Director Matt Reeves has been examining the files of Arkham Asylum in order to fill his upcoming comic book movie, The Batman, with an assortment of supervillains. One of them will be the puzzle-loving criminal mastermind Edward Nigma aka The Riddler, who we now know is set to be played by Paul Dano.
One of the more famous members of the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery, The Riddler has been a thorn in the side of Batman for decades and here are the 10 must-see performances that prove Paul Dano is the perfect actor to sport the question-mark emblazoned, emerald green suit.
10 Looper (2012)
Proving that Hollywood has far from run out of original ideas, Looper is a modestly budgeted outing that is brimming with science fiction splendor. Playing a so-called ‘looper,' a hitman who kills people sent back in time from the future, Dano is in fine, sniveling form as a cowardly killer and best friend to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s protagonist.
Though his screen time may be limited, he manages to make quite an impression with his misplaced, cocksure attitude leaving you wanting to punch him in the face. Sounds pretty perfect for the irritating Riddler.
9 Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Little Miss Sunshine is easily one of the most well-known and highly regarded indie films and with good reason. Composed of a cast so packed with talent you won’t be able to see for stars in your eyes, Dano does well to shine against the likes of Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, and a young Abigail Breslin.
Epitomizing the movie’s bitter-sweet atmosphere, Dano once again manages to make his presence known despite being in a supporting role and hidden behind a mop of jet-black hair and an almost permanent grimace.
8 Ruby Sparks (2012)
In a rare leading role for supporting player Paul Dano, Ruby Sparks puts the actor front-and-center of this fantastical comedy-drama. Dano stars as Calvin, a novelist struggling with writer’s block and struggling with his love life even more. To assuage both burdens he creates a character who will love him, the titular Ruby Sparks, and wills her into existence. Of course, things turn out to be much more complicated than he anticipates.
Putting aside the weaselly, irritating facade that he does so well, Dano instead points his natural awkwardness in a different direction bringing us someone charming and effortlessly likable, two ingredients that will have you rooting for Calvin until the very end.
7 Swiss Army Man (2016)
Certainly one of Dano’s most peculiar outings, Swiss Army Man is a buddy movie with a pretty macabre twist as Dano’s stranded man finds himself making friends with a corpse, played to limp perfection by Daniel Radcliffe.
Dano sells Swiss Army Man's bizarre nature with such a sincere earnestness that you can’t help but be drawn into this unorthodox relationship and believe the ludicrous, fart-based scenarios that follow. The actor proves that no material is beyond his ability, regardless of how outlandish a script may be, and that his offbeat likeability can sell even the weirdest of characters.
6 Okja (2017)
Director Bong Joon-ho’s quirky film, Okja, about a little girl and her genetically modified super-pig pal, was much beloved by both critics and audiences alike. With an all-star cast consisting of the likes of Byun Hee-bong, Yoon Je-moon, Tilda Swinton, Steven Yeun, Jake Gyllenhaal and lead by child actress Ahn Seo-hyun, this heartfelt action-adventure remains one of Netflix’s best releases.
Though much of the accolades were thrown in the direction of Swinton and Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano gets a rare opportunity to be the out-and-out hero and arguably delivers the film’s most standout performance. Though it’s doubtful he’ll need these heroic traits for The Riddler, it is nice to know what he’s capable of.
5 L.I.E. (2001)
Though he has become known almost exclusively for supporting roles, Dano proved from a very young age that he is more than capable of taking the lead. Aged just 15, Dano plays a troubled teenager named Howie, who, in a desperate search for a father-figure begins a relationship with a much older man.
The film is not an easy watch and tackles some very disturbing subject matter, but Dano’s intricately considered performance will keep you watching despite the troubling story. The film is something of a difficult commitment to make, but thanks to Dano you will be glad that you made it.
4 Love & Mercy (2014)
One of the more inventively told musical biopics, Love & Mercy tells the story of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson as he struggles with emerging psychosis during the 1960s. This is interspersed with an older Brian in the 1980s as he comes to terms with his damaged psyche and broken life.
Dano portrays the younger, 60's Wilson as he attempts to craft his would-be masterpiece, the album Smile, whilst navigating his mental health issues. The young actor plays the part of a vulnerable, tortured genius with aplomb, never once falling into overacting or cliche, but instead maintaining a vital humanity in bringing this real-life figure to cinematic life.
3 There Will be Blood (2007)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s grand commentary on capitalism and greed features Dano in the dual role of two brothers, Eli and Paul Sunday. Depending on how The Riddler is introduced in The Batman, this duality that Dano demonstrates could come in very handy. The actor slips effortlessly from the pragmatic Paul to the maniacally passionate Eli, a perfect demonstration of the actor’s potential to display the two extremes often associated with the DC supervillain.
Whether The Batman will have a calmer, intellectual Riddler or a more theatrical version akin to that of Jim Carrey’s take in Batman Forever remains to be seen, but rest assured Dano can nail both.
2 12 Years A Slave (2013)
This Oscar-winning adaptation of the story of Solomon Northup features an array of sadistic, vile individuals, with Dano’s John Tibeats vying for the top spot. His kind eyes and boyishly innocent face do well to hide the evil lurking beneath, a corruption that quickly rises to the surface once he opens his mouth. Spewing the hate-filled words that for so long poisoned the life of Solomon Northup, Dano’s performance perfectly demonstrates his talent for torturing our hero, which of course is something that The Riddler relishes in.
Clearly, Dano is more than capable of being despicably villainous which bodes well for The Batman. Well, for audiences at least. Batman, on the other hand, is sure to have his hands full.
1 Prisoners (2013)
Prisoners may be more of a showcase for the powerhouse performances of Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, but Paul Dano nonetheless manages to make himself seen in this supporting role. Dano plays Alex, a mysterious young man with learning difficulties who becomes the prime suspect after the kidnapping of a little girl. Dano’s nuanced performance allows the character to somehow be both easy to hate and achingly sympathetic, an ingredient that could prove very interesting were it to apply to his take on The Riddler.
His performance in Prisoners is a testament to Dano’s talent for playing complex, shaded characters, and a prime example of why he is hailed as one of the most gifted young actors working today. Paul Dano’s cinematic past is chock-full of incredible performances, with the actor proving time and again that he is more than capable of making himself known, particularly in supporting roles. His casting in The Batman is no riddle, and we cannot wait to see him torture the Dark Knight.