Paul Dano after a lactose-free lunch. (David Bukszpan)
“Sometimes I’ll be in a diner with some friends,” Dano told me recently at The Crosby Street Hotel, “and the waiter will just come over and give me a milkshake. And I always say, ‘I didn’t order this.’ And it always turns out it’s from some guy over there who’s ordered it for me. It never occurs to me why until after why it happened.”
All those milkshakes, all that creamy, caloric waste. The problem is Paul Dano is lactose intolerant.
“I’ll have one once in a while at a vegan restaurant,” he says, but he won’t go out in search of them. “I’m not a vegan–I’m an adamant and strict carnivore–but I do like vegan milkshakes.”
Paul Dano first appeared on many folks’ radar with his muscular, dynamic performance as both Paul and Eli Sunday in P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. (Insert crazy “they were the same character” theories here.) That Dano could hold his own at all on screen at the same time with Daniel Day Lewis was to most minds nothing short of a coup de theatre. Certainly, it’s what moved filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who received an Oscar nomination for American Splendor, to cast him in their new film, The Extra Man.
“We were working on the script,” said Berman, “thinking so much about who could play Louis, when we went to the theatre and saw There Will Be Blood. I practically punched Bob in the arm and said, ‘There’s our Louis.’”
The other kind of “introduction to Paul Dano” stories one hears, at least in Brooklyn, are a bit more local. A Manhattan native, Dano has lived in Brooklyn–first Vinegar Hill, now Carroll Gardens–for a few years now. I expressed my sympathies over the milkshakes, but mentioned that Carroll Gardens isn’t too bad a spot for carnivores these days.
“Definitely,” said Dano, growing animated. “First of all, we’ve got those two great butchers. I love that place Paisanos. Everything they have there is great; especially their sausages. But I’ll also go to Esposito & Sons for beef or pork or whatever.”
Maybe Dano’s on his way over there now. He’s been out of town for most of the summer, missing out on the fun of this particularly hot and sticky season. He said he’s glad to back in Brooklyn.
“I always miss my food joints. You miss your comfort food, you know?” As a meat-eater, he could do a lot worse than Carroll Gardens these days. “There’s Prime Meats–they’re great. And Char No. 4. Man, I love their bacon. And Ted & Honey–they’re smoking their own meat now. I met the owner and he showed me around the downstairs. I miss that stuff, even just going to Buttermilk Channel for the duck–that shit’s good.”
Dano’s not the only Brooklyn boy involved in The Extra Man. The film is based on the eponymous novel by Boerum Hill-based writer and Bored To Death creator, Jonathan Ames. Dano plays Louis Ives, the type of character one often finds in Ames’ work: bright, writerly, awkward, emotional, sympathetic, and sexually stilted.
“It was the hopeless romantic kind of thing about him that I connected to,” said Dano. “Other parts I didn’t connect to, I had to figure out and discover. It’s fascinating to me that this guy gets so lost that he dresses up as the girl he likes. That’s a pretty extreme sense of not belonging. That juxtaposition was a big turn on for me.”
It’s a character that Ames describes as somewhat autobiographic. “I wrote the novel between 1992 and 1996," he told me, "exaggerating certain things about myself and the life I was leading.” One senses a similar autobiographic impulse in Bored To Death, which stars Jason Schwartzman as a writer-turned-amateur sleuth named Jonathan Ames.
Off the screen, it turns out Dano, like Ames, heads to BookCourt for this book buying. I wondered if the two had ever crossed paths there. “No, but we do sometimes bump into each other in the neighborhood. He’s been over to my joint a couple of times.”
The Extra Man follows Louis as he moves to New York and becomes roommates with the eccentric male escort to the elderly, Henry Harrison, played by Kevin Kline. Katie Holmes plays Louis’s love interest and John C. Reilly rounds out the cast as Henry’s obsequious, furry friend.
I wondered if he’d wondered what it would really be like to live with Kline. “That would be a handful. We’re still buddies, and he is endlessly entertaining. But I think that would be weird.”
So what’s next for Dano? He said for now he’s looking forward to checking out the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, and catching with friends over drinks. I’m guessing beers, not milkshakes.
The Extra Man (Magnolia Pictures) opens in limited release on July 30.