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'There Will Be Blood' Director Paul Thomas Anderson

Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including the the prizes for best picture and best director, Paul Thomas Anderson's film, There Will Be Blood, won Oscars for cinematography and best actor.


Other segments from the episode on March 28, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 28, 2008: Interview with Paul Thomas Anderson; Interview with Paul Dano; Review of the film "Stop-loss."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Paul Thomas Anderson discusses writing and directing
his new film "There Will Be Blood"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross.

(Soundbite from "There Will Be Blood")

Mr. DANIEL DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Ladies and gentlemen, if I say
I'm an oilman, you will agree. I've traveled across half our state to be here
and to see about this land. I'm a family man. This is my son and my partner,
H.W. Plainview. I have many wells flowing at many thousand barrels per day.
I can guarantee to start drilling, to put up the cash to back my word.

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: That's Daniel Day-Lewis, as an oilman during the early days of the
oil industry, in the new movie "There Will Be Blood." A few months ago, Terry
spoke with the film's writer and director, Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson
also made "Boogie Nights," "Hard Eight," "Magnolia" and "Punch Drunk Love." He
was nominated for three Academy Awards this year, for writing, directing and
producing "There Will Be Blood," which will be released on DVD early next

The movie is loosely based on the 1927 novel "Oil" by Upton Sinclair. Daniel
Day-Lewis plays a silver prospector who discovers oil, then buys the drilling
rights to oil rich land in rural California by promising poor families he can
transform their lives through the money oil will bring. But in one town, he
meets a boy preacher and faith healer named Eli Sunday, who also is promising
the townspeople he can transform their lives through his direct connections to
the Holy Spirit. In this scene the oilman, Daniel Plainview, is trying to
convince the boy preacher and his father to let Plainview drill for oil on
their land. The preacher is played by Paul Dano, who co-starred in "Little
Miss Sunshine" as the silent brother.

(Soundbite from "There Will Be Blood")

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) My offer to you is $3700.

Mr. PAUL DANO: (As Eli Sunday) What is it that brought you here, sir?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) The good Lord's guidance. Now, of
course, within that we would...

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) What about...

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) ...develop a lease.

What's that?

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) What about our oil?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) What about it?

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) We have oil here. That's worth something.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Oh, you have someone who can drill for
it? You think there's oil here.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) I know there is.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) It's very expensive to drill, to get it
up and out of the ground. You ever tried that before?

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) How much is it?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Costly.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Well, our oil sits right up on top of the ground.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I believe that's called seepage.
Doesn't necessarily mean there's anything underneath.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) What would you give us for it?

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) I don't know.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Something you don't know.

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

What would you like, Eli?

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Ten thousand dollars.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) For what?

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) For my church.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) That's good. That's a good one. Well,
if we decide to drill for oil and if the well begins to produce, I'll give
your church a $5,000 signing bonus.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) Ten thousand.

Mr. DAY-LEWIS: (As Daniel Plainview) Do you want to find someone else that's
going to come up here and drill, Eli? Make the investment and do all the hard
work that goes into it?

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: A little later on, we'll hear Terry's interview with Paul Dano,
who plays the preacher. But first, let's listen to her 2007 interview with
the writer and director of "There Will Be Blood," Paul Thomas Anderson.


Paul Thomas Anderson, welcome back to FRESH AIR. And congratulations on the

You know, an interesting thing about "There Will Be Blood" is that there's no
real pleasure in the movie. I don't mean in watching the movie; but, I mean,
the characters in the movie have no pleasure. There's very little eating in
the movie, there's no sex, there's no entertainment, and even the oilman who
becomes quite wealthy doesn't seem to be interested in much that money can
buy. He's interested in finding oil. That's his obsession. That's all he
really seems to care about.

Mr. PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON: You know, it says something about the men of this
period--that were kind of on the tail end of the wild, wild West--who started
as silver miners and kind of got into the oil business because that's what was
happening, you know, that was what was in front of them. They could never
really shake that ambition and that drive to work, that what they enjoyed the
most was the fever and the insanity, just the process that actually getting
the stuff or the riches from it somehow was really unsatisfying to them,
that's my guess, because so many of them had this incredibly hard time
transitioning into the 20th century. You know, they'd have these palatial
mansions, but they'd still live like they were living in a tent, you know. So
whatever they were after, once they got it, clearly wasn't satisfying their
hunger, that they liked being hungry. They probably preferred being hungry.

GROSS: The way your movie is, it revolves around two people's stories. One
of them is the independent oilman who becomes a millionaire through acquiring
all this oil property, and then this like boy preacher who's a fundamentalist
preacher and claims to be able to get rid of the devil, no matter where the
devil is, in a room or in your body. And they're both great salesmen. They
both have their pitches down, and they're both completely the opposite of each
other in terms of what it is that they're pitching. And, I guess, what
interested you in this dichotomy between the oilman and the boy preacher?

Mr. ANDERSON: First and foremost, it's a great boxing match.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. ANDERSON: You know, they start out with their wits and their words, and,
yeah, then they start throwing punches. But just that idea of a boxing match,
you know, was so terrific. It's funny because I had originally thought it
would be a good idea. It turned out it was not a good idea, but I had
imagined the boy preacher's like, you know, 12 or 13 years old, you know, that
no matter what Plainview--no matter what age somebody he was faced with,
somebody had his own same line of BS, you know, they were going to be a
formidable opponent. We thought better of it. You know, we thought that
would be a little bit absurd to have a 12- or 13-year-old boy, but the ideas
remain the same, just to get them in the ring together.

GROSS: "There Will Be Blood" is set in the late 19th and early 20th century,
but the two kind of themes--two of the themes of the movie are so
contemporary, you know, corporate obsession and power and religious obsession
and power, still two of the driving forces in our country and our culture. I
guess you were thinking about that a lot when you made the film.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, of course. But best to approach it, like I said, like a
boxing match or like a horror story, you know, rather than kind of this sort
of the endless kind of punctuation that you could put on that kind of stuff
that's there already. You know, you've got an oilman, you've got a preacher.
Let the rest just be a fight to the death.

GROSS: You had to learn so much to recreate the period, and you had to learn
a lot about the early days of oil exploration. Let's talk a little bit about
that. I mean, like in the early part of the film, when the Daniel Day-Lewis
character is first learning how to dig for oil, I mean, the technology is
basically like a bucket on a pulley that he pulls up by hand.


GROSS: And then he deposits the oil in a big puddle by the well.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, that's it.

GROSS: Yeah. And then things kind of like grow a little from there. Go

Mr. ANDERSON: That's, I mean, all that stuff just comes from the written
descriptions of how Edward Doheny first found oil right near Dodgers Stadium
near downtown LA. They talk about starting out, usually they were essentially
using what they knew as silver miners, which is you'd dig a hole. And then
they realized they were down about, you know, 50-60 feet and that they were
choking on the fumes. They said, `Well, we can't be down here to get this
stuff up out of here. How are we going to do it?' And they built an A-frame,
you know, with a 50-foot eucalyptus tree that they'd shaved down and were just
trying to drive it into the ground. I mean, these really primitive, primitive
techniques. And the funny thing is, as much as it's changed, it's still kind
of the same as it is today, just driving an enormous pole into the ground over
and over and over again until, you know, you poke the monster enough and it

But, yeah, we just were kind of we were recreating things that were written
down by people that were there, you know, saying, `We found the oil, and we
scooped it up with whatever we had, bottles and cans and sauce pans.' Whatever
it was. Just that fever to get it up and out of the ground. They didn't even
really have a place to put it, so they were just digging holes.

GROSS: There are some really horrifying accidents that happened during the
course of the movie while people are digging for oil. Did you study up on
what typical accidents were like in those early oil days?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, we read about a few, you know, and then they're all so
graphic. I mean, there were a few written about in Upton Sinclair's book, and
then a few just from various other sources that we had. But then when we
built the derrick and we got out there, and we had this terrific guy Jim
Farmer, who's an old oilman who came out to help us out with some of the
details of the drilling. And, boy, once we met him, I mean, the stories just
came fast and furious, you know. I mean, to the point where you just had kind
of had enough, like I don't need to hear about one more accident, you know,
but quite honestly, you were aware of the dangers every single second,
particularly when you've got a film crew around, you know, just everything was
dangerous. The danger that something was going fall, the danger that your
fingers were going to get caught somewhere. I mean, it's horribly dangerous
labor, and particularly out there where I think, at the time, these oil guys
worked in 12 hours shifts. So for 12 hours, they would work, and then they'd
go to wherever the bar was and drink for 10 hours, sleep for two hours,
probably stop at church on the way in, then do it all over again. You know,
so not only is there the danger just in general, but factor in booze and heat
and all the rest and it's just--it's amazing.

GROSS: So is one of the accidents in the movie based on a story that you were
told about a real accident or something that you read?

Mr. ANDERSON: The bit falling was a character named Joe Gunda who you met
briefly, the bits fall and he's down in a cellar, which is a place where they
sort of collect the mud. That was from the Upton Sinclair book, where I first
read it. And then talking to some of our old-timers and oil guys, they would
just tell us endless stories about bits falling, guys drowning in the mud,
maybe they'd get hit in the head by something that fell, and that wouldn't be
what killed them, but, you know, drowning in this mud would be the thing that
got them. Not to mention the work that they were doing, you know, high up.
These derricks were 80 feet tall. So, you know, from time to time, people
would fall.

And then, I mean, we're not even factoring in what happens when these things
do come in. Ideally for them, they knew when they were coming in. They knew
they'd sort of hit a certain sand that they were looking at and smelling and
saying, `OK. We're very close.' And they could prepare however they did
prepare for the gusher to come in. But those times when a gusher would come
in and they didn't know it, I mean, you were in trouble. You were in a lot of
trouble, particularly if it lit on fire, and anything could light it on fire.
Just a rock shooting up out of the ground could be a spark that could catch a

GROSS: And that happens in the movie, and there's this huge fire that erupts
after the gusher starts gushing. And I'm thinking about how challenging that
scene must have been to create. First of all, I don't know if an oil fire
burns differently than, say, a wood fire or any other fire, and if you had to
make sure that you were creating an oil fire so that the fire would look

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, well, black smoke is the key, you know. Oil burns
black, and we were using diesel fuel, and it burned pretty darn close to how
real crude oil would burn. We augmented it a little bit with some digital
effects, just helping to kind of darken it a little bit. But it sure felt
like the real thing. When we did it, you know, we had a special effects guy,
terrific guy named Steve Cremin, whose job it was to get thousands of gallons
of diesel fuel spouting up in the air and then to light it on fire. And he
said to us, you know, `There's no--I cannot guarantee that I can put this fire
out. I can do it and I can turn it off, but once that derrick catches on
fire, there's a chance I might not be able to put it out.' We thought he was
just playing it safe, you know, that that would be--but the second we lit the
match, it was clear there was no way we were going to be able to put it out
because the wood was so dry. There was so much gasoline. And we were
essentially forced to do that entire sequence within two takes in about 45
minutes before the derrick tumbled to the ground.

GROSS: Yeah. And the fire's alive. I mean, so you're shooting something
that has like a life of its own.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. It doesn't take direction very well.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. ANDERSON: But that's what's fun about it, too, you know. It's great. I
mean, we were so nervous leading up to lighting that fire because, first of
all, we were in love with our derrick. You know, we were so proud of it. And
we knew we were going to be completely melancholy when it was gone. Mixed in
with it, we were all completely petrified at the prospect of screwing it up.
I mean, what are you going to do? We're not going to build it again. That
wasn't going to happen, You know, and obviously we were pretty careful. We
weren't going to do it if the wind was blowing too much. To be really honest
with you, it was kind of one of the benefits of shooting out in west Texas
because they're a lot looser out there, you know. I don't think we could have
done anything like that in California. They would have had a heart attack out

BIANCULLI: "There Will Be Blood," Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 movie about the
birth of the oil industry is still playing in some theaters and is about to
come out on DVD. It won two Oscars, for cinematography and for Daniel
Day-Lewis' starring role; and was nominated for six others, including Motion
Picture of the Year.

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

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

Our next guest, Paul Dano, gives an incredible performance in the film playing
the boy preacher. Daniel Day-Lewis, in an extraordinary performance, plays
Daniel Plainview, an oilman at the turn of the century. Plainview is 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. The oilman promises them
prosperity, while the boy preacher who has started his own church promises to
save people's souls. The preacher and the oilman often are at odds. In this
scene, the oilman is preparing to open his new oil well. The preacher walks
into the oilman'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 could say my

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 drill.

Mr. DANO: (As Eli Sunday) It's a simple blessing, Daniel, but 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)


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: 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 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 and externally

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. 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

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.

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for
Broadcasting & Cable magazine and, sitting in for Terry

Let's continue our interview with Paul Dano. He plays the young preacher in
the film "There Will Be Blood," which won two Academy Awards, for
cinematography and for lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis. It soon will be out on

The boy preacher, played by Dano, has started a church where he claims to have
a direct line to God and practices faith healing. He's at odds with the
oilman, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who is buying up all the land. Without
giving away too much of the story, in this scene the preacher gets even with
the oilman by making the oilman, who has no belief in God, come to the church
for a confrontation in front of the congregation.

(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)

BIANCULLI: Paul Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis in a scene from "There Will Be

Let's get back to Terry's 2007 interview with Paul Dano.

GROSS: 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

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

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 then we said
`Well, that was really great. So let's hose him down and let's try and 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 in 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

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.


(Soundbite from "Little Miss Sunshine")

Ms. TONI COLLETTE: (As Sheryl Hoover) Duane? Duane, honey, I'm sorry.

(Soundbite of person crying)

Ms. COLLETTE: (As Sheryl Hoover) 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

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.


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

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. But, you know, it was important to me. 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 head start 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.

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. I did 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 has 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

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

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

BIANCULLI: Paul Dano speaking to Terry Gross earlier this year. His movie
"There Will Be Blood" will be released on DVD early next month.

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

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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

Review: David Edelstein on new film "Stop-Loss"

Nine years after Kimberly Peirce's acclaimed independent first film "Boys
Don't Cry," the director teamed up with Paramount and MTV Films to make the
new drama "Stop-Loss." The title refers to the government policy invoked
during times of war that keeps soldiers in the military past the day when
their service was suppose to end. The film stars Ryan Phillippe, Abbie
Cornish and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: At first glance, Kimberly Peirce's "Stop-Loss" doesn't
bear much resemblance to her momentous debut "Boys Don't Cry," the story of a
young woman who pretends joyfully to be a man, and when she's discovered is
raped and murdered. But the films are connected.

Peirce has a knack for getting inside the heads of young men, for illuminating
their bonds and rituals in a way that should be the envy of male directors.
Last year's Iraq and war-on-terror movies tanked. And you wouldn't know this
is a political film from the posters, which feature four young people staring
into the camera like John Hughes characters contemplating the senior prom.
But in a sometimes live wire, sometimes ungainly way, "Stop-Loss" evokes the
pain of young American cowboy types who've lost all sense of autonomy.

The movie centers on three Texas soldiers, good ole boys, who return from Iraq
right after an ambush that left some of their buddies dead and maimed, and
another grimly stoic after inadvertently killing women and children. That's
the opening sequence, and Peirce makes you understand the adrenaline-fueled
hyper-awareness of these men at a checkpoint as they almost fire on a family
speeding toward them. Then the unreality of the moment when insurgents in
another speeding car suddenly open fire on them. They make split-second and
not-too-wise decisions as the insurgents melt into civilian crowds.

And when it's all over and they roll into Texas on a bus, ready to be
discharged, you get a palpable sense of how wound up they are, how they're
itching to get very, very drunk and have crazy sex and court oblivion. They
barely make it through the parade and the welcome speech of a US senator
before they're throwing back shots and retching and punching people out.

The first night home, Tommy, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, gets thrown out
by his wife. Steve, played by Channing Tatum, backhands his fiancee,
Michelle, played by Abbie Cornish, and begins to dig a trench in the yard
while screaming he's under fire. Brandon, played by Ryan Phillippe, seems the
most stable, until he goes back on the base to get his discharge papers.

(Soundbite of "Stop-Loss")

Unidentified Actor: (In character) It says here you have orders to report to
the 1st Brigade.

Mr. RYAN PHILLIPPE: (As Brandon King) Not me. I'm getting out today.

Actor: (In character) Brandon Leonard King?

Mr. PHILLIPPE: (As Brandon King) Yes.

Actor: (In character) Out to the 1st Brigade on the 22nd.

Mr. PHILLIPPE: (As Brandon King) This is a mistake.

Actor: (In character) It's all there. You leave on the 22nd, shipping back
to Iraq. Subsection 12305, title 10, by the authority of the president.
You've been stop-lossed.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: Ryan Phillippe has never struck me as much of an actor, but
in "Stop-Loss" he's very impressive, convincingly edgy and disoriented. He
tells his commanding officer no, he's not going back. He punches out two
guards. He goes AWOL. He can't believe what's happening. And neither can
his mother, played by Linda Emond, and his pal Steve's fiancee, Michelle.

(Soundbite of "Stop-Loss")

Ms. LINDA EMOND: (As Ida King) They stop-lossed you? How can they do this?

Mr. PHILLIPPE: (As Brandon King) They're doing whatever they want to do.
With a shortage of guys and no draft, they're shipping back soldiers who's
supposed to be getting out. It's a backdoor draft is what it is.

Ms. ABBIE CORNISH: (As Michelle) What about Steve?

Mr. PHILLIPPE: (As Brandon King) Mich, I don't know. Some of us are getting
it, some ain't.

Ms. EMOND: (As Ida King) This cannot be happening. No, you almost died over
there. What do you want to do? You want me to take you to Mexico till this
blows over?

Mr. PHILLIPPE: (As Brandon King) No, no, no. Out of the question, Mom. I
ain't dragging my tail across to Mexico.

Ms. CORNISH: (As Michelle) I'll take you.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: Michelle does drive him--not to Mexico but to Washington,
where he hopes the senator who once promised him the world will stop the
stop-loss. It's during Michelle and Brandon's road trip that "Stop-Loss"
loses momentum. There's lots of talk and lots of shots of their car going
over bridges, but this is the bitter core of the film and it should be crawly
and discomfiting. A visit to the family of a dead comrade, to their
hospitalized buddy, Rico, played by Victor Rasuk, who's blind and has lost one
arm and two legs, and to a flea-bag motel where another AWOL stop-loss soldier
hides with his wife and sick child.

The young Australian actress Abbie Cornish makes Michelle--potentially a
thankless role--a vivid observer. She's struggling to understand what Iraq
and stop-loss, a changing of the rules in midstream, means to men who thought
in war you knew who the bad guys were, and when you were out you were out.
Brandon has no real recourse, and Peirce has no answers.

The power of the film--and this is no joke--is that it shows him between Iraq
and a hard place.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.
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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