Wildlife: Paul Dano Directing Debut at 2018 Sundance Film Fest

In Paul Dano’s eagerly anticipated directing debut, Wildlife, is set in 1960s Montana.

A young couple, played by Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, and their teenaged son, played by newcomer Ed Oxenbould, worry over money and other problems that threaten to disrupt their family dynamics.

Dano, discovering other independent artists while attending Sundance for his first film, L.I.E. (2001), helped cultivate his love for cinema, culminating in this film 17 years later.

What attracted him to this particular story: “I read this book by Richard Ford, Wildlife, and was really moved by it.  I think something he captured that I loved was the feeling that family is one of the greatest loves of our life, and because of that it’s one of the greatest sources of struggle and possibly pain in our life. The compassion toward these flawed parents and witnessing them through the kid’s eyes spoke to me.”

Each member of the cast either worked with Dano in the past or knew him as a friend. Mulligan said: “Paul was kind of everything you wanted in a director. He’s encouraging, challenging, and inquisitive about things, understands when you get stuck in a rut or have a moment of self-doubt and knows how to get you out of it because he’s been in those ruts. I just knew he was going to make a brilliant film because he makes brilliant choices in his own work, and I could only imagine he would narrow all those instincts in a film that he made. I think he has.”


“I think you just experienced what it’s like to work with Paul Dano,” Gyllenhaal told the audience. “There’s a persistent rhythm that is never-ending, and underneath it is a fire that is so sensitive and so loving, and full of empathy. And somehow still so quiet.” At which point the actor seemed to enjoy getting caught up in the moment. “And also he’s probably more of a man than I could ever be,” he said, before laughing and breaking the spell. “I mean, what are we supposed to say? He’s our friend. He’s a great guy.”

Character actor Bill Camp, who plays a rival for Mulligan’s affections, said: “Paul is very smart. He’s articulate. He’s tall. I had an implicit trust of him. I was also 99.9% sure he knew what he wanted. So there was a wide landscape of freedom every time we’d start to go. And that’s very important to me. He’s stimulating. And that’s important for an actor.”