Paul Dano on How He Created His Character in Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’

Steven Spielberg

Paul Dano Reveals the Process of Creating His Character in Steven Spielberg's 'The Fabelmans.'

In the highly anticipated film, 'The Fabelmans,' acclaimed actor Paul Dano takes on the role of Arnold, a character inspired by Steven Spielberg's father, who played a pivotal role in shaping Spielberg's career as a storyteller. Dano recently sat down with Vanity Fair to discuss his initial conversation with Spielberg regarding the position and how he immersed himself in character for this critically acclaimed movie.

During their first Zoom meeting, Spielberg revealed the film's premise to Dano, who was immediately struck by a deep sense of connection. Dano explains, "As soon as he told me what it was about him, I thought, 'Ah, this sounds right.' I'm not an actor who thinks they should play every part or even wants to play every part, but this one resonated with me."

To prepare for his role in 'The Fabelmans,' Dano extensively explored Spielberg's personal life. He had the invaluable opportunity to tap into Spielberg's insights and gain access to the family's archives, including eight-millimeter footage and photographs. Dano's portrayal was not intended to be a mere imitation but rather an embodiment of Arnold's essence through his character, Burt. He emphasizes, "Mimicry or imitation was not interesting to anyone on this project. It was more about capturing the essence of Arnold and bringing that through Burt. It's different. And then there's Paul somewhere in there, whether we like it or not. There's a reason you're asked to be there, no matter how different from yourself you want to be or how transformative. There's some part of your unconscious that's coming along."

Armed with an extensive understanding of Arnold's life, Dano contemplated portraying a character inspired by the father of the film's director. He describes his approach: "I just tried to build the character for being an engineer. One of the first things I did was draw a stick figure and think, 'Okay, how do I get to this? What part of Arnold's past is going to help bring me there? And where is his center of energy?' Steven didn't want me to gain weight, but Arnold's energy center felt very different than mine. Mine is a little higher, and he was a little lower, so how do I move? Things like that. I followed the engineering mindset, but then a big part of the work is very emotional or spiritual or whatever you want.

Paul Dano's meticulous research and thoughtful approach to his character in 'The Fabelmans' demonstrate his dedication to portraying Arnold with authenticity and depth. As audiences eagerly await the release of this highly anticipated film, it's clear that Dano's performance will be a highlight, capturing the essence of the man who played such a significant role in shaping Spielberg's artistic journey.

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