Headlining a film with Robert De Niro and going toe-to-toe with the legend was one of Paul Dano’s career moments for sure. In Being Flynn, the pair play father and son. Dano’s Nick Flynn is a budding writer who works at a Boston homeless shelter when his father Jonathan walks in seeking refuge from the elements. “I think the most important aspect of the movie is really the universal element of father and son and mother and son and who our parents are and are we becoming them and what choice do we have in that,” Dano said in our exclusive interview. “I think that’s something that most of us have to go through at a certain point in our lives.”
Being Flynn allowed the young actor (Little Miss Sunshine, Cowboys and Aliens) to soak up the experience that is spending time with De Niro, as well as his rare -- but resonant -- scenes with another Oscar winner in Julianne Moore, who plays his mother.
“I’m a big fan of hers. I think she’s also an incredibly beautiful woman. I was really excited that she was a part of the film and I think she added so much to it. We only had a couple scenes together and I wish I had more with her,” Dano said. The actor hopes to work more with Moore, but treasured his moments with her filming Being Flynn. “I would hang out on set with her and the young Nick when they were filming and spend a little time with them. She seemed just like a super cool chick and obviously a phenomenal actress.”
Then... there’s De Niro. “And then Bob played pops,” Dano said and laughed proudly. “It was wild to get to have so many great scenes with one of the greatest actors there is. We got to work together in such a close capacity. It was really a special experience and I really relished the chance to get in front of the camera with him and have so many great scenes. He was also very warm and kind to me. We both had a lot to do every day and I think we were both pretty well prepared and focused. There wasn’t a whole lot of water cooler talk, shooting the (expletive) in between takes, but I think we had a nice working experience together. I think he’s phenomenal in the film.”
Even though the experience of working with a Hollywood great in De Niro was there every day while filming Being Flynn, Dano’s study of the actor began decades ago. “I’ve watched his films… a lot! Even at home I feel like I’ve learned from watching him,” he said.
“You can’t always learn, but at least you’re always inspired. I definitely took a lot away from working with Bob. Everybody has their own process which is so great and wild to see. Each actor comes at it differently and it’s such a mysterious process. It’s frustrating sometimes what you can and what you can’t take from somebody as good as that because so much of it is inside you and it really is sort of a mysterious process. But yeah, I definitely think I learned a thing or two from Bob.”
Besides working with acting brilliance next to De Niro and Moore, Dano saw the source material, Nick Flynn’s book Another Bull(expletive) Night in Suck City, as something he had to be a part of. “Even though my own life is quite different than Nick’s, I had such immediate empathy and understanding of what he was going through I sort of knew I could play him. I also felt like it was a chance to play somebody who was not like me but also make the work as personal as possible,” Dano said. The true story rocked the actor’s world. “I was really moved by this guy’s story and I think that’s probably the most important thing at first -- that gut feeling -- and being moved in a certain way. And certainly the second part of it that became a really important part to me was the social aspect of the homeless aspect of the film.”
Dano got an opportunity to meet his real life Being Flynn self. “Nick turned out to live in the same neighborhood that I do,” Dano said. “We’re a few blocks from each other which is strange -- so we hung out a bunch and we’re still good friends. He was very open, gracious and very helpful. He was with us almost every day on set. He was a great resource for me as was his memoir, which I think is a really stunning piece of writing.”