Paul Dano on How He Prepared to Play Author Nick Flynn in ‘Being Flynn’
Not only is Dano cast as author Nick Flynn himself, but he is acting opposite Robert De Niro, who plays his con artist father, who Flynn encountered while working at a homeless shelter in Boston. After being “moved by the script,” Dano explains the preparation he underwent in order to play Flynn in the movie.
After reading the script, Dano’s next step before meeting Flynn was to purchase Flynn’s memoir. However, he found himself confronted but what could only be called a set-up. He recalls, “I went to my local bookstore to buy it, and the people at the bookstore said, ‘Oh, no, we have a different copy for you.’ They brought me out a copy – with a note written in it to me from Nick. I was spooked; how did he know what bookstore I’d visit to buy the book? Turns out he lives in my neighborhood.”
Naturally, once Dano got the part he spent a lot of time with Flynn, but was careful to still imbue the role with his own feeling for the character. He explains, “As an actor, you want to be faithful to the material, but also to personalize it, so as we talked a lot and spent more time together, I was able to take what I could from both the script — into which Paul [Weitz, writer/director] had put so many pieces of Nick – and Nick himself, and then make my own contributions to the characterization. I wasn’t trying to do an impression.”
Still, there was one element of Flynn that heavily influenced Dano’s characterization: music. Dano made sure that he was “listening to music that Nick listened to at the time, which I learned about from either asking him or from reading the memoir. For me, music is an art form that I feel slips into your bloodstream. Hearing it on-set helps me stay focused. I would also listen to music that I found relevant in some way to Nick or his story; I think that Nick has a little bit of a punk rock spirit in him. The lyrics of songs were useful to me as well, since Nick is also a poet — which I’d guess is even harder than being a novelist or a screenwriter.”
There has been some great early praise for Dano, so it seems like all the hard work might pay off for the actor, and Flynn himself has a lot to be proud of.
Being Flynn will be released in theaters on March 2.