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Actor Paul Dano, 'There Will Be Blood'

In Paul Thomas Anderson's new film There Will Be Blood, the young actor Paul Dano plays a rural preacher at odds with the oilman (Daniel Day-Lewis) at the center of the story. Dano previously appeared in Little Miss Sunshine, playing the teen who was an elective mute.

27:26

Other segments from the episode on January 8, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 8, 2008: Interview with Mark Bowen and Dr. James Hansen; Interview with Paul Dano.

Transcript

DATE January 8, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Mark Bowen, author of "Censoring Science" and Dr.
James Hansen, the subject of the book, on the Bush administration
and its attempts to downplay research into climate change
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The new book "Censoring Science" is largely about my guest Dr. James Hansen
and the efforts to tone down or silence his warnings about climate change.
For the past 25 years, Hansen has directed NASA's premiere climate research
center, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen says the Bush
administration has interfered with how scientists communicate to the public.
Science has been swift-boated, is how Mark Bowen, the author of "Censoring
Science," puts it. Bowen is with us, too.

Bowen's book reports on efforts during the Bush administration from political
appointees within NASA to prevent Hansen from speaking to the press and to
control statements by Hansen and other scientists about global warming and
other scientific issues, including evolution. The book "Censoring Science"
begins with a turning point, a speech Hansen made on December 6th, 2005 before
a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. I asked Hansen about that event.

What did you say there that you think was in a way a tipping point to the Bush
administration reaction to you?

Dr. JAMES HANSEN: Well, the science that I discussed was the fact that we
are getting very close to a tipping point in the climate system where changes
will begin to happen that are out of our control. But I think the thing that
I said that perhaps caused concern was I pointed out that special interests
are having a big impact on our ability to communicate this problem to the
public and to find the solutions to it.

GROSS: Now, what kind of warning did you receive after this speech?

Dr. HANSEN: Well, I was told that any future contacts with media would have
to be approved by NASA headquarters, by public affairs officials before I
could speak. So if I received an e-mail or telephone call, I had to say, `I
can't speak with you. You'll have to contact NASA headquarters and ask for
permission to talk to me.'

GROSS: And you never had to do that before?

Dr. HANSEN: No.

GROSS: Were you also told there would be dire consequences if you continued
to make statements like you did at the American Geophysical Union meeting?

Dr. HANSEN: Well, that message was relayed to me by the public affairs
official in New York City, yes.

GROSS: Now, there were times when things were going on behind the scenes that
I think at the time you weren't even aware of.

And, Mark Bowen, these are some of the things that you report on for the book
"Censoring Science." For example, James Hansen was invited to speak on an NPR
program called "On Point," hosted by Tom Ashbrook. Mark, if you could give us
like a short description of what happened to that interview request?

Mr. MARK BOWEN: Well, it first came into Jim's public affairs officer in New
York City, Leslie McCarthy, and she did what she was supposed to do, which was
to tell everyone in the public affairs department at NASA that this request
had come in. This was mostly a courtesy on her part. But then she began to
get messages that the ninth floor, so-called, which is where all the kind of
senior officials of NASA reside, didn't want Jim to be on NPR. He was then
told that one of the reasons was that it was the most liberal media outlet in
the country, and, you know, Jim didn't actually get that message directly. He
didn't even know this was all going on, as you pointed out, and it was for a
while prevented. He wasn't allowed to speak on NPR.

GROSS: Or at least on that particular show.

Mr. BOWEN: Yes. Until he finally just decided he was going to do it anyway,
which was about six or eight weeks later.

GROSS: James Hansen, why did you decide you were going to do it anyway?

Dr. HANSEN: Well, over the holidays, I thought about this restriction, and I
decided I really had to make it public. I spent the holiday with my family
and my grandchildren, and I decided, you know, that for their sake and just
for the sake of science that I was going to make an issue out of this, and so
I wrote down what had happened in great detail over several pages and made
that available to the media.

GROSS: So what was the reaction you got from NASA?

Dr. HANSEN: Well, this did then, because it came out in the public and it
was reported in the New York Times, it became a major issue in NASA, and
congressmen became involved and became concerned about the constraints on
communication between scientists and the public. And NASA was told that it
really needed to address this problem. So eventually the NASA administrator
did come out with a strong statement that said scientists should be able to
communicate with the public without interference by public affairs officials.

GROSS: So does this make your ability to communicate with the public any more
difficult or any easier when you went public?

Dr. HANSEN: It made it much easier in my case. However, as I pointed out in
a talk shortly thereafter, this is not an isolated incident. This has become
common practice, and all of the science agencies now seem to be headed by
public affairs officials who are political appointees, and who do attempt to
influence the message that goes from the science agencies to the public.

GROSS: Another example that you give of how people at NASA were edited by PR
people was the case of Flint Wild, who was working on a NASA Web site about
Einstein and referring to the big bang. What happened with that?

Mr. BOWEN: Well, there was this young political appointee who played a big
role in Jim's life there for a while--he was the person who was kind of in the
front line preventing the NPR interview from taking place. But earlier, he
had taken an elective interest in cosmology, kind of without his boss'
knowing, particularly, and he had written this e-mail to a fellow named Flint
Wild, who was working on a Web site about Albert Einstein, and I'll read the
e-mail.

It says, "OK, Flint, we've got a slight problem here. These pieces refer to
the big bang as if it were law. As you know, the theory that the universe was
created by a big bang is just that, a theory. First of all, we have been
given direction by our deputy AA"--that is assistant administrator, who would
have been Dean Acosta--"that we are never to refer to the Big Bang as anything
but a theory. Secondly, it is not NASA's place, nor should it be, to make a
declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts
intelligence design by a creator. We as NASA must be diligent here because
this is more than a science issue, this is a religious issue. And I would
hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate
from NASA."

GROSS: Well, Mark Bowen, you write that the orders that were given from the
top to people like George Deutsch, who were then expected to edit information,
that these orders that came from the top were always given verbally so that
there'd be no paper trail, no e-mail trail.

Mr. BOWEN: Right. Actually Jim corrected my thinking about
certain--semantic think. It's actually orally. They were always given by
mouth.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BOWEN: In person in meetings in which there was usually only one witness
at the lower level. It would be often two senior people in the presence of
one career person who was directed in words to do something that this person
usually had severe misgivings about. And this was very consciously done. It
was a very intelligent thing. I mean, you cannot censor science in this
country openly anymore quite yet, and the people were fully aware of that.
The reason that the story at NASA was harder to bring out was that they were
so good at doing it. And what happened was George Deutsch, who was a young
24-year-old kid who was new here, didn't have any background in this sort of
thing, made the mistake of leaving, basically, e-mail records of this
censorship practice.

GROSS: Like the one you just read?

Mr. BOWEN: Yeah.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guests are James Hansen, and he's the
director of the NASA Institute for Space Studies; he's directed it for about
25 years. And he's been studying the human impact on earth's climate since
the 1970s. Also with us is Mark Bowen, who's written a new book about James
Hansen and the censorship of science during the Bush administration. It's
called "Censoring Science."

James Hansen, during the period that you felt you were being censored, you
referred to the mission statement of your office, which included the phrase
"to understand and protect our home planet." Then later you found out that
that line in the mission statement was actually deleted in 2006. How did you
find out, and what was behind the deletion?

Dr. HANSEN: Well, I began to refer to that statement shortly after my talk
at AGU and the censorship issue came up because I thought it provided a very
strong basis for my speaking out that in fact it is my job. That was the
first line in the NASA mission statement, to understand and protect our home
planet. And I used that in my public talks for a couple of months. And then
I was informed by another NASA employee that that line was then deleted from
the NASA mission statement.

And contrary to the construction of that statement, which was a very public
construction, of which all NASA employees were encouraged to comment on the
proposed mission statement, this was deleted basically in the middle of the
night. Nobody knew about it except the highest level at NASA headquarters.
NASA is the largest science agency, spending more resources on studying the
earth than any other agency in the world, and it made a lot of sense that we
would have such a mission statement, so it was quite a disappointment to see
it disappear.

GROSS: James Hansen, you've said that special interest groups have had too
much influence on how the United States deals with climate change. You said,
quote, "It seems to me that special interests have been a roadblock, wielding
undue influence over policymakers." Can you give us an example where you've
seen that happen?

Dr. HANSEN: Well, that's a hard question to answer because the way the
special interests operate is to effect the media, the discussion of climate
change that occurs in the public. They support the scientists that they can
find--and you can always find some scientists who will disagree with a
consensus view--and they make it appear that it's an even-handed issue, that
some people think one thing and others think another and so we're just not
sure what's happening. But the science story has become very clear on global
warming, that it is human made and that it is growing and it's going to cause
very big problems in the future if we don't begin to change our emissions.
And that basically means an impact on the fossil fuel industry. And they're
tremendously powerful. They affect politicians at all levels in both parties.
So it becomes now really a battle, I think, between special interests and the
young people who will inherit the planet and the impact of the things that
we're doing to it.

GROSS: My guests are Dr. James Hansen, director for NASA's Goddard Institute
for Space Studies, and Mark Bowen, the author of "Censoring Science." More
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is James Hansen. He's the
director of the National Institute for Space Studies and he studies climate
change and the human impact on climate change. He's directed the institute
for 25 years. Also with us is Mark Bowen. He's the author of a new book
called "Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen
and the Truth of Global Warming."

James Hansen, you've said, "I believe there is pressure on scientists to be
conservative." You wrote this in July in an article in the New Scientist.
What do you mean by that?

Dr. HANSEN: Well, scientists are naturally reticent, I think. Skepticism is
an essential characteristic in science. You need to continually question
yourself and your conclusions and your analysis. But in the case of global
warming, we've now reached a point where, if we don't take action we're going
to pass tipping points that have large consequences in coming decades and
create a situation in some cases such as ice sheet instability that will
become out of our control. So I think we need to be a little clearer with the
public about the way science operates and the degree to which we can
understand what is happening and what is going to happen in the future.
Otherwise, policymakers and the public just are not aware of the degree to
which we do have a danger facing us.

GROSS: And you feel that the information that global warming is really a
threat to our planet is sufficient to start taking action?

Dr. HANSEN: Yeah. If you combine the information that we get from the
history of the earth, the paleoclimate data, which shows how the earth has
responded in the past to changes in atmospheric composition, combine that with
the satellite data that shows how things are beginning to happen now in the
Arctic, in the Antarctic, and combine this with global models, which are able
to simulate quite reasonably well what is happening--although many of the
things are beginning to happen faster now in the real world than in the
models--the sum of these things gives us a good picture that we do have a
problem and it is solvable. But we need to begin to take the actions to solve
it.

GROSS: James Hansen, what's an example of that?

Dr. HANSEN: Well, a good example is the Arctic sea ice, which this last
summer decreased a large amount to its smallest...

Mr. BOWEN: Twenty percent. Yeah, yeah.

Dr. HANSEN: Yeah, about 20 percent. But perhaps even more important are the
ice sheets. Greenland and especially west Antarctica, we're beginning to see
larger and larger areas with summer melt on these ice sheets, and the effect
of that in speeding up the discharge of giant icebergs to the ocean has been
quite remarkable. We still have time to avoid the disasters in my opinion,
but we're going to need to stabilize and reduce the rate of emission of
especially carbon dioxide, but other greenhouse gases. And if we do that, we
can stabilize the climate, but it requires actions in the near future to do
that. So I think the most important thing that the public needs to do is put
pressure on governments to have a moratorium on coal-fired power plants until
we have the technology to capture and store the carbon dioxide.

GROSS: Can I just interject here that what you said is probably exactly what
makes the Bush administration most uncomfortable, that US scientists are
making policy recommendations that directly affect energy, coal. It would
affect industry and business and so on. And I think they really want you to
draw the line between just saying `this is the science'...

Dr. HANSEN: Yeah, it's...

GROSS: ...and not crossing over and saying `this is what we should do, this
is what policy should be, this is the changes we have to make.' So can you
just...

Dr. HANSEN: Yeah, that's...

GROSS: reflect on where you think the line should be, if any, you know.

Dr. HANSEN: Yeah, the question of relation of science and policy is the
fundamental issue. The problem is that the science inevitably has policy
implications. And if we do not make clear the relation between our science
and policy, it seems that no one will. And I think there's a strong analogy
here to the case of the NASA engineers who realize that there's a potential
problem with the space shuttle, in the case of the O rings on the space
shuttle. I think when you realize there's a problem, it's your responsibility
to make that problem clear to whatever levels it is necessary. And in this
case, too, the highest levels. And in fact, NASA engineers have been told
that. They can go to the highest level if they find a problem that's going to
threaten the lives of astronauts. They're allowed to go to the highest level
with that information. And in this case, the highest level is the public. We
need to make them aware of the implications of the actions that we're taking
in emitting the greenhouse gases.

GROSS: Have you ever felt that you were in danger of losing your job because
of the way you've spoken out?

Dr. HANSEN: Yeah, I've assumed that that's a real possibility. But I would
continue to do science anyhow, even if I lost the job, so it's not that big a
concern of mine.

GROSS: I want to thank you both for talking with us. Thank you very much.

Mr. BOWEN: Thank you, Terry.

Dr. HANSEN: Yeah, thanks.

GROSS: Dr. James Hansen directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Mark Bowen is the author of the book "Censoring Science."

We called NASA for their response to the charge that political appointees
within NASA tried to alter the messages of scientists. We got this written
response from NASA administrator Michael Griffin. Quote, "When these
accusations were made two years ago, NASA put together a team of scientists,
engineers, public affairs officers and others from across the agency to
examine our communications policies and procedures. That team revised and
clarified those policies and procedures to ensure they clearly reflect the
agency's commitment to free and open communications. The revised policy has
been praised by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO report issued
in May 2007 said, `GAO found that overall NASA's policies, including its
recently revised media policy, are clear, and should help facilitate
dissemination of scientific information.'" Unquote.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Paul Dano talks about his roles in "There Will Be
Blood" and "Little Miss Sunshine"
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Paul Dano, gives an incredible performance opposite one of the
greatest actors of our time, Daniel Day-Lewis, in the new film "There Will Be
Blood." It's directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. You may also know Dano from
his performance in "Little Miss Sunshine" as the teenage brother who refuses
to talk. In "There Will Be Blood," Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, an oil man
at the turn of the century. He's a savvy but not always honest salesman
persuading poor people in California to sell or lease their land to him so he
can drill for oil. While he promises them prosperity, a boy preacher who has
started his own church is promising to save people's souls. The preacher is
played by Paul Dano. The preacher and the oil man are often at odds. In this
scene the oil man is preparing to open his new oil well. The preacher walks
into the oil man's office and tries to get in on the action.

(Soundbite from "There Will Be Blood")

Mr. PAUL DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Good morning.

Mr. DANIEL DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Good morning.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) How is all the work coming?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Everything's good.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) All of the men are provided for?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Of course.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Spirits seem high. Is there anything that you
need from me? Anything the church can do for you?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I don't believe so. No, thank you.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) I understand you have asked the people to gather
'round and watch the well begin tomorrow. Is that right?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) That's right.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) I will bless the well. Before you begin you
should introduce me. You'll see me walk up towards the oil well and when I...

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) The derrick.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) You'll see me walk up and then you can say my
name.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) When you walk up?

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Yes. You'll see me walk up and then you could say
"the proud son of these hills who tended his father's flock," and then you
could say my name.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) That's fine.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) And what happens then?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Well, then we start the drilling.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) It's a simple blessing, Daniel, an important one.
It's just a few words that won't take long. What time?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) What time's good for you, Eli?

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Four o'clock.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Well, let's make it 4:00 then. My
thanks for your visit.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Good day. Thank you.

(Soundbite of door closing)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Paul Dano, welcome to FRESH AIR. This is the second time you've acted
opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, and he's an actor famous for the intensity he
brings to researching his roles and for inhabiting his characters. Now, your
character has to show such like great confidence in the scene we just heard.

Mr. DANO: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Did you have that confidence as an actor going up against Lewis in
that scene?

Mr. DANO: Yeah, and I don't say that out of, you know, any sort of
arrogance; rather, I think you have to for the character. I think if you
allow yourself to be intimidated or get self-conscious or look for too much
approval it's going to seep into the work. So you really--you don't have a
choice playing a character like this. You have to sort of go in headfirst and
not look back.

GROSS: Now, you have such a kind of quiet confidence in this scene. You're
telling him kind of quietly, almost in a monotone, you know, like, what he's
going to do and how he's going to do it.

Mr. DANO: Hm.

GROSS: Was that an intentional decision on your part to keep it like really
quiet to show your power?

Mr. DANO: Yeah.

GROSS: Or to show the power you thought you had?

Mr. DANO: Yeah. I think so. I think there's a charisma to Eli Sunday, the
character I play. And there's a certain savviness to him. And I think his
demeanor is meant to be seen as sincere as well as powerful. And I think
there's a relation to Eli that I saw in the relationship a lot of people have
with God, which is that you love God but you fear God. And I think, to me, to
bring in my congregation and the people the way I wanted to you have to sort
of make them feel loved and appreciated and comfortable. And then you also
have to be able to scare them. And I think in the sermons you sort of get
that idea, where his quiet demeanor leads him to something that overtakes him
and is a little more forwardly, externally powerful.

GROSS: Well, like there's one scene, for instance, it's kind of somewheres
between a faith healing and an exorcism. You lay your hands on a sick woman
and then you're throwing the devil out of her. What are you saying, like, "go
out, devil; get out, devil." What do you say?

Mr. DANO: Yeah, you know, "get out of here, devil" and, you know, I suck the
devil out of her hands, basically. She has arthritis and I--yeah, I cast that
demon out.

GROSS: And you're physically doing it. I mean, you're kind of like
physically throwing out this invisible devil. What did you--who did you look
at? Who did you read about or watch on TV to kind of figure out how you were
going to approach that?

Mr. DANO: Well, I certainly did research for the period and did look up
things about evangelical preachers. But here's the privilege I had with this
character Eli. He is a boy who did not have radio or television or Internet,
for that matter. He did not have a lot of books. He didn't have money to go
travel around and see other preachers. Maybe a preacher came to his town or a
neighboring town and he did get to go see them. But he's somebody who, I
think, really made himself up. I think he invented himself. I think he's
quite a bit of an actor. I think he created a persona at a very young age
once he saw what religion and his curiosity with religion could do for him,
and he was sort of savvy and charismatic and cunning enough to be able to use
that, and it manifested itself into this persona that I really think he
invented.

So as an actor I had this privilege to really make him up as I saw fit. I did
not want to directly emulate anybody in particular. And I think Paul
Anderson, who wrote the script, as well as directed it, he's just as good a
writer as he is a director. And his words and the language were so wonderful
that a lot of it, any physicality or anything, came from that; it came
directly from the words. And I think, you know, channeling that was really
the most important thing.

GROSS: When I interviewed Paul Thomas Anderson a couple of weeks ago, I
didn't know that you weren't supposed to have the role of the boy preacher,
that you were originally cast as the boy preacher's brother.

Mr. DANO: Hm.

GROSS: And this is the brother who wants to get away from the church and his
family and is only in one scene very early in the film.

Mr. DANO: Hm.

GROSS: Would you explain how you ended up playing both brothers?

Mr. DANO: Yeah. I was originally cast as a character named Paul Sunday, who
is the brother to the preacher Eli Sunday. And, you know, I went down to
Texas to do that part. And for one reason or another--for a reason I don't
know, you know, Paul wanted me then to actually do the Eli part, which is a
really fantastic part in this film.

GROSS: Now, just fill in the blanks here. Somebody else had been cast in
that role and was replaced with you.

Mr. DANO: Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. DANO: And for what reason I'm not sure and I don't care to know even, or
I didn't want to.

GROSS: Right. Sure.

Mr. DANO: You know, because it's just a distraction. And I remember meeting
with Paul on a Thursday, I think it was, and he said, you know, we looked at
some scenes and talked about the part a little bit and he said, `You know, I'd
like you to do this part.' And they'd been filming a little bit already. So I
said, oh, OK, that's great. That's a little bit of a shock and, you know.
And he said, `And, you know, why don't you still play the Paul part and we'll
just make them twins.' And I said, OK, well, this is really great. And we
sort of, you know, took a little bit of an "East of Eden" or Cain and Abel,
you know, idea and tried to, you know, make that work with the twins. And
then I said, OK, this is great, you know, I really want to do it and when do
we start. And he said `on Monday.' And it was Thursday. So I then underwent
three and a half days of submersion into this world and started filming six
days a week for quite some time and came out alive, I guess.

GROSS: What I love about this is that you had, you know, like less than a
week to get into character and to prepare to shoot. And Daniel Day-Lewis
probably spent like a year or more like preparing for it.

Mr. DANO: Right. I know.

GROSS: So that must have been like quite a contrast?

Mr. DANO: I know. That kills me. At first, that was the first thing that
probably popped into my head. And knowing how well Daniel is able to immerse
himself into a world and into a character. And you certainly--it's a peeve of
mine when you see a period piece when you don't see the people fitting into
that world. So right away that was, my first concern was becoming acclimated
to this world and to this time period before anything, setting, you know, that
as sort of the ground work and then, you know, the biblical work and, you
know.

But I have to say there was one good thing about it, which is that I sort of
didn't have time to second guess myself or get nervous or get intimidated by
anybody or anything. And I really didn't have a chance to get heady about it.
I just had to use any and all of the animal and primal instincts I had for
this part and just go for it without looking back. And, you know, that was a
blessing in many instances, I think. Because I also think that's the way the
Eli largely operates. And I think that's why he gets in over his head. He's
very smart but, you know, not book smart, more of this sort of street smart.
And he's a bit of an animal himself. And once he's threatened by this
presence of Daniel Plainview, these animal instincts sort of kick in and he
gets into sort of a battle that he's really not prepared for. So I tried to
use the situation to my advantage.

GROSS: But you did try to get acclimated to the period, the turn of the 20th
century. What did you do to get acclimated?

Mr. DANO: Oh, sure. I mean, you know, luckily then had tons of reference
and research down there and I spent, you know, time reading what I could and
looking at pictures. I have to say, this guy Jack Fisk, the production
designer for the film, built these beautiful sets on this ranch down in Texas.
And there was nothing better than just spending time in the church and on the
Sunday ranch and getting into the clothes. And it's amazing how quickly you
do feel like you're actually there because, you know, we were surrounded by
these wonderful extras from Texas who were not Hollywood actors. They were
people who worked the land down there and who lived down there, and they
looked wonderful in these clothes.

And I really fell in love with this little church I had and just spent all my
time--any research rehearsing I did I did on set where they weren't filming
and just tried to throw myself in there. And it was amazing how quickly it
happened because it did feel--it felt authentic. And it felt wonderful. It's
really, you know, as an actor your imagination is your key tool, but it's
really a blessing when you have a reality around you like that that helps you
reach that imaginatory point you want to get to.

GROSS: My guest is Paul Dano. He plays the young preacher in the new film
"There Will Be Blood." The preacher has started a church where he claims to
have a direct line to God and practices faith healing. He's at odds with the
oil man, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. The oil man has been buying up all the
land in the area. Without giving away too much of the story, in this scene
the preacher gets even with the oil man by making the oil man who has no
belief in God come to the church, and at the church the preacher confronts
him.

(Soundbite from "There Will Be Blood")

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) You've come here and you've brought good and
wealth, but you have also brought your bad habits as a backslider. You've
lusted after women, and you have abandoned your child, your child that you
raised. You have abandoned all because he was sick and you have sinned. So
say it now, `I am a sinner.'

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I'm a sinner.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Say it louder. `I am a sinner.'

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I'm a sinner.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Louder Daniel! `I am a sinner!'

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I am a sinner!

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) `I am sorry, Lord.'

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I am sorry, Lord.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) `I want the blood.'

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I want the blood.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) You have abandoned your child!

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I've abandoned my child.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) I will never backslide.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I will never backslide.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) I was lost but now I am found!

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I was lost but now I'm found.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) `I have abandoned my child.' Say it. Say it.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I abandoned my child.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Say it louder. Say it louder!

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I've abandoned my child! I've
abandoned my child! I've abandoned my boy!

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That was Paul Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis in a scene from "There Will Be
Blood." Let's get back to our interview with Paul Dano.

Do you have a favorite story about making the movie?

Mr. DANO: Let me think for one sec. Oh, you know, there's two scenes in the
film. There's a scene where Daniel Day-Lewis slaps me around, slaps my
character around and he drags me and puts me in the mud and shoves mud in my
mouth. And then the very next day we filmed a scene where I sort of get my
revenge in church and I baptize him and I slap the devil out of him, and the
sin out of him. And luckily we filmed those scenes two days back to back. So
Daniel slapped me around one day and then the very next day I got to get my
revenge.

And the first take of the scene where I get to slap Daniel around, I was not
supposed to actually slap him in the face because, you know, his face is going
to get red and we have to do multiple takes and coverage. And it's a long
scene so, you know, it's a few minutes long at least, and I guess once we got
into it I forgot and I just slapped the hell out of his face on the very first
take.

GROSS: Oh, gee.

Mr. DANO: Which was a lot of fun and very thrilling. But as soon as they
yelled `cut,' I said to myself, oh, boy, I was not supposed to do that. And I
was sort of mortified and thrilled at the same time. But I think everybody
else was thrilled because the scene was going well and we were sort of having
fun and getting into it.

GROSS: What about being thrown in the mud? How did that feel?

Mr. DANO: Well, the first couple of takes we actually didn't do the mud
thing. That got added in, conveniently added in, for the people watching.
And not so conveniently for me. Originally it was just some slapping around,
and then we saw the mud off in the distance and either Daniel or Paul said,
`Well, he's got to go in the mud.' And I said, OK, well, put me in the mud.
And we just sort of--we did it. We did it on the last take. And we said
`well, that was really great. So let's hose him down and let's try and let's
try get another take in in the mud' and then it ended up making it in the
film. So I guess it was worth eating a little mud.

GROSS: My guest is Paul Dano, and he plays a boy preacher in the new film
"There Will Be Blood."

Paul, a lot of people know you for your role in "Little Miss Sunshine." And
for our listeners who haven't seen that movie, it's about a dysfunctional
family on their way to a kiddie beauty pageant that the daughter is going to
compete in, and you're her older brother. And you've basically stopped
talking for most of the movie because you're so angry with your family and so
alienated from them.

Mr. DANO: Mm-hmm. Mm.

GROSS: And what's it like to go through most of a movie not speaking?

Mr. DANO: It's funny. I've had numerous people say to me, `oh, that must
have been a lot easier to not have to talk.' And it's the exact opposite. It
was so much harder to have to contribute to a scene and be a part of a scene
without saying anything. And it was a great challenge, and I don't even think
I knew how hard it was going to be until, you know, you sort of got into the
room and in front of the cameras and said, whoa, you know, we're doing an
eight page scene here. And, you know, filming five minutes at a time, and I
have to contribute to this scene without saying anything. And it was really,
really a great learning experience for that reason because a lot of acting is
about listening. And I have to say I learned quite a bit doing that part.

GROSS: Your ambition in this movie is to be a military test pilot. And on
this road trip to kill time your younger sister is giving you these vision
tests.

Mr. DANO: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And it turns out that you're color blind.

Mr. DANO: Yeah.

GROSS: And, therefore, you're not eligible to do what you want to do, which
is become a test pilot. So when you find that out you get hysterical and you
just start pounding the walls and the ceiling of the VW bus. And your father
stops the car, you run down the side of the road screaming and weeping. And
you're followed by your mother who talks with you. She's played by Toni
Collette. I want to play that scene.

Mr. DANO: OK.

(Soundbite from "Little Miss Sunshine")

Ms. TONI COLLETTE: (As Sheryl Hoover) Duane? Duane, honey, I'm sorry.
Duane, come on, we have--we have to go.

Mr. DANO: (As Duane Hoover) I'm not going.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Sheryl Hoover) Duane...

Mr. DANO: (As Duane Hoover) I said I'm not. OK. I don't care. I'm not
getting on that bus again.

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Sheryl Hoover) Duane, for better or worse, we're your
family.

Mr. DANO: (As Duane Hoover) No, you're not my family. OK. I don't want to
be your family. I hate you...(word censored by network)...people! I hate
you! Divorce? Bankrupt? Suicide? You...(word censored by
network)...losers. You're losers! No. Please, just leave me here, Mom. OK?
Please, please, please.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. DANO: Terry, that was torture. Torture listening to myself like that.

GROSS: Why?

Mr. DANO: Oh, it's such a--do you not have this as a radio host listening to
your own voice? Is that not...

GROSS: Well, yeah, I do.

Mr. DANO: Yeah, I mean it's like...

GROSS: I shouldn't act surprised.

Mr. DANO: ...a horrible...

GROSS: I know.

Mr. DANO: It's, yeah. Wow.

GROSS: I know.

Mr. DANO: Yeah.

GROSS: But you're so good at it.

Mr. DANO: No.

GROSS: It's such a good performance. And I really like the way, you know,
after not speaking for this whole film basically you just get unplugged. I
mean, you just explode. And you're really, really upset yet there's this
slight comic edge to it.

Mr. DANO: Mm.

GROSS: And that must have been a hard line to walk, to be like that angry but
to know that you're also in a comedy and there's a slight...

Mr. DANO: Right. Yeah. Yeah, it certainly was. I think the key to
that--to me, the key to that film was that you sort of--if you take people to
a sort of honest and real level of disappointment, almost, the comedy that
comes out of that is much truer and more relatable and, therefore, more funny,
I think. And I think, hopefully, you know, not laughing at always and
sometimes laughing with--and I think it's a very fine line.

And I think, you know, luckily the people who directed that, Jonathan Dayton
and Valerie Faris, a lot of credit goes to them because it's really tough to
make a film like that work, actually, which does sort of walk that line
because there is, as much of a comedy as it is, there is that, you know, that
undertow of drama. And especially in a scene like that. And, you know, I
felt in good hands and lucky to have them.

GROSS: My guest is Paul Dano. He plays the young preacher in the new film
"There Will Be Blood."

Now, you started acting on Broadway when you were 12? Do I have that right?

Mr. DANO: Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: How did that happen? How did you get your first Broadway part?

Mr. DANO: You know, I always did plays all my life, but sort of as an
activity. Like, I went to school. I went to normal school and I'd go to
soccer practice. And then I'd go to the local theater and do public theater
for fun, you know, with other kids and with adults. And it was literally just
something that I was attracted to, but not necessarily in an overly ambitious
way. I was a kid, you know, had fun doing it. And somebody saw me in a
public show and asked me to, you know, do a part in a regional show, which is
technically professional theater--a stupid, you know, silly word,
"professional." But I guess, you know, you get paid for it is the difference
between that and, you know, maybe public theater. And that led to me doing a
Broadway show. And it was sort of this strange little snowball effect.

But, you know, it was always important to me--I mean, I was always in school
and still sort of playing sports and being a kid, you know, and doing a lot of
stupid things. And I luckily also sort of got a headstart on the acting
career. But I don't know, even though I might have been doing some Broadway
stuff when I was 12, 13, 14, I'm not sure that I saw it as a feasible thing to
do as an adult. And I'm not sure I knew I even wanted to be an actor. I
think I was very keen on leaving my options open and sort of seeing what else
is out there.

GROSS: How active were your parents in your early career?

Mr. DANO: Well, at that age you have to legally have somebody there to, you
know, sort of take care of you. You can't just show up at the theater when
you're 12 and be there for hours unsupervised. So, you know, a lot of credit
sort of goes to my parents for sort of putting up with that and supporting me.
And they've been pretty tremendous throughout all this. My first film when I
was 16 and it was a film that was not the kind of subject--it was sort of--it
involved, you know, a pedophile. It was this film called "L.I.E." and Brian
Cox played this sort of pedophile. And it's a really wonderful film,
actually, but they were completely open to me wanting to do this, which is,
you know, sort of rare.

Their encouragement, it's been really important. I don't think I probably
give enough credit. I hope they listen to this. I got to tell them to listen
to this because they'll appreciate hearing me say that because I'm not sure I
say it to them enough. But I guess they played an important part of it. But
they certainly didn't encourage me not to do things. But they certainly
didn't overencourage me to do things either.

GROSS: Were your parents involved in theater? What did they do
professionally?

Mr. DANO: No. My dad was a businessman and my mom worked. But once she had
me and my sister she just took care of us. And, yeah, no, I don't know where
it came from. They're both--they're terrible actors and they can't sing and
they really don't watch good films or anything. So I'm not sure where it came
from. Or even my interest. I'm not even sure where that came from. I think
it was just something I was drawn to.

GROSS: You had said something in an earlier interview that I really related
to. You said that it was uncomfortable for you to be recognized by people
because you were always afraid that you're going to disappoint them.

Mr. DANO: Oh, did I say that?

GROSS: Yeah, you did.

Mr. DANO: That's horrible.

GROSS: Do you still feel that way?

Mr. DANO: I might have been being a little crass when I said that, or
kidding a little bit. I mean, being, you know, recognized it's nice when
people enjoy your work and have seen a film you're in. But it's just not the
most comfortable thing, to be recognized. Certainly, to me, it's the downfall
of this job of being an actor, is that idea of being a celebrity is 100
percent unattractive to me. And I don't consider myself one. I'm not saying
I am. But the idea of possibly becoming one is really the pitfall of the job.
And I think some people are attracted to that. And I can't for the life of me
figure out why.

GROSS: Well, Paul Dano, thanks so much for talking with us.

Mr. DANO: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me.

GROSS: Paul Dano plays the young preacher in "There Will Be Blood."

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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