Paul Dano gave himself quite the challenge for his directorial debut, adapting — along with co-screenwriter Zoe Kazan — Richard Ford’s bleak and meticulously structured novel “Wildlife.”
The story is about a teenage boy who has moved to Montana, only to watch his parents’ marriage deteriorate. The source material doesn’t exactly lend itself to a movie, but Dano felt that it would be perfect for his directorial debut.
“I saw a tremendous amount of love and compassion in the writing, equaled by a tremendous amount of struggle, which I also just found to be true in life, these American themes, The American Dream, the nuclear family, it’s always been something I loved and have feelings about,” Dano told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at TIFF. “The idea of making a family portrait just seemed like the right place to start for a filmmaker.”
Carey Mulligan stars alongside Jake Gyllenhaal as the drifting-apart wife and husband, and Mulligan said she was moved playing a character who consistently makes bad decisions and watches her life fall apart as a result.
“For me the thing that really jumped out was the weird nostalgic whiplash where you suddenly realize where you are in life and you can’t quite figure out how you got there,” Mulligan told TheWrap at TIFF. “The thing that excites me about doing jobs is when they’re really nerve-racking to take on. So if I’m doing something it’s always because I’m a bit scared of it and I don’t know how to do it when I go in, and I rely on a great director to guide me through it.”
Watch a clip of our interview with Dano and Mulligan above. “Wildlife” opens in theaters on Oct. 19.