Riddle Us This: 5 Roles That Show Why Paul Dano Is Perfect For The Riddler

Paul Dano in Prisoners
(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

After picking up the broken pieces of Ben Affleck’s departed Batman and the previously established Justice League, Warner Bros has lined up some especially exciting installments ahead – particularly with Matt ReevesThe Batman. Is it just us, or did the upcoming DCEU lineup just become brighter than MCU’s Phase Four? Robert Pattinson was already been named Bruce Wayne back in May, and now the production is filling up the supporting cast. Jeffrey Wright will play Commissioner Gordon, Zoë Kravitz will play Catwoman and Paul Dano is playing The Riddler ahead of the film’s early 2020 filming schedule.

As a whole, The Batman is shaping up to be stocked of compelling casting choices, and the entire rogues’ gallery of villains has yet to be announced! It seems like the right time to stop and appreciate the pick of Paul Dano as Riddler in Matt Reeves’ noir tale starring the Dark Knight. The 35-year-old actor has certainly never nabbed a role as high-profile as that of a Batman villain and isn’t particularly as well-known as Jonah Hill is – who reportedly dropped out of the part before a deal was struck with Dano.

It’s unclear how big of a role Dano will have in The Batman as the puzzling criminal, but there are tons more exclamations in his career history to highlight how great he’ll be as the question mark-covered caharcter. Check out these great Paul Dano roles to gear up for the actor’s Batman casting:

Paul Dano and Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine

(Image credit: (Fox Searchlight))

Little Miss Sunshine

Let’s start off with Paul Dano’s breakout role in Little Miss Sunshine. This classic indie about a quirky family’s road trip across the country to make the youngest in the family’s beauty pageant is the place where most first saw the actor perform. Alongside an all-star cast consisting of Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette and Abigail Breslin, Dano plays an angsty teenager who refuses to speak. He shares a ton of scenes with Carell, holds some of the emotional weight of the flick and remains a standout in the movie even without a ton of lines to work with.

Dano’s character made a massive impact in Little Miss Sunshine, and at the age of 22, the actor held his own as a memorable part of a high-profile cast and injected some exceptional moments in the 2006 movie. The Riddler has never really been given the space to be a three-dimensional character past a neon green-wearing Riddler. Little Miss Sunshine shows he can do a lot with a little.

Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano in Escape at Dannemora

(Image credit: (Showtime))

Escape At Dannemora

Paul Dano’s most recent role was in the Showtime limited series Escape at Dannemora. The show directed by Ben Stiller is based on a true story about two inmates (Dano and Benicio Del Toro) who are aided in their prison escape by an employee of a New York prison (Patricia Arquette), who they both are involved sexually with. The seven-episode show was nominated for seven Emmys, including a supporting actor nod for Dano, who portrays real-life convict David Sweat.

In the show, Dano was tasked with playing an actual criminal – even making time to visit the actual David Sweat in solitary confinement. Having the experience of going inside the mind of a character such as this just prior to his role in The Batman can certainly inform his performance as the Riddler. It might help give the character what has been missing in other iterations of the Gotham villain with a more believable performance grounded in reality.

Paul Dano in Prisoners

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))


Back in 2013, Paul Dano played a supporting, but key role in Denis Villeneuve’s film Prisoners. The crime drama chronicles a father’s personal hunt for his missing daughter, and stars Hugh Jackman as the father and Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki. Dano plays the prime suspect in the disappearance of Jackman’s daughter who the heavyweight actors torture and pry throughout Prisoners, a chilling movie full of twists and grit.

Strangely enough, Paul Dano’s Alex dons Riddler colors of purple and green in Prisoners. He may not be a particularly terrifying adversary against the two massive actors known for their roles as Marvel’s Wolverine and Mysterio, yet the actor holds his own in the Villeneuve drama and manages to frustrate audiences, keep them guessing about his motives. This will certainly come in handy for The Batman, as The Riddler will no doubt try to outsmart Robert Pattinson’s Dark Knight and have a slew of other villains to share screen time with.

Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano in Swiss Army Man

(Image credit: (A24))

Swiss Army Man

Every good Riddler also needs to be able to tackle the quirk embedded in the Batman character. Paul Dano’s starring role in A24’s Swiss Army Man is his case and point. The incredibly bizarre film about a man who is stranded on an island and finds a buddy in Daniel Radcliffe’s character, a corpse who can be used as a human swiss army knife as Dano’s character tries to survive and get back home.

The 2016 film balances some really dark themes as Dano’s character deals with loneliness, insanity and veering on becoming suicidal. Yet, Swiss Army Man injects tons of comedy and heart into its runtime, and Dano is the one who must hold up and maintain the film’s harmony. This role is further indication that Paul Dano is a great choice for Riddler because he’ll be able to craft a character both defined by the ridiculousness of his roots and provide a darker version of him for a modern audience.

Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood

(Image credit: (Miramax))

There Will Be Blood

Remember when Paul Dano was in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood? It’s likely to be the role movie fans recognize him the most from. He’s memorably Daniel Day-Lewis’ scene partner in the iconic “drink your milkshake” moment during the actor’s one of three Oscar-winning performances. Dano plays twin brothers Paul and Eli Sunday, who have dealings with Day-Lewis’ Daniel Plainview, a silver prospector. The movie is filled with drama and intensity.

Can’t you imagine Paul Dano saying words in the cadence of the 'drink your milkshake' sequence as the Riddler? He's able to get under the skin of Daniel Plainview in that climactic moment – and he can certainly do so for Gotham City. Mind you, this is Dano around the age of 23, so it's much earlier in his career! Each of these roles certainly ensues a vote of confidence about the next Riddler and Matt Reeves’ eye for casting! Look at all these inspired roles Dano has chosen so far!!

The Batman doesn’t hit theaters until June 25, 2021! What do you think about the choice of Paul Dano as Riddler? Are you on board? Sound off in the poll and comments below!

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.