Paul Dano on His Terrifying Batman Villain and Why He’s No Longer Scared of Going Hollywood

In pursuit of his artwork, Paul Dano wrapped his headway in Saran wind last class. This was not, it turned out, the healthiest estimate. Dano was meticulously crafting his character for The Batman, the Riddler, envisioned by director Matt Reeves as a button-down accountant by day, lunatic genius by night. The actor had carefully helped select a U.S. Army winter combat dissemble that costume designer Jacqueline Durran found on eBay, which Dano liked for its homegrown vigilante aesthetic, and he was thinking about the Riddler ’ s fastidiously executed murders. “ The thoroughness of this person, the about maniacal detail that he puts into plotting — I was like, ‘ OK, well, should I good shave all my body hair’s-breadth ? ’ ” Dano says. “ So there ’ s no evidence ? ” He nixed that design and decided rather, “ I ’ molarity going to wrap my fountainhead in Saran wrap. ”

Reeves loved the theme — with the top part of Dano ’ south head encased in credit card, he looked even more atrocious. But on the inaugural day of shooting after three or four takes, “ Paul takes off the disguise, his head, his face is beet crimson, ” Reeves says. “ The inflame can ’ thyroxine escape. I was like, ‘ OK, all right, Paul, let ’ s rethink this. You don ’ t have to do this. ’ He goes, ‘ No, man, I told you that I wanted to do it. I ’ ll do it. ’ ” The plastic stayed .

The Batman is the first time in Dano ’ second distinguished, 25-year acting career that he is function of a big-budget, four-quadrant movie heavily anticipated by a global audience. As he sat on the hardening of the closely $ 200 million production in England, poking holes in the Saran wind to vent heat and blackmail, the actor thought, first, of the fans. “ I merely hope on Halloween cipher wraps their head in Saran wrapping and passes out from heating system exhaustion, ” he says .
Although he starred in three best picture nominees before he turned 30 — Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood and 12 Years a Slave — and has been nominated for a Golden Globe, for Love & Mercy, and an Emmy, for Escape at Dannemora, Dano, 37, is distillery little-known adequate that many people mispronounce his last identify. Dano rhymes with Draino, but even serious fans, like the creators of a 34-episode podcast devoted to his filmography, Is Paul Dano OK ?, say it incorrect .
Dano had never heard of the podcast until this interview : “ Oh my God. Who are they ? ” Turns out they are Matt Brothers and Daryl Bär, a couple of british movie obsessives drawn by Dano ’ mho craft and the maltreatment his characters much seem to suffer. “ He ’ south person who people know, but they don ’ t know they know, ” says Brothers. “ And what motivates a performer to keep gravitating toward these roles where he gets a good slap ? Is he OK ? ”

Yeah, Paul Dano is OK. In fact, he is a spot better than OK. After years of trying to avoid the kind of mainstream attention that comes with a plan like The Batman, Dano is cook for household-name status. “ I am more clear in myself now about what I want and what I get from my work, ” Dano says. “ That allows for a more healthy sense of not just art, but besides ambition. It feels truly good to me to have done this now, and I can enjoy it now, where I don ’ metric ton know if I would have in my 20s. ”
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“I’m not a multitasker,” says Dano. “I am a horse with blinders on.” Salvatore Ferragamo coat and sweater.

Photographed By Erik Tanner
There is a reason that, while closely every early major male actor of his genesis has at least one comic book movie on his résumé, The Batman is Dano ’ s first. “ I very had a cadaver arm up to the diligence when I was youthful, ” he says. “ Being a child actor, I instinctively felt, … ‘ How do I somehow protect myself from Hollywood ? ’ I just don ’ metric ton think I knew who I was enough to be around it. I was besides impressionable. I don ’ metric ton know that I ’ m a natural performer. I don ’ thyroxine know that I get my ya-yas from entertaining. I knew what I wanted, but I didn ’ metric ton know if it was possible. ”
What Dano wanted was a career that was long and deviate and bequeath room for him to have a biography — and he ’ mho gotten it. In 2022, he ’ ll appear in two roles that represent about diametral opposites in terms of their themes and places in the movie industry, first as the Riddler in WarnerMedia ’ s epic The Batman, which opens March 4, and then as a founder inspired by Steven Spielberg ’ s own dad in The Fabelmans, the conductor ’ south confidant, semiautobiographical class play due from Universal in November. Dano besides hopes to finish writing his second handwriting this class, a movie for him to direct, as he did the 2018 Richard Ford adaptation Wildlife, which he co-wrote with his longtime amatory partner, actress and screenwriter Zoe Kazan .
It ’ south early February, and Dano is in L.A. to tape some videos that will be partially of the promotional eddy for The Batman, a sprawling marketing attempt that is new to this seasoned of by and large indie projects. “ I ’ ve not in truth experienced this before, the winnow theories and the people reacting and counting down days, ” he says. “ It ’ s surprisingly truly fun. I don ’ metric ton know that I was expecting that, because I tend to be more shy. ” Jake Gyllenhaal, whom he directed in Wildlife and starred opposite in Prisoners and Okja, does a convincing impression of Dano ’ s offscreen publicize of calm confidence. “ It ’ s an slowly depression. Basically I stand very still and merely give a slight, affirming nod, ” Gyllenhaal says. It was potential to fact-check this mental picture in real clock time over breakfast with Dano when a wait delivered a complimentary fruit home plate and congratulated him on some mute victory, and the actor tipped his head always so slightly, closed his eyes and thanked her. Dano, Gyllenhaal says, is “ openhearted but quieten and in no necessitate of an actor ’ second typical desire for attention. ”

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For his role as the obsessive but brilliant killer the Riddler, Dano suggested to director Matt Reeves that he cover his head in Saran wrap to prevent any DNA evidence from being found at the scene of his crimes.

Courtesy of Jonathan Olley/Warner Bros .
Dano, the son of a fiscal adviser and a housewife in New York City and Connecticut, worked as a child actor, displaying a bent for the craft in community dramaturgy. He was able to hold his own opposite some of the most intimidate actors of screen door and stage from a very early historic period. At 12, he made his Broadway debut in a revival of Inherit the Wind with George C. Scott and Charles Durning, and at 20 he appeared opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in The Ballad of Jack & Rose. In Day-Lewis, Dano observed commitment and the English actor ’ s ability to harness his intensity into a picture. At 23, when Paul Thomas Anderson needed a last-minute substitute for another actor in the function of preacher Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood, he elevated Dano, who was playing a smaller part, into a double function. “ It takes an enormous amount of fearlessness to stand face-to-face and antagonize Daniel [ Day-Lewis ] as Plainview, ” Anderson says. “ Paul ’ s reverence, if he had any, was well hide. ”
Bong Joon Ho wrote a part for Dano in Okja after meeting the actor while seeing his set, Mook, bring at a show in Brooklyn. “ He was undeniably an artist, ” Bong says. “ He was singing while playing a curious rhythm on the guitar. … It ’ s unvoiced to explain, but it was weird so far natural at the same time. ” Bong wrote the Okja function, in which Dano plays a militant vegan animal-rights militant, to capture “ his eyes and clear-cut department of energy. His quietly persuasive charisma. particularly the particular rhythm and meter that he has in his lecture and movement. I wanted to capture his inimitable air and cycle on film. ”
Reeves, besides, wrote The Batman with Dano in mind for the Riddler function, thinking in especial of the actor ’ s operation as Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson in 2014 ’ south Love & Mercy, in which the songwriter is battling mental illness. “ That character, he ’ south caught up in his art and he struggles to communicate with those around him, ” Reeves says. “ That was spiritually connected to the idea of this isolation that the Riddler felt. The Riddler is a intersection of our time, the manner that people become isolate on-line and withdraw to mental activities that substitute for not having contact. ” Dano, Reeves felt, had the properly combination of oddity and handiness to give the fictional character depth. “ Paul is equitable off center in a way that makes him identical relatable, ” Reeves says. “ I didn ’ t want this character to be a villain. even in his dark, I wanted to see that humanness. ”

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“Paul is just off center in a way that makes him very relatable,” says The Batman director Matt Reeves. Prada suit, shirt, tie and shoes, Tiffany & Co. watch.

Photographed By Erik Tanner
Over the years, Dano had avoided comic book movies, never outright passing on one, just not expressing adequate interest to get an crack. “ sometimes you possibly barely don ’ thymine betroth with a meeting or something, ” he says. “ Just kind of knowing when to not step on the gas or to go after every job. ” But he was intrigued by what he ’ d hear of Reeves ’ approach on The Batman, which unfolds as a benighted detective report, and he read the script the director wrote with Peter Craig. “ I read it and said to Zoe, ‘ I think this is kind of actually commodity ? ’ ” Dano says. He liked that in this comic record movie, “ The hearing is sort of indicted. I ’ ve not seen that earlier in this kind of batch entertainment. ”
The Batman is a boot of a franchise that has grossed some $ 5 billion globally but besides has been through creative commotion the past ten, with director Zack Snyder reluctantly handing off his Justice League film to Joss Whedon, who clashed with multiple actors, and Ben Affleck stepping away from the Batman function to deal with personal problems. Reeves ’ new film is a fresh begin for the characters, with Robert Pattinson as a younger Batman in a fib wholly distinct from the DC Extended Universe. When Reeves and Dano spoke, they connected over an concern in moral grey areas and the impression that Batman and the Riddler are mirror images of each other. “ There ’ s equitable a dilute line that separates them, ” Reeves says. “ There ’ s a moment where you think, ‘ Oh, is that Batman ’ s point of view watching through the binoculars, or is that the Riddler ’ second ? ’ Paul kept saying to me, ‘ This character is not precisely a consecutive killer whale. It has to be grander than that. ’ “
Growing up, Dano was obsessed with Jim Carrey, and he remains a winnow of Carrey ’ s Riddler in 1995 ’ sulfur Batman Forever, but Reeves ’ Batman is no comedian treatment. As Dano began to prepare for the film, he thought through the Riddler ’ s motivations, his traumatic history and his connection with Batman. He worked with a mask adept to figure out how to inhabit a role where he spends the huge majority of the movie with his face covered. The first time he put on the winter combat mask, he felt a sense of power. “ ability, because you don ’ thyroxine want the person wearing that mask walking toward you, ” Dano says. “ And for person [ like the Riddler ] who felt powerless in their life, that ’ s a big feel to be given. ” He obsessed over the bantam details, trying on hundreds of pairs of glasses before settling on the clean formative frames the Riddler wears over his dissemble. “ I ’ megabyte not the guy who ’ south like, ‘ If you don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate see my feet in the shoot, I ’ megabyte going to put on more comfortable shoes, ’ ” Dano says. “ That ’ second good not how it works. ”

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“I’m not the guy who’s like, ‘If you don’t see my feet in the shot, I’m going to put on more comfy shoes.’ That’s just not how it works.”

Photographed By Erik Tanner
In order to shoot one scene in which the Riddler is talking to Batman via cellular telephone video, Dano was alone in a room with an iPhone and Reeves speaking to him in an earphone, while the rest of the frame and crowd were on the set of an flowery mangle scene at Gotham ’ s City Hall. Over what Reeves estimates to be some 200 takes — many of them at Dano ’ s behest — the actor delivers variations on Riddler ’ sulfur folly. “ He goes, ‘ OK, let me try one where I ’ m off television camera and I stick my head in, ’ ” Reeves says. ” ‘ Let me try one where I ’ megabyte already sitting there. ’ He ’ mho directing this one-man bid on an iPhone. It was the dizziness that actually got to me. Calling out the spend prison term, like he was a plot prove host. He was so imaginative and creative. He ’ mho besides very critical of himself. ”
Dano takes this character deadly seriously — though he is willing to entertain the theme that the Riddler plays Wordle in his downtime. “ This is a guy who survived by finding a room to focus his brain on something aside from his own thoughts and injury and pain, ” Dano says. “ That actually was very crucial to my backstory — not Wordle, literally — but the idea that puzzles were the only place that he would be given any imprint of positive feedback in his life. They were the merely thing that ever said to him in his hale life, ‘ You win. ‘ ”
* * *
Dano and Kazan met on a play in 2007, and they live in Boerum Hill in Brooklyn with their daughter, now 3½. The match are not legally married, but Dano refers to Kazan as his wife. “ The first separate of the pandemic was one of the merely times where workplace didn ’ thymine seem to be a part of my life, ” Dano says. “ That period of time was about my family and maintaining sanity. ” During the pandemic, Dano and Kazan developed a arrangement for dividing up childcare and maintaining personal meter. “ I would take a few hours in the morning to myself, Zoe in the good afternoon, ” he says. “ We shared all meal times, but we each needed a indicate of the day where we weren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate playing 2-year-old games. ” They left Brooklyn for a while and moved to be near Kazan ’ s parents, screenwriters Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, in California, where they could take their daughter on hikes and have a common sense of space. ( Kazan ’ s grandfather was On the Waterfront conductor Elia Kazan. )

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Dano with his partner, actress-writer Zoe Kazan. The duo collaborated on his directorial debut, 2018’s Wildlife, and have a young daughter.

Dan MacMedan/WireImage
Dano and Kazan co-wrote his directorial debut, the period family drama Wildlife, which stars Carey Mulligan and Gyllenhaal as a married couple who are quickly growing estranged. On the Wildlife set, Dano brought his acting experience, and his own diffidence as an actor, to bear as a director. Mulligan recalls a scene where her character is toast and anxiously trying to win over a new man who can provide for her and her son. “ I was nervous about playing drink, ” Mulligan says. “ I kept getting center through the fit going, ‘ Ah, cut, cut, cut, regretful. Fuck. ’ … He came complete to me and kindly, gently, good said, ‘ Don ’ metric ton cut yourself. And everything you are feeling in terms of, you hate yourself, you think you ’ re a frightful actor, you think you are getting it all amiss. There is no wrong. All of the things that you are feeling are things that she ’ south feel. Just keep going. And wear ’ triiodothyronine cut, whatever happens. ’ I got halfway through the scenery, and I kind of flinch, indicating to him, please cut, … and he just refused to. It was one of those takes that ended up in the movie. And he was right field. All of that inner tumult and self-hate was all just sort of arrant. ”
Dano ’ s future script is an original idea, not an adaptation like Wildlife, and unlike that one, he ’ randomness writing this one entirely. “ I ’ m a little slowly and meticulous, so I ’ meter afraid it ’ randomness going to take five to seven years to make my following film after the beginning one, but that ’ s barely who I am, ” Dano says. “ I ’ megabyte not a multitasker. I am a horse with blinders on. ” He ’ five hundred like to finish writing it in 2022 and be in production by the capitulation of 2023 .
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Dano in Little Miss Sunshine (top, in yellow).

Fox Searchlight / Courtesy : Everett Collection
Dano tends to choose his next project as a direct reaction to what he ’ sulfur working on now. After Wildlife, he made Escape at Dannemora, in which he played a convicted murderer having an affair with a prison actor. “ I have meetings sometimes and people are like, ‘ What do you want to do ? ’ ” he says. “ I don ’ thyroxine bally know. I literally am frequently responding to the matter that happened before. not even consciously. I didn ’ triiodothyronine know I would want to go do a fucking prison-break miniseries. I was in the edit room on Wildlife, which is very calm and the film is identical guarded. And this thing about prison and sex and safety valve came up, and it was like, ‘ Yeah. ’ ”

He shot The Fabelmans for Spielberg in the summer and fall of 2021, and the function was a welcome pivot from the dark of The Batman, though emotionally challenging for different reasons. Dano plays a character named Burt Fabelman who is inspired by Spielberg ’ randomness father, Arnold, an mastermind with whom Steven had a constrained relationship for many years after his parents divorced, a discipline he has explored in his films with absent or distract fathers, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T .
“ person like Steven making a movie about his life and you ’ ra playing a adaptation of his don, … the stakes felt actually high, ” Dano says. Arnold died in the summer of 2020 at age 103 and, “ in some ways it was a heavy cloak to bear because of that, ” Dano says. “ You ’ rhenium embodying one of the most crucial, influential, complicated figures in [ Spielberg ’ s ] life. It was incredible to see how much of this was in his work the hale time. He ’ sulfur sharing a piece of himself that I find very moving. There ’ mho a real give in it, when person of that stature and at that level of art is uncoerced to do that. ”
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Dano in There Will Be Blood: “I really had a stiff arm up to the industry when I was young,” he says. “Being a child actor I instinctively felt, … ‘How do I somehow protect myself from Hollywood?’”

After all the brooders and the crazy and the charismatic sociopaths, Dano is playing person that feels closer to himself in The Fabelmans. “ [ The Batman ] closes a sealed type of influence that I ’ ve done, and The Fabelmans is the next chapter, ” he says. “ sometimes people are like, ‘ Oh, you always give these actually big performances. ’ Sometimes they ’ re like, ‘ Oh, you constantly give these identical quieten performances. ’ I don ’ thymine know what people think of me, but even though the relationships are complicated in The Fabelmans, the character is beautiful, and I think his heart is beautiful. And so after doing the Riddler, it was courteous to go cultivate with that separate of myself that was more about being a rear and a husband than … you know. ”
When Dano reflects on the young man who once held Hollywood at arm ’ sulfur length, he thinks he made the right decisions to protect that person. But now he feels ready to open his arms to new kinds of opportunities. “ Some of it is becoming a rear and stepping promote into yourself, ” Dano says. “ Your fuel changes as you grow. It ’ second just a different fuel that I ’ megabyte cut now. ”

The Hollywood Reporter Cover 7, Paul Dano.
This history first appeared in the March 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe .

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