Was the character based off anyone in particular that you researched?
Paul Dano: No. The voice, the physicality, that was me. But it was inspired by the research I did. I read a lot about the way we hold trauma and abuse in our bodies. When doing that research though things just sort of pop into your head.
The scene with you and Hugh Jackman, where you’re in the box, how was that shot? Were you actually in there?
Paul Dano: That was a bathub/shower and I got in it and that was that.
You were actually in the box?
Paul Dano: Yes, that’s how we did it. It was very small. It was the size of a normal bathtub. I was basically standing in a shower, essentially.
How long would you be in there for before you got to take a break?
Paul Dano: I was never stuck in there all day or anything. But ya, that stuff with Hugh, we had some fun moments. There’s a scene where he takes a hammer and hits the wall next to my head. That was unplanned. And then I pretended to pass out, just instinctually. That’s the most fun you can have in a scene, when you both surprise yourselves. It feels sort of like a fever dream though when you’re in a small room all day, sweating and covered in blood. It’s hard for me to remember. [laughs]
Speaking of the blood, some of the scenes you’re in it’s hard to even recognize you. How much make-up did that take?
Paul Dano: A few hours. But there was only a few days of that and once it’s on it’s worth it. You look in a mirror and you feel something and you know it’s going to impact the audience. Still, sitting in a make up chair for 3 or 4 hours at 4 o’clock in the morning isn’t the most fun.
Were your parents shocked when they saw you in that scene?
Paul Dano: My parents have not seen the film. I don’t think my mom will see it. She’s not good with blood and violence and I don’t want her to see me like that. My dad will really love the movie though.
Can you talk a bit about the title and what it means to you?
Paul Dano: Well I think that sometimes we can be prisoners of circumstance, external things that come at us. Almost every character in the film is in some way a prisoner. Obviously Hugh Jackman’s character is in a prison of vengeance and rage. Maria Bello’s character is in a prison of grief. Everyone is in a prison in some way.
The ending of the film is sure to cause a bit of discussion. Is that the way it was always set to end?
Paul Dano: That ending was there from the start. They considered shooting an alternate ending but I’m not sure if they actually shot it. I like how they ended it though, the whole cast did. It’s a tough story to wrap up but I think they did a wonderful job. It’s totally fair for someone to criticize the ending though. I like it a lot, it’s the smartest ending that we could give the film, but if some people don’t like it then that’s fair.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Paul Dano: I’m really proud of both the films I have here at TIFF. Those will both be out this Fall. This Summer I also got to do a film about Brian Wilson and that just started editing last week. I really loved doing the film, Brian is a very special man. I just finished shooting on that though so now I’m just going to take a bit of a break before I head into my next project.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Paul for his time. Be sure to check out Prisoners when it hits theatres on September 20th!