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This year has been a memorable one for Paul Dano, who played the Riddler in The Batman and currently stars with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in Steven Spielberg’s awards contender, The Fabelmans. After starting his career as a child actor, Dano found a breakout role in the 2006 road-trip dramedy Little Miss Sunshine, alongside co-stars Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin.
Hailing from co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the story focuses on a family traveling across the country in a Volkswagen bus to get youngest child Olive (Breslin) to Southern California to compete in a beauty pageant. Dano played Olive’s half brother, Dwayne, a Nietzsche-adoring teen who has taken a vow of silence. The film was a sensation at Sundance, where it premiered in early 2006 and sold to Fox Searchlight for $10.5 million, still one of the fest’s biggest deals ever; THR‘s review praised its “brainy blend of farce and heart.”
The investment paid off: The movie was released on July 26, 2006, and showed impressive legs at the box office for a worldwide total of $101 million ($149 million today). Viewers had warm feelings for Little Miss Sunshine, with the film winning best acting ensemble at the Critics Choice Movie Awards, where Dano prevailed as best young performer and Breslin won best young actress.
While accepting the prize, Dano quipped that he was “stuck in the backseat of a very hot van next to a grumpy and smelly Alan Arkin, and for a young guy, that was a real privilege.”
The film was an awards-season darling, winning the SAG Award for best cast performance and picking up four Oscar nominations, including the statuettes for original screenplay and for Arkin as best supporting actor.
In March of this year, Dano told THR that he has gotten better at handling the limelight over the years, and said of projects like The Batman: “It feels really good to me to have done this now, and I can enjoy it now, where I don’t know if I would have in my 20s.”
This story first appeared in a December stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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