Examiner.com sat down with "Prisoners" star Paul Dano on Thursday at a special luncheon celebrating the Warner Bros. release. Held at the posh Monkey Bar in NYC, editors, friends, actors, producers and Academy members gathered to celebrate with cast Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello and Terrence Howard.
Directed by 10 time Academy nominee Denis Villeneuve, the beautifully dark film asks a question none us will ever be able to answer: How far would you go to protect your family? When six-year-old girls go missing, as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in for the Dover family and the Birch family played by Bello, Davis, Jackman and Howard. Their only suspect is Paul Dano who drives a dilapidated RV. In charge of saving the girls is Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) who is known for solving all of his cases. Frustrated with the progress of the investigation Keller Dover (Jackman) decides to take things into his own hands leaving us to question again, what would you do?
Q: What happened to you?
Dano: I tore my ACL playing basketball.
Q: Did it affect your work at all?
Dano: Well, no. I did a film this summer that I gave everything I had, so I was going to take off an extra few months anyway. So if this was gonna happen...this was the perfect time for it to happen.
Q: You're an extraordinary actor. Between "There Will Be Blood," your character in "Prisoners" and "12 Years A Slave," is it hard to go to that dark place?
Dano: Definitely, the "Prisoners" one was about figuring out everything that happened while we're going. The character has a mystery. It's a dramatic place to go and I think at a certain age, he just shut everything down in self-defense. He receded back into himself and I think...I don't think he's mentally retarded, I think that he's just stunted off at a certain age to protect himself. But he has a certain response where he just hides himself and you kind of don't know what he's doing...The hardest part about this for me is the schedule...it wasn't like three weeks of work. It was like three or four months, that was the hardest thing. You know it's like, do you keep this with you? Do you let go of it right away? Moving in and out is scarier because, you know, again, getting ready for that is the darker part.
Q: This movie is gorgeous obviously and you see it and there are so many shots that are so striking. Is there anything that thought when you saw the movie or while filming it that you felt Roger Deakins being a genius surrounding you?
Dano: I mean just...the use of the flashlights...it was so simply done and...I'm a huge fan of Roger's work and to see him do that with just a flashlight it was stunning.
Q: The shots of you in the keyhole in the shower with that one really bright light.
Dano: Yeah, I mean he's a Jedi.
Q: How do you even know what of your face they can see? There's just a slight bit of light on your face and you’re giving this performance.
Dano: I think I had an idea, it was a pretty small light. But you're still acting with your whole body otherwise...yeah. I think it's cool, it's great. He knows what he wants. He's definitely the man of the film, you can tell. I mean, to feel in good hands as an actor...it's the best feeling. It was such a pleasure.
Q: Your character was the embodiment of psychological permanent scarring.
Dano: I mean, I hope...the one cool thing about my character as an actor doing it is that if anyone sees this going a second time. hopefully there's more there because my character is like a kid who's going through this and once you know you're like, okay this is different, sort of, an experience, seeing the character a second time because you know he's a victim.
Q: You were talking about carrying this with you and how you changed for a long time. You and Hugh Jackman did these really intense scenes, can you get to the end of it and shake hands and go to press conferences together?
Dano: You know, I think again it depends on so many things. Your scene partner, what the rest of the day is. In between takes you’re certainly on to the next take once they yell 'Cut.'
Q: So you're so focused when you're staying within the set.
Dano: Yeah during the scene. But once we're finished with the scene at the end of the day then...yes, definitely, we do. At the end of the day we're definitely cool with each other. We have to take a breathe.
Q: During the sink scene I thought, 'Oh my God that came really close to getting his head hit with a hammer.' And throughout the whole scene you're just not moving.
Dano: Well what happened...that scene...the last take of the scene I think everyone wanted us to go a little bit further and Hugh wanted to go a little further so he took the hammer to the wall next to my head. That was totally unplanned. That scene, that take was actually a really thrilling take and it ended up in the film.
Q: How did you not move? You don't even flinch!
Dano: Well my character's emotional drama is so much worse than the physical trauma it just doesn't register.
Q: What's the other film you have coming up besides "12 Years a Slave"?
Dano: I did this film about Brian Wilson that I shot this summer. I knew a few things about him, but he's got a great story. He's a beautiful spirit. I got to play him in the 1960's. The film is two stories so my part it's in the 60's. It's an interesting take, it not a traditional biopic. They're just starting to edit it, so we'll see what shape it takes, but I think we had a good attack on it so we'll see.