“Wildlife” director Paul Dano on casting Carey Mulligan in this messy, beautiful role

Actor Paul Dano makes his directorial debut with “Wildlife,” starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, in theaters now. On “Salon Talks,” Dano explained his connection to the original writing, a familial drama, and what convinced him to adapt the story into a film.

“Wildlife” is adapted from the 1990 novel of the same title by Richard Ford and follows the breakdown of a 1960s marriage from the viewpoint of a teenage son. “I opened it up on the bookshelf in the bookstore and immediately the first sentence and the first paragraph remain one of my favorites ever in a book,” Dano told SalonTV.

“I find it so profound that family can go through heartbreak and tragedy, yet we’re still family. I hope somebody sees a piece of themselves in it. I hope they’re moved.”

As a director, Dano was particularly interested in Mulligan’s character Jeanette and reshaping the way Mulligan is often cast. He did not envision a role that asked Mulligan to play a scaled back, prettied up version of herself, but instead, a tangled up one with many layers.

“I was excited to see Carey do something more messy. That was the instinct with her,” Dano said. “She’s such a great actor, but with Carey, I really wanted to see her have her shadows spill out.”

Watch the interview above to hear Dano talk about how he and his writing partner on “Wildlife,” Zoe Kazan, collaborated. Dano explained how Kazan first got involved. “As I was writing it, I sort of starting to think, ‘this is pretty good.’ So I wrote a first draft, which I then gave to Zoe and she just kinda tore it apart. There was notes on every page.”

Photography by Jill Greenberg. Watch Jill's TedxTalk on the Female Lens and the problem with only seeing the world from a man's perspective. And find out more about Jill's initiative Alreadymade., a mission to hire more female photographers and content creators.


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