The Fretts on Film Interview: Paul Dano on “Ruby Sparks,” “Looper,” De Niro and More!
It was a big day for Paul Dano. He appeared at the NYC premiere of his high-concept rom-com Ruby Sparks, which teams him with writer/coproducer/costar/real-life love Zoe Kazan. His acclaimed indie drama Being Flynn, which casts him as Robert De Niro’s son, debuted on DVD. And he was interviewed by Fretts on Film!
Just kidding—or was I possessed by the narcissistic spirit of his Ruby Sparks character, Calvin, a novelist with delusions of grandeur who literally creates his dreamgirl (Kazan)? The film, which reunites Dano with Little Miss Sunshine directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, is one of this year’s best—and darker than its frothy trailer suggests. I chatted with the refreshingly soft-spoken 28-year-old actor after the Film Society of Lincoln Center screening.
You play writers in both Ruby and Flynn. Is that a coincidence or is there something inherently appealing to you about those kinds of characters?
No, it was a total coincidence. I knew I was going to do this film. Then Being Flynn came around, and I thought the story was really beautiful, the book [Another Bullshit Night in Suck City] was beautiful and to get to work with De Niro, you know? And they’re so different to me that I put that concern aside.
How was it working with the directors of Little Miss Sunshine again? Did it feel different this time?
This experience was much more intimate and collaborative. We know each other really well now, after being involved with the film from the start and sending it to them. I got to talk a lot more in this film [his Sunshine character was mostly mute], so we talked a lot more. They’re the best. They’re so good and such great people. We’re really good friends.
You’d worked with Zoe before on Kelly Reichardt’s 2010 Western Meek’s Cutoff. How did this shoot compare?
That movie was a lot of walking through the desert. It was so nice to have each other there, because that was such a hard shoot. We didn’t have a lot of dialogue scenes together. This was much more intense and intimate from start to finish. All of our hopes and dreams are in this film.
I saw the trailer for Looper, which looks really cool. I know you’re in it, along with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. What can you tell me about it?
I think it’s going to be great. I just have a small part. I think [writer-director] Rian Johnson is really talented, so I just wanted to get to work with him.
You always seem to work with interesting directors, whether it’s Paul Thomas Anderson on There Will Be Blood or Shame‘s Steve McQueen on the upcoming 12 Years a Slave. Is that a choice on your part?
I think it’s a choice. That’s what excites me about movies. I get starstruck by directors, not actors.
What’s your favorite Paul Dano performance? Anybody remember him from Michael Cuesta’s L.I.E.? He sure knows how to book ’em, Dano!