Del Toro.
And there’s more! Really, Dano has never been so busy. Dannemora shot for a gruelling six months in upstate New York. During that time, another old friend and neighbour, Ethan Hawke, sent him an effusive text about collaborating on a revival of the venerated Sam Shepard play True West. Dano just couldn’t resist — his cup ranneth over. And so he closed out the year in yet a third medium, starring opposite Hawke in the Roundabout Theater Company’s Broadway production, which began previews Dec. 27 and In 2018, actor Paul Dano directed his first film, starred in a cable series and returned to Broadway in “True West” at the American Airlines Theatre.
opens Jan. 24.
Twelve months, no movies and an embarrassment of riches. And none of his professional accomplishments compare to his most personal one, the one that inspired Hawke to observe in a phone interview that his friend was “truly becoming himself”: Paul Dano became a dad.
“I didn’t think I would like it so much; I mean, I thought I would like it, but it’s really quite astonishing,” he said. “There’s just a sort of ... I don’t know, a hope or something. Seeing something so innocent and pure and unsullied by the world.”
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