The Batman’s Paul Dano Shares Why He Had Trouble Sleeping While Playing The Riddler

Paul Dano's Riddler peeling back duct tape in The Batman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Although Fox’s Gotham delivered a popular portrayal on The Riddler several years ago, we haven’t seen a live-action take of the supervillain on film since Jim Carrey’s version in Batman Forever. That finally changes in a few weeks with the release of The Batman, which features Prisoners star Paul Dano playing Riddler opposite Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne. It’s clear from The Batman’s trailers that this is a significantly different version of the antagonist we’re used to seeing, and Dano has revealed that he had trouble sleeping during his time on the Matt Reeves-helmed movie.

Rather than being depicted as a flamboyant opponent garbed in a bright green, question mark-covered suit, Paul Dano’s Riddler in The Batman is a Zodiac Killer-inspired serial killer who’s picking off elite Gotham City citizens and leaving taunting messages behind for the Caped Crusader and the Gotham City Police Department. As Dano recalled to EW, the role took its toll on him, and there were a handful of scenes that messed with his sleep during the shoot. In his words:

There's a sequence with Peter Sarsgaard's character [Gotham district attorney Gil Colson]. That was intense. There were some nights around that I probably didn't sleep as well as I would've wanted to just because it was a little hard to come down from this character. It takes a lot of energy to get there. And so you almost have to sustain it once you're there because going up and down is kind of hard.

Paul Dano’s Riddler definitely looks like he could go down as one of the creepiest villains in the Batman movies, if not rank at the top of the list. So with all that work the actor poured into his performance, it makes sense why he’d have trouble relaxing after the day’s work was done. However, not all of Dano’s restlessness issues during The Batman were related to his acting. 

As part of the homemade, “very intense” costume Paul Dano’s Edward Nashton puts together in The Batman, the actor realized that his character should cover himself in plastic wrap so he doesn’t leave any DNA evidence at his crime scenes. Matt Reeves (who also co-wrote the movie’s script with Peter Craig) was game for this, but after about an hour, Dano got incredibly hot under his mask, to the point that Reeves remembers his face being “beet red.” Dano explained:

My head was just throbbing with heat. I went home that night, after the first full day in that, and I almost couldn't sleep because I was scared of what was happening to my head. It was like compressed from the sweat and the heat and the lack of oxygen. It was a crazy feeling.

Luckily for Paul Dano, The Batman’s costume department found a way to get more oxygen into his mask so he’d be a little more comfortable. Overall though, playing The Riddler was clearly a demanding experience for him, but it paid off in the long run. Dano also said that he’s “really enjoying” being to act in a superhero movie, so depending on how things shake out in The Batman, maybe we could see him again in one of the sequels being planned.

The Batman will also see its eponymous protagonist clashing with Colin Farrell’s Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (who’s leading his own HBO Max series) and allying with Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman, with some of the movie’s other prominent players including Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon, Andy Serkis’ Alfred Pennyworth and John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone. It opens in theaters on March 4 as the first of many upcoming DC movies to be on the lookout for in 2022.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.