There’s a genuine quality to all the varied roles –whether killer (Taking Lives, 2004), mute older brother (Little Miss Sunshine, 2006), or greedy aspiring preacher (There Will Be Blood, 2007)–that 24-year-old actor Paul Dano takes on. In his latest release, Gigantic (in theaters April 3), Dano attempts something new, playing the leading man in a romantic comedy. Gigantic, which previews tonight at the 92Y Tribeca (the screening will be followed by a discussion with Dano and director Matt Aselton), tells the story of Brian (Dano), a mattress salesman desperately trying to outshine his more successful siblings. His attempt to best his two brothers leads him to try and adopt a child from China, but when the big-eyed Zooey Deschanel falls asleep on one of the beds in his store, things don’t go according to plan. We caught up with Dano recently to discuss this new film, his musical tastes, and that crazy scene with Daniel Day Lewis.
You have two other films coming out this year: Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, and Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, in which you’ll play a hippie concertgoer. What are some memorable shows you’ve been to?
Tom Waits, Neil Young, Rage Against the Machine, Phish, John Scofield, Aschenazy, Fiona Apple, Clare and the Reasons.
Name five artists on your iPod right now.
Biggie, Ray Charles, Van Morrison, Krystle Warren, Townes Van Zant.
In Gigantic you play a mattress salesman. Although you’ve been acting practically your whole life, have you ever had a mundane job?
I remember selling candy out of my locker in middle school, but at the time I thought that was Big Pimpin’.
This is the first time audiences have seen you in a romantic comedy. Do you see yourself doing more of films in this genre?
Sure, if I read something that I like that surprises me, that is funny, or involves romance, I’d certainly be open to it. It depends if there is a piece of writing I like, or a director that is involved that I’d like to work with. I’d like to do something that involves an older woman, perhaps in the vein of The Graduate or Harold and Maude. But I think I’m doing that now, in a new film I’m working on called The Extra Man, where the average age of my female costars is above 50.
You were so memorable in There Will Be Blood. What scene was the toughest to shoot?
The bowling alley scene was one of the more intense experiences I’ve had. It’s all a blur. I just remember the heat, the sweat, and trying my best to dodge the bowling balls that were flung my way.
Gigantic screens at the 92Y Tribeca tonight, 7:30pm, $12. Tickets are still available here.