Paul Franklin Dano (/ˈdn/;[2] born June 19, 1984)[3] is an American actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and musician.

Paul Dano
Paul Dano Cannes 2015.jpg
Paul Franklin Dano

(1984-06-19) June 19, 1984 (age 35)
  • Actor
  • director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
  • singer
  • musician
Years active1998–present
Partner(s)Zoe Kazan (2007–present)

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 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 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Alex Jones in Prisoners (2013). His acting portrayal of musician Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy (2015) earned him a Golden Globe nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actor.

Dano made his directorial debut with the 2018 drama film Wildlife, based on the novel by Richard Ford and starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. He co-wrote the screenplay with his partner Zoe Kazan.

Early lifeEdit

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.[4][5][6] 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.[7][8]

While he was a child, Dano's family moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, finally settling in Wilton, Connecticut.[7] Dano continued his education there at Wilton High School, graduating in 2002 and attending Eugene Lang College in New York City.[7] He was involved in community theater, and while he was performing in New Canaan, his parents were encouraged to take him to New York.[7]



Dano in 2007

At age 10, Dano was noted for roles in classical plays on Broadway, making his debut at age 12 in the John Tillinger-directed revival of Inherit the Wind along with George C. Scott and Charles Durning.[9] He appeared in an episode of the sitcom Smart Guy and a minor role in the 2000 family drama The Newcomers, as well 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 16, playing the character of Howie Blitzer, a teenage boy who becomes involved with a middle-aged ephebophile, played by Brian Cox, in L.I.E. (2001).[10] He then appeared in the TV movie 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. In 2005, he played supporting roles in The King with Gael Garcia Bernal, and The Ballad of Jack and Rose with Daniel Day-Lewis.

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. Dano's work with Daniel Day-Lewis led to a dual role opposite him in his next film, Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, playing identical twin brothers Eli and Paul Sunday. This earned him a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and brought him positive reviews, with Texas Monthly saying that his performance was "so electric that the movie sags whenever he's not around."[11] and Peter Travers remarking "All praise to the baby-faced Dano...for bringing sly cunning and unexpected ferocity to Plainview's most formidable opponent."[12] Rolling Stone magazine included Dano in its Hot List for 2007, calling his performance style "Daniel Day-Lewis + Billy Crudup × Johnny Depp."[13]

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. 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 2015, 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.[14]

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."[15] 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.[16]

In October 2019, Dano was cast as The Riddler in Matt Reeves’s forthcoming 2021 film The Batman.[17]


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.[18] 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."[19] The film opened to rapturous reviews 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.[20] 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".[21] Wildlife was nominated for 3 Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature, Best Female Lead (Mulligan), and Cinematography (Diego Garcia)[22]


Dano is the vocalist and lead guitarist of the band Mook.[23]

Personal lifeEdit

Dano has been in a relationship with actress and screenwriter Zoe Kazan since 2007.[24][25] They have a daughter, born in August 2018.[26] They reside in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.[1]



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 Spike Jonze Voice
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
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 Batman Edward Nashton / Riddler Matt Reeves Filming

As a Director

Year Title Notes Ref.
2018 Wildlife Co-writer and producer [27]


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
1997–98 A Christmas Carol Street Urchin The Theater at Madison Square Garden
2007 Things We Want Charles Acorn Theatre[28]
2010–11 A Free Man of Color Meriwether Lewis Vivian Beaumont Theater
2019 True West Austin American Airlines Theater

Awards and nominationsEdit


  1. ^ a b Ugwu, Jeffrey (January 2, 2019). "Paul Dano's Cup Runneth Over (and Over)". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  2. ^ "'Wildlife' | Anatomy of a Scene". The New York Times. November 1, 2018. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  3. ^ "Paul Dano - Biography". The New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  4. ^ Grandjean, Pat, "First People" column, item titled "The Buzz", Connecticut Magazine, November 2006, p. 17.
  5. ^ "Spotlight again on Wilton's Paul Dano - Norwalk". March 5, 2008. Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  6. ^ "'Ruby Sparks' Paul Dano chills out in Pennsylvania - tribunedigital-mcall". July 26, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d MacEachern, Frank. "Spotlight again on Wilton's Paul Dano". Wilton Villager.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Fair Game – Paul Dano". Public Radio International.
  9. ^ Ryzik, Melena (April 2, 2009). "Chasing Stardom, in No Particular Rush". New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  10. ^ Blunt, Emily. "Stephen Ryder Tells A Lie". Blunt Review. Archived from the original on May 28, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
  11. ^ Kelly, Christopher. "Crude Truth". Texas Monthly. 35 (12):68–70. December 2007.
  12. ^ Travers, Peter. "There Will Be Blood." Rolling Stone. (1044):70. 2008-01-24
  13. ^ Savage, Lesley (2007-10-18), "THE NEXT GENERATION". Rolling Stone. (1037):76
  14. ^ "BBC - BBC One announces cast for epic new event drama War and Peace - Media Centre". Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  15. ^ Stevenson, Jane. "Crowd eats up pop star Sia's minimalistic show". Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "'The Batman' Casts Paul Dano as the Riddler". The Hollywood Reporter. October 17, 2019. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  18. ^ McNary, Dave (July 29, 2016). "Paul Dano to Make Directorial Debut With Indie Drama 'Wildlife'". Variety. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  19. ^ Pedersen, Erik (September 23, 2016). "Jake Gyllenhaal & Carey Mulligan Star In 'Wildlife', Paul Dano's Directing Debut". Deadline. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  20. ^ "MVFF: Spotlight on Paul Dano - Marin Matters - September 2018". Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Lee, Jinnie (November 27, 2007). "Meet Mook". Nylon Magazine. Archived from the original on September 16, 2011.
  24. ^ "Actual Couples Explore a Fantasy, the Aesthetic Sort". The New York Times. July 20, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  25. ^ "Love and Mercy's Paul Dano relates to Brian Wilson's tortured genius". The Sydney Morning Herald. June 4, 2015. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  26. ^ "Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan Welcome a Daughter". People. October 25, 2018.
  27. ^ Pedersen, Erik. "Jake Gyllenhaal & Carey Mulligan Star In 'Wildlife', Paul Dano's Directing Debut". deadline. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  28. ^ "A Boys' Guide to Narcotizing the Pain". The New York Times. November 8, 2007. Retrieved July 3, 2015.

External linksEdit