Paul Franklin Dano
Born in New York City, Dano was raised in Wilton, CT, by his father, Paul, a businessman, and his mother, Gladys. Bitten by the acting bug at four years old, Dano participated in community theater as a child and made his Broadway debut when he was 12 in a revival of "Inherit the Wind" opposite no less than Charles Durning and George C. Scott. Following a turn in a production of "A Christmas Carol" with Roddy McDowall and Hal Linden, Dano commenced his onscreen career as a guest star on the sitcom "Smart Guy" (The WB, 1997-99) and followed with his feature debut in the family drama "The Newcomers" (2000). He immediately moved up to leading roles with his performance in the independent film, "L.I.E." (2001), a dark drama about a teenage thief from Long Island in the midst of a family breakdown. The movie snagged a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, where Dano won a coveted Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. The following year, he graduated from Wilton High School.Following the attention he received from "L.I.E.," Dano transitioned into higher-profile work, starting with two guest spots on "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007), where he played A.J. Soprano's friend, Patrick Whalen. Also on the small screen, he played a high school honor student who impregnates a fellow student (Katie Stuart) and plans on giving the baby up for adoption, only to reconsider once the baby is born in the rather melodramatic TV-movie "Too Young to Be a Dad" (Lifetime, 2002). After playing an introverted prep school student in the class of an inspirational teacher (Kevin Kline) in "The Emperor's Club" (2002), he was the shy best friend of Emile Hirsch in the underwhelming teen comedy "The Girl Next Door" (2004) and appeared as a younger version of Gena Rowland's murderous son in the Angelina Jolie thriller, "Taking Lives" (2004). Back in the indie world, Dano co-starred in Rebecca Miller's second film, "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" (2005), where the young actor more than held his own against the likes of Catharine Keener, Beau Bridges and Daniel Day-Lewis.Dano went on to play the son of a pastor (William Hurt) stalked by a disturbed stranger (Gael García Bernal) in "The King" (2005), before finally landing his breakout role in the indie darling, "Little Miss Sunshine" (2006). Having auditioned for the role way back in 2003, the filmmakers finally found the financing they needed to make their film about a dysfunctional family who go on a cross-country road trip so the youngest daughter, Olive, (Abigail Breslin), can compete in a child beauty contest. Dano played Dwayne, the unhappy eldest son of a struggling motivational speaker (Greg Kinnear) and overworked mother (Toni Collette) who has taken a vow of silence until he achieves his dream of entering the U.S. Air Force Academy. Along for the ride are Collette's gay suicidal brother (Steve Carrell), who is also a leading Proust scholar, and Kinnear's foul-mouthed father (Alan Arkin), who was kicked out of a nursing home for using and dealing heroin. After making its debut at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, where it charmed critics and filmgoers, "Little Miss Sunshine" became a surprise box office hit later that summer, with Dano's nearly-mute performance singled out for praise.Hot on the heels of "Little Miss Sunshine," Dano starred in Richard Linklater's adaptation of Eric Schlosser's best-selling book, "Fast Food Nation" (2006), where he played a lazy fast food worker who plots armed robbery with another co-worker. Entering the realm of prestigious dramatic actor, Dano delivered a powerful supporting performance opposite Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis in director Paul Thomas Anderson's widely hailed Western, "There Will Be Blood" (2007). Dano played twin brothers, one of whom tips off a hard-working, driven speculator (Day-Lewis) about a piece of land that might contain black gold, and the other is a small-town preacher who engages him in a battle of wills, as he refuses to sell his share of the land. Many of the critical accolades went to Day-Lewis for his ferocious, award-winning performance, but Dano received more than his share of praise for his own fiery turn.While largely in the public's consciousness for his work on the screen, Dano trickled into the tabloids when it became known that he was dating actress and playwright Zoe Kazan, whom he met while performing in the off-Broadway play, "Things We Want" (2007), while taking time off to study English at the New School in New York City. Meanwhile, he starred as an unhappy mattress salesman who becomes infatuated with one of his customers (Zooey Deschanel) in the indie romantic comedy "Gigantic" (2008). From there, Dano was the voice of Alexander in Spike Jonze's fantastical adaptation of "Where the Wild Things Are" (2009), played a VW-driving hippie in "Taking Woodstock" (2009) and was a homeless man who takes over a dive bar for its ailing owner (Brian Cox) in "The Good Heart" (2009). After a leading role as a cross-dressing aspiring writer opposite failed playwright Kevin Kline in "The Extra Man" (2010), Dano had his first brush with summer blockbusters playing a genius inventor opposite Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in "Knight and Day" (2010). He continued the trend with a supporting turn as the spoiled son of a ruthless cattleman (Harrison Ford) who is one of many abducted by aliens in the disappointing hybrid "Cowboys & Aliens" (2011). He next starred as an author beset by writer's block who envisions a fictional character (Kazan) that suddenly comes to life in the critically praised "Ruby Sparks" (2012). Returning to science fiction, Dano had a supporting role as a shifty peer of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's conflicted mercenary character in the time-shifting "Looper" (2012), before portraying a reclusive criminal suspect in the brooding drama "Prisoners" (2013), starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Later that fall, Dano had a small part in the critically acclaimed historical film "12 Years a Slave," providing once again that his choice in projects was impeccable.