(This is an extended version of the interview with Paul Dano that will appear in Sunday’s Pocono Record. And if you want to win tickets to see Dano’s new movie and take part in the Q&A after the movie, I’m giving away a pair, so find out how to enter here. The deadline to enter is Wednesday, so hurry up already.)
You may not have known it, but Paul Dano has thick Monroe County roots.
The 27-year-old actor who played voluntarily mute and involuntarily colorblind Dwayne in 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine” and the dual role of Paul and Eli Sunday in 2007’s “There Will Be Blood,” has family East Stroudsburg and the Wooddale area.
That helps explain why he is lending a hand to help raise funds for the Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg.
The actor will screen his latest movie “Being Flynn,” where he stars with Robert DeNiro, at the theater Friday starting at 7:30 p.m., then host a Q&A session after the film.
Just to get the questions started …
PopRox: Tell me about “Being Flynn.”
Paul Dano: It’s a true story, based on a memoir by Nick Flynn. It’s a stunning read. It’s about a young man in a tough spot in life. He volunteers at a homeless shelter just to give him something positive to hold on to. Then one night while he’s working there, his father (played by Robert DeNiro), who he hasn’t seen in 20 years, comes into the shelter, that one positive thing he had in his life. The film is about their relationship.
PR: How did you hear about the theater needing money?
PD: I have a bunch of family in the area. My cousin, Ed Mesko, had told me about his community group that wanted to try and help out the theater, and asked me if I could come up and host a screening of “Being Flynn,” and I wanted to do it.
PR: You’re doing a question-and-answer session after the movie screening. You have probably done a lot of Q&As in your career. What’s the weirdest question you’ve ever gotten at one of these?
PD: I have done a lot, and I have a lot scheduled for a movie coming out later this year (“Ruby Sparks,” the “Little Miss Sunshine” follow-up from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris that opens July 25). So I do a fair share of them. Every now and then you have a really good one, every now and then you have a dud one. Film festivals are usually pretty good ones. Thw weirdest question I ever got … (thinking) One time a girl asked for my phone number. I thought that was nice in a sort of bold and funny move. But that’s not something I care to reveal in a Q&A, I don’t think.
PR: How come we don’t see more of you in the tabloids?
PD: I don’t know. I live in New York City, and I do have a social life with friends of mine from the city. It’s not like I never go out or anything. Maybe because my friends aren’t all in the entertainment industry and we kind of do our own thing. I’m actually pretty thankful it’s not something I’ve had to deal with so far. The second you start going out to dinner and you feel like you can’t go out to dinner … I don’t really want to have that problem.
PR: Your father said he talked to you on the phone many times while you were on the set of “There Will Be Blood,” and he said one day you sounded like you were just emotionally drained. I’ve always guessed you just came off filming the final scene at Daniel Plainview’s house. Am I right?
PD: It could have been. There were a lot of days I probably sounded like that. We were filming in the desert, 12 or 14 hour days, in period clothing. So it was 100 degree weather and I’m dressed in wool sometimes. Looking back now, filming that movie is kind of a blur — but I loved doing it. Every day was an ambitious day. but I remember a lot of it being very, very emotional.
PR: Knowing how hard it was, would you do it again?
PD: Oh yeah, a hundred times over. For me, that’s one of the great actors (Daniel Day-Lewis) and one of the great directors (Paul Thomas Anderson). I still feel very fortunate to have been a part of it.
PR: At the time of “TWBB,” I thought you not getting a supporting actor Oscar nomination was a pretty big snub. It’s still a pretty big snub. After all the attention the movie got, and people who told you that you should be nominated, what kind of reaction did you have when you heard you didn’t get nominated? Did you go out and get drunk? Did you smash anything?
PD: I don’t think I had any reaction. I was a young man, I wasn’t counting on anything like that. I think I probably had a pretty normal day. I remember being super pumped for the film and all the attention it was getting. I think I just chose to be excited for the film, that I got to do a film I liked so much. I think I’ve learned not to get too caught up in that. I think as time goes on maybe all that stuff matters a little more, but I still feel pretty new to it all.
PR: Why doesn’t the 2010 Tom Cruise action movie “Knight and Day” get more respect? You were one of the stars.
PD: I really don’t know. I always though it was a really good action comedy. It was a fun movie. I honestly don’t try to get caught up in things like that too much. As an actor, there are a lot of things you can’t control, and that’s one of them. If I think the script is good, then I’m willing to take the chance. We had a good script, a good director (James Mangold) and Tom Cruise. That’s too many things not to do the movie.
PR: What makes you choose the roles you do?
PD: Script and director. If you don’t have a good script — and sometimes even if you do have a good script — you’re not going to have a good movie. You’ve got to have it on the page. The director is the next most important because he’s the final author on the film, he’s the one who puts it all together. If you’re giving yourself over to a project, then you’re hopefully working with someone you can trust and like their talent. If you get a great actor involved — like Tom Cruise — that’s great. But really the script and director are the most important.
PR: Do you get pushed into roles at all, by agents, managers, studios, or whomever?
PD: Those final decisions are all up to me. My agent can push me toward something, but it’s up to me whether I do something or not. I take responsibility for my work. I have a certain amount of choice, not as much as Leo DiCaprio, but I’m doing all right. There are some choices that are available to me that I can make.
PR: Have you ever turned down a TV role?
PD: I don’t get many offers. Maybe once or twice, a couple of things. It’s certainly something I would be open to. I’ve always liked movies and film and going to movie theaters, but there is so much great TV out there these days. It’s certainly something I’d be open to.
PR: Is it nice that your most popular character you’ve played (Dwayne in “Little Miss Sunshine”) was a mute, so people can’t scream lines at you on the street?
PD: (Laughs) I just know how happy I was when that part translated to fans. I remember being worried whether everything would come across the way it’s supposed to because I didn’t have dialogue. But yeah, no one yells lines at me from that. Every now and then someone sends me a milkshake (from the line, “I drink your milkshake” in “TWBB”), but that’s about it.