Paul Franklin Dano, Jr. (born June 19, 1984) is an American actor and producer. He has had lead or ensemble roles in independently produced films such as L.I.E. (2001), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Gigantic (2008), Meek's Cutoff (2010), Being Flynn (2012), and Ruby Sparks (2012); and supporting roles in studio-produced films like The Girl Next Door (2004), There Will Be Blood (2007), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), and Looper (2012).
Dano was born in New York City, the son of Gladys (née Pipp) and Paul Dano, Sr., a retired attorney. Dano has a younger sister, Sarah. He spent the first few years of his childhood in New York City and initially attended the Browning School, while his father worked as a businessman in New York.
While he was still a child, Dano's family moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, finally settling in Wilton, Connecticut. There, Dano continued his education, at Wilton High School, graduating in 2002 to further attend Eugene Lang College in New York, NY. He was involved in community theatre, and while performing in New Canaan his parents were encouraged to take him to New York City.
At age 10, Dano was scouted for roles in plays on Broadway, making his debut at age 12 in a revival of Inherit the Wind along with George C. Scott and Charles Durning. He appeared in an episode of the sitcom Smart Guy and a minor role in the 2000 family drama The Newcomers.
Dano acted in his first major film role when he was 17, playing the character of Howie Blitzer, a teenage boy who becomes involved with a middle-aged pedophile, played by Brian Cox, in L.I.E. (2001). He then appeared in the TV movie Too Young to Be a Dad as a high school student whose life is disrupted when his girlfriend becomes pregnant. In 2005, he played supporting roles in The King with Gael Garcia Bernal, and The Ballad of Jack and Rose with Daniel Day-Lewis.
He came to greater attention in 2006, when he played a voluntarily mute teenager as part of an ensemble in the comedic drama Little Miss Sunshine, which received critical acclaim and collective awards for its cast. Dano's work with Daniel Day-Lewis led to a dual role opposite him in his next film, Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, playing identical twin brothers Eli and Paul Sunday. This earned him a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and brought him positive reviews, with Texas Monthly saying that his performance was "so electric that the movie sags whenever he's not around." and Peter Travers remarking "All praise to the baby-faced Dano...for bringing sly cunning and unexpected ferocity to Plainview's most formidable opponent."Rolling Stone magazine included Dano in its Hot List for 2007, calling his performance style "Daniel Day-Lewis + Billy Crudup × Johnny Depp."
Dano appeared in several additional Broadway productions including A Month in the Country, A Thousand Clowns at the Roundabout Theatre, and in the Ethan Hawke directorial debut Things We Want during its 2007 Off-Broadway run.
In 2008 he starred in Gigantic, a poorly-reviewed film about a man seeking to adopt a Chinese baby, co-starring Zooey Deschanel. He reunited with Brian Cox in 2009's The Good Heart, a low-budget English-language Icelandic film. He provided the voice of one of the creatures in the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. He played a genius inventor in 2010's Knight and Day, an action thriller starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. The same year he appeared in Meek's Cutoff, a well-reviewed historical drama. In 2011, he had a supporting role in the big-budget science fiction film Cowboys and Aliens.
Dano appeared in three feature films in 2012: Ruby Sparks, as a writer whose fictional character (played by Zoe Kazan, the film's writer and Dano's girlfriend) inexplicably appears as a real person; time-travel thriller Looper, in a supporting role with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis; and with Robert De Niro in Being Flynn as the film's writer Nick Flynn, about his relationship with his father. He is set to star in the upcoming Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy.
Dano is in a relationship with actress Zoe Kazan, whom he has known since 2007. He is a vocalist and lead guitar player in his band Mook.