Franklin Dano: Life So Far, ©
by Erin Torneo
Paul Franklin Danoís voice is sometimes hard to hear over the dull
hum of air conditioners and errant sirens. These sounds create a
kind of melody at a recent interview on a hot summer afternoon in
New York City, the same way that the continuous lull of traffic
lumbering down the Long Island Expressway provides a breathing rhythm
for the suburban sprawl it traverses in Michael Cuestaís first film
L.I.E., in which Dano makes his feature acting debut. That
congested expressway, known more commonly as the L.I.E., not only
gives the film its name and central metaphor but also defines the
parameters for Danoís character, Howie Blitzerís, collapsing world.
"I donít think Iíll ever have to do stuff as difficult as what I
did in L.I.E.," says the 16-year-old Dano. "I definitely
donít think Iíll ever have a challenge like that in a film thatís
so substantial and unique and controversial." L.I.E., acquired
by Lot 47 Films at Sundance earlier this year and hitting theaters
in September, is an unflinching coming-of-age tale. Dano plays a
sullen-faced adolescent who lost his mother in a car accident on
the notorious road that goes "east, west, and to hell." The highway,
along with neat subdivisions and strip malls, conceals a truth:
that rest stops are busy centers of sexual transaction and the town
hero is a predator of young boys.
"I wasnít sure I was going to be able to pull it off," admits the
largely untrained Dano, who confronted pedophilia and homoeroticism
in his first big role. But his inexperience only enriches his performance,
giving it a staggering rawness derived more from intuition than
method. With his slight frame and serious demeanor, Dano delivers
a rending depiction of lost innocence and quiet strength. "The only
uncomfortable thing was walking around in tighty-whities," he laughs.
Danoís own suburban upbringing in quaint Wilton, Connecticut, doesnít
reflect L.I.E.ís dark undercurrent. A close relationship
with his family distinguishes him most from the character he plays,
though he acknowledges he shares a similar vulnerability with him.
"Howieís kind of lost," he explains. "Iím just going through high
school now, and thereís a lot of stuff that comes at you, and you
donít always know where to go with it."
Despite the hubbub around his performance in L.I.E. and a
follow-up role in Universal Picturesí The Palace Thief with
Kevin Kline, Danoís true love, like any good teenager, is music.
"I have a band and weíre going to play at New York Cityís Wetlands
this summer, which is kind of cool for us," he says. "Most of it
is acoustic rock with congas and bongos, lots of vocal harmonies
with a reggae influence and Phish-type sound." And while the acting
gigs will likely keep coming, Dano imagines more: He has just completed
a five-week course in film directing at NYU.
As for his role in this quietly devastating film, Dano says, "Everything
you do, every experience that you have, enlightens you a little
bit or worsens you. L.I.E. was big for me. I think itís one
of the best things Iíve been a part of in my life so far."
From IFCRant The Magazine September/October