I saw Paul Dano unpacking his groceries this past summer. At first, I wasn’t sure it was him. I walked quickly by, then backtracked because I often walked down that street. I used to live nearby and had never seen him before. I suppose I was shocked: Stars—They’re Just Like Us! There he was, all 5-foot-11 inches of him. He was behind a gate covered with vines in a sort of courtyard, lifting bags out of a hatchback. I stared at him in silence and could easily make out what the New Yorker described as his “boyish, pincushion face,” mostly curious if he knew how close his place was to a) mine, and b) the former digs of Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams when they lived together in Brooklyn, the place where their daughter Matilda’s hand prints were once cemented in the sidewalk out front.
Not many celebrities live in Brooklyn—they mostly live in this “paparazzi proof” Tribeca building—but Dano isn’t particularly “famous.” Despite being voted “Best Actor” and “Most Likely to be Famous” in Wilton High School’s “Break On Through” 2002 yearbook, his renown is akin to a Sam Rockwell, a Michael Shannon, or a Logan Marshall Green—names you’ve likely heard but whose faces you simply cannot conjure. “[I would] put him in the same catagory [sic] as Giovanni Ribisi, great actors but they have a very strange level of fame, where they are in big movies but never really recognized,” one Redditor wrote in a thread about Dano. Consensus tells us that Dano is underrated, just look at the YouTube comments. But moreover, he’s virtually unknown.