Under the Circuit: Paul Dano


LOVE AND MERCY - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: Paul Dano - Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel Roadside Attractions Release.
LOVE AND MERCY – 2015 FILM STILL – Pictured: Paul Dano – Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel Roadside Attractions Release.

Most Known For: “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Ruby Sparks,” “Looper”

Snubbed For: “Little Miss Sunshine,” “There Will Be Blood”

A while back I covered John Cusack in this column and how he has gone his whole career without ever finding favor with the academy. Things may change with Cusack getting rave reviews in the new film “Love & Mercy” where he plays an older version of legendary Beach Boy Brian Wilson. Paul Dano, who plays the younger version of Wilson in the film, has also had some trouble getting the academy’s attention. So, is there room enough to include both of these potential first-time nominees? We’ll have to wait an see, but let’s first look at why Dano isn’t an Oscar nominee just yet.

tumblr_l1qrxfASQr1qa3b3so1_500Dano has been acting in movies since 2000, but before he became part of 2006’s favorite dysfunctional family his biggest credits were in “The Girl Next Door” and a couple episodes of “The Sopranos.” The Sundance favorite “Little Miss Sunshine” was where he got his first real notices as the angst-ridden teenager who has taken of vow of silence. Obviously that vow doesn’t stick and when Dano’s character finally does let out he bares it all. The Indie Spirit Awards nominated him for Best Supporting Actor, the BFCA even named him the Best Young Actor, but Oscar paid more attention to his co-stars Abigail Breslin and Alin Arkin. He wouldn’t wait to long to further capitalize on the rave reviews though.

One year later Dano gave what is to date the performance of his career, the only problem was it was right next to arguably one of the greatest actors of the generation’s performance of his career. Dano pulled double-duty in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” as twins Paul and Eli Sunday, though we only get one scene with Paul. It’s as the flamboyant and delusional preacher Eli that Dano spends a majority of the film as and shows the range of his acting prowess. He and Daniel Day-Lewis go toe-to-toe with their larger than life characters as they madly pursue their goals; oil for Day-Lewis and God for Dano.

eliVoters apparently didn’t see it that way. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance crushed all challengers in its path, even that of his co-star in an indirect way. While Day-Lewis was winning everything under the sun, Dano still met a shut door with the Oscars, though he did manage a BAFTA nod out of it, along with some critical nominations.

Since “There Will Be Blood” Dano has attempted to bridge the gap as a leading man but has yet to find the ideal vehicle to do so. “Being Flynn” alongside Robert DeNiro came and went before anyone really knew what was going on, and while “Ruby Sparks” has its supporters – I’m not really one of them – it didn’t charm enough people.

Dano’s bread and butter has been his supporting roles, which he continues to excel in. He’s been great in “Prisoners” and “12 Years a Slave” and was even strong in “Looper.” His roles just weren’t big enough to really make a run at anything.

Now, unfortunately, I can’t speak to “Love & Mercy” just yet. The reviews have been great for both Dano and Cusack as well as the movie overall, so perhaps there is a campaign coming down the line. Initially though, I think Dano will face a bit of an uphill battle. It’s been equal praise for the two stars and you have to think if that’s the case voters may lean toward Cusack if forced to choose. I’ll hopefully see it soon and have a clearer picture, but Dano will likely be in the conversation for awards season kudos at the very least.

Whether he can remedy his Oscar bad-luck this year or if he has to wait like his co-star Cusack did, there’s no denying Dano’s talent and that he would be a worthy Oscar-nominee should the day ever come.