Emmy spotlight: Paul Dano (‘War and Peace’) shines in stellar adaptation of Tolstoy classic

Paul Dano burst onto the scene with a largely silent role in “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) winning the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Young Actor and reaping an Indie Spirit bid for Best Supporting Actor. He then went head-to-head with Daniel Day Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” (2007) earning a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor. And he was featured in the 2013 Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave.” Will this talented character actor score an Emmy nomination for playing Count Pierre Bezukhov in the limited series “War & Peace”?

Let’s consider the pros and cons of his reaping a bid.

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PROS

Critical praise
Following his rave reviews for last year’s Beach Boys biopic “Love and Mercy,” Dano was as lavishly praised for “War and Peace.” Verne Gay (Newsday) noted: “Dano joins a long, illustrious line of Count Pierre Bezukhovs (Henry Fonda, Anthony Hopkins) and brings something fresh to the role. As a character, Bezukhov is principled, self-aware and utterly bewildered by the world around him. Dano also makes him human and relatable.” Robert Rorke (New York Post) observed, “Best of all is Dano, the rare American actor who can truly disappear into a character. He makes you root for poor, foolish Pierre from scene one.” And Daniel Fienberg (The Hollywood Reporter) commented, “As Pierre, Paul Dano begins as a wishy-washy buffoon and evokes sympathy and infuriation on his slow journey.”

Key character
“War and Peace” is the story of Pierre and, throughout the eight episodes, Dano is front and center delivering a subtle and complex performance. As with “Love and Mercy” — where he shared the role of Brian Wilson with John Cusack — when Dano is absent from the screen, you miss him.

Oscar snub
Dano was tipped as a strong Oscar contender for his featured role in “Love and War” but was snubbed by academy voters. Might their TV counterparts remedy this oversight by recognizing him?

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CONS

Competition
The recent Oscar race for Best Supporting Actor was one of the most competitive in recent years. Three-time Tony champ Mark Rylance prevailed for “Bridge of Spies” over four formidable rival nominee: past winner Christian Bale (“The Big Short),  rising star Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”), two-time also-ran Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight” and veteran Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”).

The same can be said of this year’s Emmy race for Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actor. Frontrunners include Bryan Cranston (“All the Way”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”), Idris Elba (“Luther”), Tom Hiddleston (“The Night Manager”), Anthony Hopkins & Ian McKellen (“The Dresser”), Oscar Isaac (“Show Me a Hero), Wendell Pierce (“Confirmation”), Courtney B. Vance (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”) and Patrick Wilson (“Fargo”)

Age
At just 32 is Dano too young to contend in this category? Yes, James Franco was able to score a nomination at age 24 for “James Dean” but the average age of contenders in this category over the past 15 years is 52.

Timing
Lifetime and The History Channel partnered on both “War & Peace” and the remake of the classic “Roots.” The latter aired in late May right before Emmy voting while “War and Peace” ran in February.

Name recognition
While he has never failed to impress, Dano, has stayed away from popcorn flicks. Is a lack of name recognition holding him back? It might be time for him to join the Marvel Universe!

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