One of the busier actors in show business has to be twenty-eight year-old Paul Dano. Having turned heads in the moody indie “L.I.E.” when he was only sixteen years old, it was only years later before he was able to stand toe-to-toe with Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood,” cementing his status as a fresh face that wasn’t going anywhere. His latest role is in “For Ellen,” where he plays a rock musician struggling to regain custody of his daughter. However, one look at what’s happened to the others films he’s been linked to in recent months casts a clearer picture of just how in demand he has been, and how opportunities can sometimes fall by the wayside for a variety of reasons.
Recently, Dano had to drop out of “Night Moves,” the Kelly Reichardt picture where he would have played the leader of a group of eco-terrorists. “That’s a victim of timing,” Dano told us recently (he has since been replaced by Jesse Eisenberg). “We tried to do it several times. We were supposed to go this summer, and I ended up doing a part in this Steve McQueen movie [“12 Years A Slave”]. And it didn’t work out, which is something I’m not happy about. I definitely tried to do everything I could to get that film made, because I think Kelly’s the real deal.”
While he does have a juicy role in McQueen’s “12 Years A Slave,” the picture itself remains something of a mystery to him, as he’s part of a diverse ensemble. “I’m really excited to see what that movie’s gonna be,” Dano says enthusiastically. “I think it’s gonna be a powerful film, I dunno if it will be like anything I’ve ever seen before, certainly on that subject matter. Steve’s a really inspiring and excitable guy, really sweet too. Even though the subject matter is very intense, it turned out to be a lot of fun as well. I’m really curious to see what he cooks up in the editing room, because there were a lot of great actors in the film, coming in and out, so there’s a lot I don’t know about it.”
Dano has also long been linked to Richard Linklater’s “College Republicans,” where he was to play a young Karl Rove. Whether he’s currently involved in the film, which has been in development for a while now, remains up in the air. “I’m gonna say no, because I don’t know,” Dano shrugs. “It’s had fits and starts. It’s tough, because as an actor when you get a chance to work with a filmmaker you admire it’s really special. And then some of these movies have such a tough time getting made.”
One that is now casting up is James Franco’s adaptation of “As I Lay Dying.” However, even though Franco cited Dano as a name that would be involved earlier this year, it appears the train left the station without him. “I think James and I talked about doing something together, but I don’t know how that got out there,” he says, smiling. “If they are making it now, I’m not in it.”
Dano is known for making unconventional independent films, though he’s been linked to blockbusters in the past, including “The Bourne Legacy” and the still-unmade “Akira.” For the latter, he was being eyed for the co-starring lead role, before the project was ulimately canned — for now — by Warner Bros. as they get cracking on a new script. “I guess you have to be careful with diction, because some films don’t actually screen test, but I guess an audition with the director sometimes comparable to a screen test,” he says. “I had a meeting with Tony Gilroy, and I had a… thing on the ‘Akira’ thing. It’s somewhat nebulous, since ‘Akira’ never got made. I truthfully feel awkward speaking about it, because things that don’t happen, it feels weird.”
“I had a screen test for the guy who has the powers, did they change the names? Tetsuo. I’ve had more than one meeting on it with different filmmakers, it’s been around for awhile,” he continued, though like many, he’s had his doubts about that project. However, in the hands of the right person he would be more than game…and he has a suggestion. “The only way that movie would be worthwhile would be if someone like Rian Johnson did it or something, that’s the version they should make,” he said championing the helmer he worked with on “Looper.”
And overall, Dano — who appeared in “Knight & Day” — is not opposed to a big blockbuster or two. “I really wanna do a big film as much as I wanna do a small film,” he says. “If a filmmaker I think is exciting or it’s a film that respects its audience, then I’m totally game to do some super crazy wild action as long as our goal is to make a decent film that entertains its audience. I think there are a lot of films that get made that aren’t respecting our audiences’ money.” He shrugs and adds this promise, “It’ll happen at some point.”
“For Ellen” opens September 5th.