From there on out, Paul Dano became a cinema mainstay who could be seen in three to four movies a year, usually in supporting roles, but often in the lead of films like “Gigantic,” “For Ellen” and “Ruby Sparks” — the latter of which was written by and co-starred his longtime partner Zoe Kazan, and also had Dano on board as an executive producer.
In those years, Dano got to play eccentric and offbeat supporting parts under the guidance of many A-list auteurs, including Denis Villeneuve, Steve McQueen, Rian Johnson, and Paolo Sorrentino. His most acclaimed performance by far in this period, though, was in “Love & Mercy,” a biographical drama directed by veteran producer Bill Pohlad.
Although nominally a Brian Wilson biopic, “Love & Mercy” is actually split into two stories, one focused on the arduous, emotionally fraught recording process of the Beach Boys’ landmark album “Pet Sounds,” and the other centered on Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), her relationship to an older Brian (John Cusack), and her effort to free him from the draconian guardianship of Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Dano’s lived-in performance as Wilson in the former timeline was among the most acclaimed of 2015, and it won him many more awards and nominations (via IMDb) — the performance would probably have won even more, in fact, if not for the category confusion that stemmed from being a lead in just 50% of the movie.