by Jason Koenigsberg


A friend of mine recently watched Prisoners, one of my favorite films of 2013, and he made an interesting comment to me. He said that once again Paul Dano is playing a character that is getting beaten, berated and tortured. He seems to have typecast himself as an actor who is constantly screaming (or shrieking) in pain as he is beaten by a bigger, stronger character and being forced to squrim, quiver and writhe in pain.

He perhaps played the meek character in anguish role best in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will be Blood (2007). I loved this film so much I thought he deserved an Oscar nomination for being able to go opposite Daniel Day-Lewis.

This would recur throughout the film and explode with the famous “milkshake” speech and the films incredible over-the-top resolution.

After that Dano would star in Looper (2012) where he plays a weak man who’s future literally catches up with him in his past and is beaten, broken and literally losing body parts because of the errors of time travel.

Then, last fall in Prisoners he played a character where literally for the majority of the films running time he was tied up, blindfolded, beaten and tortured by Hugh Jackman (a bigger, stronger actor) because Jackman thinks that Paul Dano kidnapped his daughter.


Maybe all of this typecasting for Paul Dano started back in 2006 with his major breakout role in Little Miss Sunshine where he plays a distraught teenager who has sworn himself to silence until he makes it into the Air Force Academy. A scene occurs where he realizes that he is colorblind and the result is an epic tantrum where Dano screams his first words of the film and the monologue that follows.

Sure, Paul Dano has starred in a number of other films where he does not scream and writhe in pain such as Taking Lives (2004), The Girl Next Door (2004), Fast Food Nation (2006), and 2013’s Oscar Winner for Best Picture 12 Years a Slave where he actually administered a few beatings rather than giving them. He still came off as a snide, weak and cowardly person in that film which of course was the point. However, it seems as if the roles for Paul Dano that really stand out are the ones where he is being hurt and screaming in agony. Either way good for him, he has managed to carve out a nice little niche for himself in Hollywood and has been able to take part in some excellent films and work opposite some of the best actors in cinema today. Pan and Slam salutes you Paul Dano and encourages you to find roles where you can continue to scream cowardly and writhe in pain! Your expertise at being tortured on screen is admirable.



  1. I think he would be great to play a villain in a superhero movie, like one of the Batman films?, what do you think?
    he was great in Prisoners without a doubt, I felt sorry for his character while he was beaten…

  2. I think his face would make a great villain’s face. He just looks creepy, maybe like a serial killer who was tortured on the inside.

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