Childhood & Early Life
Paul Dano was born on June 19, 1984 in New York City to Paul A. Dano, a businessman, and his wife, Gladys. His paternal grandparents were Anna Herzo and John Dano. Both hailed from Slovak families that immigrated to Pennsylvania.
He grew up with his younger sister Sarah and received his initial education from the Browning School.
While Dano was a child, he moved with his family to New Canaan, Connecticut before finally settling in Wilton, Connecticut. He graduated from Wilton High School in 2002 and later attended New York City’s Eugene Lang College.
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Paul Dano started his acting career at the age of ten, appearing in classical plays on Broadway. At the age of 12, he appeared in the stage production of ‘Inherit the Wind,’ alongside Charles Durning and George C. Scott.
In 1997 and 1998, he performed in ‘A Christmas Carol’ that premiered at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Dano appeared in an episode of the TV series ‘Smart Guy’ in 1998. He went on to make his big screen debut with a minor role in the 2000 drama film ‘The Newcomers’. A year later, he had his first major film role when he appeared as Howie Blitzer in ‘L.I.E.’, the story of a teenager who becomes involved with a middle-aged man.
The American actor next did the television film ‘Too Young to Be a Dad’ (2002) and featured in two episodes of ‘The Sopranos’ in the early 2000s.
In 2004, he had a minor role as young Martin Asher in the physiological thriller ‘Taking Lives,’ sharing screen space with Angelina Jolie. That year, he also starred as Klitz in the romantic comedy ‘The Girl Next Door’,
In 2005, Paul Dano played supporting roles in the films ‘The Ballad of Jack and Rose’ and ‘The King’. He came to greater attention in the year 2006 when he appeared as Dwayne, a voluntarily mute teenage boy, in the comedic drama flick ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. Soon he did the films ‘Fast Food Nation’ and ‘Weapons’.
In the ensuing years, Dano performed in numerous stage productions including ‘Things We Want’ and ‘A Thousand Clowns’, the latter of which premiered at the Roundabout Theatre.
In 2008, he starred as Brian Weathersby in ‘Gigantic,’ a poorly-reviewed flick about a guy seeking to adopt a Chinese baby. That year, he also got the opportunity to play Rocco Mark Webber in Mark Webber’s directorial debut ‘Explicit Ills’.
The actor collaborated with Brian Cox for a low-budget Icelandic film titled ‘The Good Heart’ in 2009. He also lent his voice to one of the characters in the big screen adaptation of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’.
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He played a genius inventor in 2010's action thriller ‘Knight and Day’ starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Also that year, Dano featured in ‘Meek's Cutoff,’ a historical drama flick as well as in the play ‘A Free Man of Color’.
In 2011, he appeared in a supporting role in the sci-fi film ‘Cowboys and Aliens’. The film’s plot revolves around a wealthy cattleman, a mysterious traveller, and an amnesiac outlaw who must ally to save a group of people abducted by aliens.
In the early 2010s, the actor was cast in the feature film ‘Ruby Sparks’, the drama film ‘Being Flynn’ that told the story of playwright Nick Flynn and his relationship with his father, and the time-travel thriller ‘Looper,’ in which he appeared alongside Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
In the year 2013, Dano appeared in the period drama biopic ‘12 Years a Slave,’ in which he played John Tibeats. The film was a massive success and earned the Academy Award for Best Picture along with numerous other awards. Also in 2013, he appeared in the thriller ‘Prisoners’.
In 2014, he portrayed a younger version of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys founder, in the biopic ‘Love & Mercy.’ His performance in the flick garnered him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
He starred with Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine in the Italian comedy-drama film ‘Youth’ in 2015. Dano was featured in six episodes of the historical period drama ‘War & Peace’ in 2016.
In 2018, he played David Sweat in the TV series ‘Escape at Dannemora’. The same year, he made his directorial debut with ‘Wildlife,’ a drama film based on the novel of the same name by Richard Ford. The film featured Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan.