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The Fretts on Film Interview: Paul Dano (Part II) and So Yong Kim

September 8, 2012

I had the privilege of speaking again with one of my favorite young actors, Paul Dano, and an equally exciting young filmmaker, So Yong Kim, after a sold-out screening of their new movie About Ellen at NYC’s Film Forum last night. The deliberately paced but ultimately shattering drama features a revelatory performance by Dano (There Will Be Blood) as a deadbeat-dad hard-rocker who aches to connect with the six-year-old daughter (the remarkably unaffected Shaylena Mandigo) he’s never known.

Dano prepared for his vainglorious headbanger role by reading Slash and Tommy Lee’s autobiographies (“entire chapters were written from the point of view of his penis…it’s really quite brilliant”). The South Korean-born Kim shot the film, which boasts gorgeously stark snow-scape cinematography by Reed Morano, two-and-a-half years ago in Massana, NY, but it’s only now receiving a limited theatrical release before becoming available on VOD next month. Along with Dano’s Ruby Sparks—but in a very different emotional key—it’s one of the year’s best films.

PAUL DANO

When we spoke after the Film Society of Lincoln Center screening of Ruby Sparks recently, you said you get starstruck by directors and want to work with them. Is that how you got involved with For Ellen, or did you know So Yong Kim personally before you knew her work?

I knew So a little bit, but I liked her film Treeless Mountain a lot, and so I was excited to see what she wrote.

You’re silent through much of this film, as you were in Little Miss Sunshine. Are you attracted to films that feature a lot of silence?

Not consciously, but I think that’s a fun thing as an actor to get to do. Sure, it’s interesting, but you never know how much silence is going to be in the film as well. You roll camera, and you see what happens in the edit room. It’s not something I was thinking about a lot before we were there.

You’re alone in a lot of the scenes. Is it tough not to have someone eles to play off when you’re the only one on screen?

I don’t know. I don’t necessarily think so. As long as you feel like you understand the guy, hopefully you can just do anything. I think I enjoyed that.

I have a totally random question. Are you influenced at all by the actor Bud Cort? He had a certain silent, solitary quality about him. I was just thinking about him because Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, the directors of Little Miss Sunshine and Ruby Sparks, mentioned Hal Ashby as an influence.

Cort jester: Bud in “Harold”

I mean, I like Bud Cort. I don’t think he’s a primary influence, so to speak. Certainly, Harold and Maude is a great film.

SO YONG KIM

Paul seems to have this quality where he can be silent and still convey a lot of emotion. Is that something that made you want to work with him?

Yeah, but it’s not just the silence. It’s what he does with the silence. He embodies the characters completely. He has such a wide range of talent. I don’t know what it is about Paul. He has this force within him that’s amazing.

How did you meet him originally?

My husband, [For Ellen producer] Brad [Gray], made this film called The Exploding Girl with Zoe Kazan, who’s Paul’s girlfriend. We met through Zoe. Luckily.

Where do you see Paul’s career going from here? Do you think he’s better suited to smaller independent films like this one?

I don’t know. I think he has opportunities to do so many different types of films. I would like him to do more of my type of films. More of my films. But he wants to do all sorts of films. Because he’s young. He’s gotta do everything! But who knows?

Do you think more filmmakers should say, “Book ‘im—Dano!” Post a comment!

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