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Paul Dano Learned A Lesson About The Impact Of Stunts By Watching Tom Cruise On The Set Of Knight And Day

By his own admission, Paul Dano isn't the sort of actor who gets stunt-heavy roles. Typically, the longtime character actor uses his slight frame to play vulnerable characters in indie movies, like older brother Dwayne in "Little Miss Sunshine," or villains who use brains more than brawn, like Riddler in "The Batman."

Even so, when Dano co-starred in the 2010 spy thriller "Knight and Day" alongside Tom Cruise, the experience taught him a lot about how to use stunts effectively in film. In "Knight and Day," Cruise plays Roy Miller, a mysterious spy on the run from the CIA who links up with an out-of-her-element car restorer played by Cameron Diaz. Together, they have to rescue a battery inventor named Simon Feck, who's played by Dano. 

Tom Cruise famously does his own stunts, or at least many of them. For example, in one stunt from "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning," Cruise jumps a motorcycle off a cliff and saves himself by parachute. Cruise very much did do his own stunts in "Knight and Day," and Paul Dano learned much from watching him.

Tom Cruise taught Paul Dano to always think about the audience when it comes to stunts

In an interview with GQ, Dano talked about Cruise's approach to stunts. "I remember seeing how he considered the audience, and the impact of the stunts on the audience, and how passionate and rigorous he was about that," Dano said. "I'd not seen an actor consider the audience and the impact of how the stunt and the cut of the camera would feel for the audience, and I took that with me."

Dano added that even though most of his roles don't involve the kind of stunt work that Cruise's roles do, the concept still translates to his acting. "I always think that the content lends itself to the form," Dano explained, meaning that film and TV stories must be tailored to fit their respective media.

Dano didn't specify which stunt he was watching when he learned his lesson, but "Knight and Day" had one of the most dangerous stunts of Cruise's career. In one sequence, Cruise and Diaz's characters are on a motorbike being chased through the city of Pamplona, Spain, and of course the city's famed "Running of the Bulls" is happening at the same time. During the sequence, Cruise starts off driving the bike with Diaz on the back, but the two switch places mid-ride so that Diaz can shoot at their pursuers–a stunt they actually performed (per The New York Post and Access Online).