A Simple Sketch From Bong Joon-Ho Sold Paul Dano On Okja

A few years before "Parasite" shocked the world, Bong Joon-ho ventured into the streaming world with a big-budget adventure film called "Okja." The film follows a young girl named Mija attempting to save her genetically modified pig Okja from the meat industry with the help of a resistance movement. Of course, like much of his work, there is a lot more at play thematically than the exciting logline. At the core, it's a scathing rejection of capitalism coupled with a heart-filled journey that puts meaningful relationships above monetary value. But also, the big pig = very cute and cuddly. Don't believe me? One of the movie's stars agrees wholeheartedly and then some.

Paul Dano, who plays Jay, the leader of the Animal Liberation Front, briefly put away his villain gloves to play a heroic character for a change in "Okja." The promise of collaborating with the great Bong Joon-ho should be plenty to make anyone work on the film, but a simple gesture sold Dano in an instant. Believe it or not, a drawing of the lovable titular character was enough to convince Dano long before the film materialized.

'That's it'

During an interview with GQ, Dano explained his reasoning for joining the project and described the moment Bong gave him a sketch of the super pig:

"I can't remember what I'd done right before Okja, but I know that I need to play more of a hero type of character, somebody who stands for something, and that felt important and right in that moment, for wherever I was in my life. I loved that pig. I mean, I remember Bong Joon-ho showing me a drawing of a pig years before this, and I was like, 'That's it.' Like, that's the movie. Like, this pig, beautiful."

I mean, it's hard to argue with Dano here. A large part of why "Okja" is effective is the emotional connection shared with the endangered animal at the center of the story. If Okja was not an instantly sympathetic creature, the overall message could get lost. The film is fueled by one girl's lifelong connection to the pig, it better be downright cute.

When it comes to Dano's other, more personal reason for doing "Okja," it makes a lot of sense — even if he is back to playing villains again.

Being the hero

Since Dano could not recall what exactly he was doing before "Okja," here is a refresher. In back-to-back releases in 2013, Dano played an abusive slave driver in "12 Years A Slave" and a suspected child kidnapper in "Prisoners." After that, he played a man trying to survive on a deserted island in "Swiss Army Man," but even then Dano does not exactly embody many heroic sensibilities. In Bong's film, Dano gets the chance to play a character with good intentions of fighting for a cause that surrounds the entire film.

Of course, the stint as a full-fledged good guy did not last too long. Dano most recently portrayed the sadistic antagonist of "The Batman" and is actually writing his own comic book series based on his Riddler. It's hard to blame anyone for consistently casting Dano as a villain, he is way too good at it. And hey, it ain't broke, don't fix it. At least, he'll be playing Steven Spielberg's father in "The Fablemans," who will surely not be a flawed individual whatsoever.

"Okja" is available to stream on Netflix.