Paul Dano Joins the Ranks of ‘Batman’ Villains Doing the Absolute Most to Get Into Character

ANGELA WEISS / Getty Images

ANGELA WEISS / Getty Images

Few things in life are certain, but one guarantee is that when an actor is cast as a Batman villain, they’re going to go to the most extreme lengths to get into character. And then they’re going to do no fewer than 74 different interviews about their commitment to the role.

Paul Dano, who plays The Riddler in The Batmanout on Friday, stayed true to this time-honored tradition by suffocating himself with plastic wrap and then talking all about it with The Hollywood Reporter. The THR profile, published on Wednesday, begins with the absurd (though admittedly compelling) sentence, “In pursuit of his art, Paul Dano wrapped his head in Saran wrap last year.”

The Saran wrap was Dano’s idea, a way of conveying his character’s meticulousness when it comes to committing gruesome murders. “The thoroughness of this person, the almost maniacal detail that he puts into plotting — I was like, ‘OK, well, should I just shave all my body hair?'” The actor said. “So there’s no evidence.” Instead, he decided that the accountant-slash-unhinged serial killer would cover his head in Saran wrap. Director Matt Reeves was apparently all for the idea, considering Dano looked even creepier in his army combat mask with plastic peeking out of the top.

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But when it came time to film, Dano turned bright red, nearly passing out from a lack of oxygen and the heat trapped inside the plastic. Still, he refused to go without what he had deemed to be an essential part of his costume. After all, this is the guy who, later in the profile, explains that he tried on hundreds of pairs of glasses to find the right look. “I’m not the guy who’s like, ‘If you do not see my feet in the shot, I’m going to put on more comfy shoes,'” Dano told THR. “That’s just not how it works.” So he poked a few air holes in the Saran wrap, and it stayed.

The new interview comes just a couple weeks after Dano caught flak online for opening up about the intensity of his preparation for the role. The Love & Mercy actor told Entertainment Weekly that he had several sleepless nights while struggling to separate himself from his disturbed character. The quote quickly circulated on Twitter, with people questioning why actors playing Batman villains seem to run themselves ragged for no apparent reason. Dano subsequently clarified during a Good Morning America appearance that though he sometimes had a hard time recovering from a draining day of shooting, playing The Riddler did not have any lasting effects on his psyche.

Despite Dano’s assurances, there is a precedent of Batman baddies being driven to insomnia by the stress of their roles. For his Academy Award-winning turn as The Joker in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger averaged just two hours of sleep a night. In a 2007 interview with The New York Times, he even confessed he turned to Ambien to help him sleep during filming. Ledger famously went full method to fully inhabit the Joker, isolating himself in a hotel room for months, keeping a diary of his character’s backstory, and practicing his most menacing psychopathic laugh.

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But no comic book movie star comes close to Jared Leto when it comes to over-the-top method acting. For 2016’s Suicide Squad, Leto spent hours visiting psych wards and chatting with violent criminals. He reportedly stayed in character as the Joker 24/7, with co-star Will Smith claiming that in their six months of filming together, he never met the actual Leto. Most notably, Leto harassed fellow cast members with deranged and disgusting gifts “from” The Joker; both Viola Davis and Margot Robbie said in interviews that he mailed Robbie a live rat. He also sent the entire cast a dead pig, switchblades, anal beads, and used condoms. All of that, and Suicide Squad was not even a good movie.

Leto has since denied that he sent Robbie the rat, saying in a GQ interview, “That’s just not true. I actually gave her a lot of — I found this place in Toronto that had great vegan cinnamon buns and that was a very common thing. “(It’s unclear how the Harley Quinn actress could mistake cinnamon buns for a rat, so we’re calling bullshit on Leto’s attempt at damage control, but whatever.)

Though varying in intensity, all these accounts of Batman actors doing the absolute most have one thing in common: they seem totally unnecessary. People play murderers all the time without risking asphyxiation or traumatizing their co-stars with animal carcasses. In the immortal words of Laurence Olivier, “Why don’t you just try acting?”

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