Paul Dano was determined to make the Riddler seem as real as possible for Matt Reeves’ “The Batman.”
Dano starred opposite Robert Pattinson in the 2022 Warner Bros. superhero film. “It’s always been hard for me to lie,” Dano told The Guardian of his approach to acting. “I’ve got to believe in what I’m doing. And then I’m going have to talk about it afterwards. That’s pretty painful if you don’t like it. Then you’d feel like a politician or a salesman.”
The “Dumb Money” star added, “As an actor, you’re always looking for anything to grab on to. What’s behind that door? What’s under that rock? Anything that’ll help.”
Writer-director Reeves recalled Dano doing “70 or 80 takes” opposite Pattinson across two days of production for the final scene between the Riddler and Batman.
“Paul loves doing a lot of takes, as do I,” Reeves said. “We took two days on the final scene between him and Robert Pattinson as Batman. We must have easily done 70 or 80 takes. Paul loves exploring. He’s obsessive that way.”
Reeves continued, “There were all these moments as the Riddler where he’d be tickled by something and then fly into a rage. You never knew from take to take where that switch would come. I’d be sitting there with the headphones on, trying to stifle my laughter because he’d always do something surprising. Paul would ask me: ‘Was that crazy? Was that too much?’ I’d say, ‘No it’s fantastic. Let’s do another.’”
Reeves previously revealed that for another scene, Dano essentially was “directing this one-person play on an iPhone” when sending a threatening video to Batman. Per Reeves, Dano did close to 200 takes of the sequence in question.
“It was the giddiness (of Dano) that really got to me,” Reeves told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. “Calling out the passing time, like he was a game show host. He was so inventive and creative. He’s also very critical of himself.”
Reeves compared Dano’s performance as The Riddler to his turn as “The Beach Boys” founding member Brian Wilson from 2014 biopic “Love and Mercy.”
“That character, he’s caught up in his artistry and he struggles to communicate with those around him,” Reeves said of Dano as Wilson. “That was spiritually connected to the idea of this isolation that the Riddler felt. The Riddler is a product of our time, the way that people become isolated online and retreat to mental activities that substitute for not having contact…Paul is just off-center in a way that makes him very relatable. I didn’t want this character to be a villain. Even in his darkness, I wanted to see that humanity.”