While other young actors might be chasing the next hot project, few of Paul Dano's colleagues boast the kind of resume he has already assembled thus far into his career. Earning early notice thanks to turns in "L.I.E." and "The Girl Next Door," he broke out with the comedy smash "Little Miss Sunshine" and has since worked with folks like Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood"), Spike Jonze ("Where The Wild Things Are"), Ang Lee ("Taking Woodstock"), James Mangold ("Knight & Day") and Jon Favreau ("Cowboys & Aliens"). Not bad. And in 2012, he's already showing off a diverse slate from the indie "For Ellen" (that recently premiered at Sundance) to Rian Johnson's forthcoming sci-fi trip "Looper." And next month, he spars with Robert De Niro in "Being Flynn." We recently caught up with the actor and discussed some of things he's working on this year.
If all goes well, he'll be reteaming with his "Meek's Cutoff" director for "Night Moves." The project has been slowly bubbling under the surface and it will center on three environmentalists (Peter Sarsgaard, Dano and one unannounced actress) who are intent on blowing up a dam. Nothing is quite official just yet, but fingers are crossed that in the next months it will gear up."We're hoping to film this summer. And it's a thriller. I think it's really good and I think she's super talented. So hopefully we'll be doing that in a few months, so I'll see her soon. I'm excited about it," he said.
One project that's definitely on the way is "He Loves Me," his reunion with 'Sunshine' directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton. It's a film that allows him to work with his girlfriend Zoe Kazan on a script she wrote, in what sounds like a cerebral comedy. "It's towards the end of the editing process. We made it this past summer," he told us. "I think it's good. It's sort of a magical realist romantic comedy drama. It's got a great cast and my girlfriend wrote the script and we starred in it. It's going to come out later on this year. We haven't set a release date, but I think it's a good film."
"It's [about] a young novelist who had success when he was 18, [with] a 'Catcher in the Rye' type of coming-of-age novel. Ten years later and he can't follow it up. He has a dream about a girl and starts to write about this girl," he says about the plot. "So he's finally writing and he's inspired. He starts falling in love with the character that he's writing. One day he wakes up and she's in his house. He doesn't know if he's going crazy or she's real. But he embarks on a relationship with this person. I don't want to say anymore, so people should see it." Perhaps at TIFF? Let's hope so.
Less certain on Dano's schedule is Richard Linklater's "College Republicans" where he's mooted to play a young Karl Rove. "That might or might not happen. I can't really say," he said. Another project that is uncertain is James Franco's adaptation of "As I Lay Dying" which he had been linked to along with Michael Shannon and Joaquin Phoenix. "I don't know where that's at. I know James Franco wanted to do it a while ago, he had written a script last I heard. He was going to trim down the script a bit,but I don't know if he'll holler or not. I'm not sure. It's an ambitious one. It was around 160 pages," Dano told us. "It was a good, lengthy piece of writing. I don't know, we'll see. It's a tough one to get made. I remember reading it after 'Meek's Cutoff' and being like, 'Boy I know what it's like to shoot out there in the wilderness with the animals.' It would be a tough shoot if it ever happened."
Finally, while Dano does confirm he was in the mix to join Warner Bros. now stalled "Akira" remake, he thinks it's probably a good thing the project is taking its time getting made. "I'll say that's a tough one because it's a beloved piece of material," he says about taking on an iconic anime role. "The way Hollywood works, you're never sure if their first thought is to make a great film and honor the material or just another business property. It might be a good thing that the movie is not happening for a bit, making sure they've got all their ducks in a row to make a decent film."
"It's so hard to just get the translation of that film: the Japanese cultural fascination with apocalypse and the nuclear bomb," he continued. "Bringing that to America where it's really not as comfortable, as a culture, with things blowing up. The social and political aspect of 'Akira' is hard to imagine that not being a big part of what the film should be. I don't know if that element plays like it would. I will say it is a bad-ass story."
"Being Flynn" opens on March 2nd. -- Interview by John Lichman