Actor Paul Dano

Paul Franklin Dano (/ˈdeɪnoʊ/; born June 19, 1984) is an American actor. Dano started his career on Broadway before making his film debut in The Newcomers (2000). He won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance for his role in L.I.E. (2002) and received accolades for his role as Dwayne Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine (2006). For his dual roles as Paul and Eli Sunday in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007), he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Dano has also received accolades for roles such as John Tibeats in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Alex Jones in Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners (2013). His acting portrayal of musician Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy (2014) earned him a Golden Globe nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actor. He has been cast as Edward Nashton / The Riddler in The Batman (2022).

Dano made his directorial debut with the 2018 drama film Wildlife, based on the novel by Richard Ford. He co-wrote the screenplay with his partner Zoe Kazan. In 2018, he starred in the Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora, for which he received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.

Early life

Dano was born in New York City, New York, the son of Gladys (née Pipp) and Paul A. Dano. He has a younger sister named Sarah. Dano spent the first few years of his childhood in New York City and initially attended the Browning School, while his father worked as a businessman in New York.

While he was a child, Dano’s family moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, finally settling in Wilton, Connecticut. Dano continued his education there at Wilton High School, graduating in 2002 and attending Eugene Lang College in New York City. He was involved in community theater, and while he was performing in New Canaan, his parents were encouraged to take him to New York.



At age ten, Dano was noted for roles in classical plays on Broadway, making his debut at age twelve in John Tillinger’s Broadway revival of Inherit the Wind alongside George C. Scott and Charles Durning. He appeared in an episode of the sitcom Smart Guy and a minor role in the 2000 family drama The Newcomers, as well as playing the part of Patrick Whalen, in a few episodes of The Sopranos in season 4.

Dano acted in his first major film role when he was sixteen, playing Howie Blitzer, a teenage boy who becomes involved with a middle-aged ephebophile (Brian Cox) in L.I.E. (2001). He then appeared in the television film Too Young to Be a Dad as a high school student whose life is disrupted when his girlfriend becomes pregnant. In 2004, he played a small role as young Martin Asher in Taking Lives with Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke. Additionally, Dano starred in the sleeper hit The Girl Next Door, alongside Elisha Cuthbert, Emile Hirsch, and Chris Marquette. In 2005, he played supporting roles in The King and The Ballad of Jack and Rose.

He came to greater attention in 2006, when he played as Dwayne, a voluntarily mute teenager as part of an ensemble in the comedic drama Little Miss Sunshine, which received critical acclaim and collective awards for its cast. He also had a supporting role in the 2006 film Fast Food Nation, based on the nonfiction book by Eric Schlosser. Dano had a dual role for the 2007 period film There Will Be Blood, which earned him positive reviews and a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Texas Monthly said that his performance was “so electric that the movie sags whenever he’s not around.” Peter Travers remarked “All praise to the baby-faced Dano…for bringing sly cunning and unexpected ferocity to Plainview’s most formidable opponent.” Rolling Stone magazine included Dano in its Hot List for 2007, calling his performance style “Daniel Day-Lewis + Billy Crudup × Johnny Depp.”

Dano appeared in several additional Broadway productions including A Thousand Clowns at the Roundabout Theatre, and in the Ethan Hawke directorial debut Things We Want during its 2007 Off-Broadway run.

In 2008, he starred in Gigantic, a poorly-reviewed film about a man seeking to adopt a Chinese baby, co-starring Zooey Deschanel. He reunited with Brian Cox in 2009’s Good Heart, a low-budget English-language Icelandic film. He provided the voice of one of the creatures in the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are (2009).


He played a genius inventor in 2010’s Knight and Day, an action thriller starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. The same year he appeared in Meek’s Cutoff, a well-reviewed historical drama. In 2011, he had a supporting role in the big-budget science fiction film Cowboys and Aliens.

Dano appeared in three feature films in 2012: Ruby Sparks, as a writer whose fictional character (played by Zoe Kazan, the film’s writer and Dano’s girlfriend) inexplicably appears as a real person; time-travel thriller Looper, in a supporting role with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis; and with Robert De Niro in Being Flynn as the film’s writer Nick Flynn, about his relationship with his father. In 2013, Dano appeared in Steve McQueen’s period drama biopic 12 Years a Slave, based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup. Dano portrayed John Tibeats, an overseer at the plantation Northup is sold to. The film was a massive critical success and won the Academy Award for Best Picture, among numerous other awards.

In 2014, Dano played a younger version of the Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson, with John Cusack as an older version of Wilson, in the biopic Love & Mercy, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

In 2015, Dano appeared with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in the Italian comedy-drama Youth; Dano portrayed Jimmy Tree, an actor who is researching for an upcoming role but is frustrated that he is best-remembered by the public for a prior role as a robot. In January 2016, Dano appeared as Pierre Bezukhov in the BBC’s six-part adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

In the Autumn of 2016, he appeared in video as an onstage “stand-in” during the Nostalgia For the Present concert tour of Australian singer Sia Furler for her song, “Bird Set Free.”

In July 2016, it was announced that Dano would make his directorial debut with the movie Wildlife, based on the 1990 novel of the same name, by Richard Ford. The movie would be produced by June Pictures, and would star Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. Dano stated, “I have always wanted to make films and have always known I would make films about family. I couldn’t be happier to have such beautiful collaborators like Carey and Jake leading the way.” The film opened to critical acclaim after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. It also played at the Cannes Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival. The film has earned a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus reading, “Wildlife’s portrait of a family in crisis is beautifully composed by director Paul Dano — and brought brilliantly to life by a career-best performance from Carey Mulligan”. Wildlife was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature, Best Female Lead (Mulligan), and Cinematography (Diego Garcia).

In 2018, he portrayed escaped inmate David Sweat in the Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora alongside Patricia Arquette and Benicio Del Toro, for which he received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series. From December 27, 2018 to March 17, 2019, Dano starred in the critically acclaimed Broadway Revival of Sam Shepard’s True West with Ethan Hawke at the Roundabout Theater Company’s American Airlines Theater in New York.

In October 2019, Dano was cast as The Riddler in Matt Reeves’s upcoming 2022 film The Batman.


In April 2021, Paul Dano was cast in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film based on Spielberg’s own life. He will play a character loosely based on Spielberg’s father.

Personal life

Dano has been in a relationship with actress and screenwriter Zoe Kazan since 2007. They have a daughter, born in August 2018. They reside in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

Dano is the vocalist and lead guitarist of the band Mook.



Denotes productions that have not yet been released

As an actor

Year Title Role Director Notes
2000 The Newcomers Joel James Allen Bradley
2001 L.I.E. Howie Blitzer Michael Cuesta
2002 The Emperor’s Club Martin Blythe Michael Hoffman
2004 The Girl Next Door Klitz Luke Greenfield
Taking Lives Young Asher D. J. Caruso
2005 The Ballad of Jack and Rose Thaddius Rebecca Miller
The King Paul James Marsh
2006 Little Miss Sunshine Dwayne Jonathan Dayton
Valerie Faris
Fast Food Nation Brian Richard Linklater
2007 Weapons Chris Adam Bhala Lough
There Will Be Blood Paul Sunday / Eli Sunday Paul Thomas Anderson
2008 Explicit Ills Rocco Mark Webber
Light and the Sufferer Don (“Light”) Christopher Peditto
Gigantic Brian Weathersby Matt Aselton
2009 Taking Woodstock VW Guy Ang Lee
The Good Heart Lucas Dagur Kári
Where the Wild Things Are Alexander (voice) Spike Jonze
2010 The Extra Man Louis Ives Shari Springer Berman
Robert Pulcini
Meek’s Cutoff Thomas Gately Kelly Reichardt
Knight and Day Simon Feck James Mangold
2011 Cowboys & Aliens Percy Dolarhyde Jon Favreau
2012 Being Flynn Nick Flynn Paul Weitz
Ruby Sparks Calvin Weir-Fields Jonathan Dayton
Valerie Faris
Looper Seth Rian Johnson
For Ellen Joby So Yong Kim Also executive producer
2013 12 Years a Slave John Tibeats Steve McQueen
Prisoners Alex Jones Denis Villeneuve
2014 Love & Mercy Brian Wilson Bill Pohlad
2015 Youth Jimmy Tree Paolo Sorrentino
2016 Swiss Army Man Hank Daniel Scheinert
Daniel Kwan
2017 Okja Jay Bong Joon-ho
2021 The Guilty Antoine Fuqua Post-production
2022 The Batman Edward Nashton / Riddler Matt Reeves Post-production
2022 The Fabelmans Steven Spielberg Filming
TBA Spaceman Johan Renck Post-production

As a director

Year Title Notes Distributor Ref.
2018 Wildlife Co-writer and producer IFC Films


Year Title Role Notes
1998 Smart Guy Nicholas Episode: “She Got Game”
2002 Too Young to Be a Dad Matt Freeman Television film
2002–2004 The Sopranos Patrick Whalen 2 episodes
2015 Codes of Conduct Jared Rotmensen Pilot
2016 War & Peace Pierre Bezukhov 6 episodes
2018 Escape at Dannemora David Sweat 7 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
1996 Inherit the Wind Howard Royale Theatre
1997–1998 A Christmas Carol Street Urchin The Theater at Madison Square Garden
2007 Things We Want Charles Acorn Theatre
2010–2011 A Free Man of Color Meriwether Lewis Vivian Beaumont Theater
2019 True West Austin American Airlines Theater

Awards and nominations

External Links

Actor Paul Dano – Wikipedia

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