Sometimes being an actor is harder than it looks. Especially if your name is Paul Dano and you're having seven bells knocked out of you by the world's greatest living actor. For Dano, a 23-year-old up-and-comer (he was the taciturn brother in Little Miss Sunshine), the delicate life of a thespian took a gruelling turn when his co-star Daniel Day-Lewis decided to bring some trademark realism to their remarkable new movie There Will Be Blood. Here, in a pivotal punch-up midway through the film, Day-Lewis's imperious turn-of-the-century oil prospector Daniel Plainview was required to beat to a pulp and drag, literally, through the mud, his postpubescent nemesis, the greedy evangelical preacher Eli Sunday, played by Dano.
The assault starts with a punishing clatter from Day-Lewis, right across the side of Dano's face. "I got slapped in the face for every take," explains Dano, wincing at the memory, with a combination of wonderment and giddy pride (he is Bafta-nominated, as Best Supporting Actor, for the performance). "And that first slap always provided me with a good amount of inspiration. But then, after a couple of takes, someone saw the mud and added that into the equation. And sure enough, before long I'm getting slapped and dragged by the hair, and having Daniel stuff handfuls of mud into my mouth. It's tough in the moment, but when you look back on it, it's actually sort of fun."