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by Nigel M Smith
September 4, 2012 12:06 PM
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Paul Dano On Donning Tight Jeans and Finding the Perfect Leather Jacket to Play a Washed Up Rocker in 'For Ellen'


"For Ellen" Tribeca Film
Watching "For Ellen," I kept picturing you holed up for weeks in some dingy motel room prior to shooting, going full blown method.

Partially because of timing, this is maybe the most I've ever prepared for a part. It's also cause I needed to. I didn't spend a few weeks in a motel room, but it definitely required internal and external activity to get to a place where you feel like you own it.

Did the role take a toll on you?

You should just ask my girlfriend [laughs]. She might have something to say about it. I always feel pretty sad when something ends -- postpartum depression everytime. It took its toll, but I also felt I learned a lot. I got a rush from the experience. It takes time to wind up and cool down properly.

READ MORE: SUNDANCE REVIEW: Paul Dano's Best Performance Yet is in So Yong Kim's 'For Ellen'

It's hard to talk about, because I think it always sounds funny when you hear other actors go on about it. It's a hard thing to understand. When we were there it felt like one thing. And it was just shot in six or eight weeks.

Given that Kim hasn't directed many actors, how did the two of you work?

It stars with the writing, so some of the direction is in the writing I think. We spent weeks going to every vintage store in New York looking for the right clothes. I didn't think we were going to find the right jacket, but we finally found it in LA. I really trusted her because she got these amazing performances from non-actors in "Treeless Mountain." She has a good bullshit radar. She also trusted to let me fly free.

"For Ellen" Tribeca Film
You appear in pretty much every frame of the film. How grating was it to watch it for the first time?

It was tough watching it, also because I felt so close to the character. The first time you see something, there's a lot happening. It's really hard to just watch the film. Your memories start flickering, and you notice things that you didn't know were going to be there. It was hard, but I also felt that watching it (I'm usually hyper critical of myself) -- well that's the character, and that's what he did. I wasn't picking myself apart. I've seen it a few times now. It's high and low the experience of watching it.

Of your upcoming projects, I'm most excited about "12 Years a Slave," in which you star opposite Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and a slew of others.  Who do you play?

It's about a free black man who gets abducted and sold into slavery. He encounters a bunch of people on his journey. I'm a carpenter slash owner who he encounters over the film. We don't get along.

READ MORE: 'Twelve Years a Slave' Star Paul Giamatti Hints at What to Expect From Steve McQueen's Next Project

I have to say I was trepidatious about it. I wanted to work with Steve and that's why I wanted to do it. The script was very moving, but to play someone who I had trouble empathizing with troubled me, but I had a great experience. The day's work was really intense. Steve is really excitable, inspiring and loving. He was just a joy to work with. I think it's going to be an interesting film. I'm really interested in seeing what the film ends up being. I think it's a film we haven't seen before. Knowing his sensibilities as a filmmaker, it will be challenging.

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