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Paul Dano on Wildlife

Paul Dano is an American actor, known for his roles in Little Miss Sunshine, There will be blood, Prisoners, Youth. Wildlife starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal is his directorial debut, based on the novel by Richard Ford. 

What really spoke to you in this script? 


I really wanted to do a film for a long time. And I’m glad it was this book that fell in my hands at the right time. I had read some short stories form the same writer before and I really loved them, the silent prose, the language and style. If I was a writer and I would definitely want to write like that. In Wild life, I really appreciate the fact that he writes about a real family, their passion, their honesty. They felt so true to me and close to previous experiences. Families do survive tragedies when the roots are deep and strong. 


What was the best way of approaching the script, since you co-wrote it with Zoe Kazan? 


Richard Ford, the writer of the book told me to just go for it. That his book would always be his book and I should make a movie the way I wanted it. The book is written from a perspective that is already happened, but we had to make the film in present tense. 



Were there things that took longer to figure out? 


I wrote the first draft, gave it to Zoe and then we had a discussion and started collaborating and passing it back and forth. It felt really fun. Acting is really staged, whereas with writing you have a different sense of liberty, there’s no deadline. And it also worked to do this around our already busy schedules. 


When you decided you wanted to direct a film, was it with the intention to act in the project as well? 


I realised there was so much to learn, about the cameras, the positioning, it’s all very new. So I never really thought of acting in the film. I imagine it would have been hard to be in the same scene with your actors and having to direct them at the same time, give instructions. 


You’ve worked with so many filmmakers with different styles. Did their method make more sense now you’ve been on set as a director as well? 


It’s really important to observe how people work. I really appreciate it when a filmmaker sets out an atmosphere, an environment on set, it feels really good. 


Knowing that there is different ways of working and having observed that helped me find my way, decide how I wanted to do it. It’s great to have an interaction with your actors, push them and let them push you, create a trusting space. 



Written & Edited by Martin I. Petrov - Cannes / Marche Du Film / AmPav 


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