x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The growing profile of Paul Dano

The celebrated young American actor talks about his new movie, Ruby Sparks.

Paul Dano as Calvin and Zoe Kazan as Ruby in a scene from the film Ruby Sparks. Merrick Morton
Paul Dano as Calvin and Zoe Kazan as Ruby in a scene from the film Ruby Sparks. Merrick Morton

The 28-year-old actor Paul Dano has seen his career flourish since appearing in Little Miss Sunshine six years ago as an angry and (mostly) mute teenager. He has gone on to provide many critically adored performances, including in the 2007 Oscar-winning movie There Will Be Blood, opposite Daniel Day-Lewis. His latest is a very different film, the romantic comedy Ruby Sparks, in which he plays a writer who creates his dream woman on the page and, miraculously, sees her come to life. It is also a return to working with Little Miss Sunshine's directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who get behind the camera for what is only their second feature film.

Your first collaboration with Dayton and Faris, Little Miss Sunshine, really catapulted you into the spotlight. Was it a relief to know you would be working with them on this project?

I don't know if relief is the right word, but we were very happy they wanted to do it. Relief that they said yes, maybe! [laughs] Working with them on Little Miss Sunshine was such a joyous experience that, as the story progressed, I knew they would be right for this film - just the sensibility they bring to their work would be perfect for this story. I felt very lucky that they agreed to do it.

Your writer character, Calvin, is a very complex individual. How much of that is your work and how much was already there in the script?

I read books about writers, ones that I thought Calvin might admire and ones that reminded me of him, but also there's so much information in the script - his relationship with his brother, the pressure of being this genius at such a young age. There's so much to begin with as an actor; you just build upwards from what's on the page. In some ways it's a very simple character. I saw him as a very lonely man, someone who feels anxiety and detachment from the world around him.

The film co-stars your partner Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the film. She said the part was written with you in mind - were you aware of this?

Yes, I was able to see the script while Zoe was writing it, when it was still being created. And very early on when I was reading it, I had a feeling that this might have been meant for us.

Were you concerned any parts of your lives would influence the story?

No, not at all. It was very obvious from the nature of the story that Zoe had created this unique journey and characters. Also, I know she would want to write something that would be challenging to us, which wouldn't be the case if it were based on real life. That's not to say there isn't anything of us in the film. Although Zoe is very different to Ruby, there were elements, particularly at the script stage, that were similar.

Did you ever find yourself becoming jealous of Calvin's ability to make his partner do anything he wants?

[Laughs] I've been asked this a lot! I would hope that the journey Calvin takes would warn anybody about that kind of control. But no, I think the message behind the story is that the surprises in a relationship are what make it special. Loving the flaws in a person as well as the strengths.

Ruby Sparks screens tonight at 9.15pm at Emirates Palace and on Friday at 9.30pm at Marina Mall's Vox 4 Cinema.