The Little Miss Sunshine star offered to help out in a number of soup kitchens as research for his role in new drama Being Flynn, and he found the charity work to be truly rewarding.
He tells WENN, “That was probably one of the first jumping off points to get into the character. I went and volunteered at some shelters in New York.
“At the shelter we’d get food in from different grocery stores and we’d cook it up and then I’d sit down and eat with the people. That was great but I also went out with some trucks and we’d set up a table at a park and people would line up. It was winter, so not only did we give out food, but we also gave out hats and gloves, scarves and socks.”
And he admits the experience was a real eye-opener: “The most shocking thing was how ordinary some of these people were; it’s easy to stereotype a lot of the homeless as either people who are crazy or who are addicts of some kind.
“I did see that but there were people like you and me… A guy had been homeless for three weeks, one for three years; one was out of the workforce maybe because he had no skills. A lot of people who were at the shelter are getting back on track. They’re able to get a bed and a shower and they’re working for the shelter and paying for their stay by volunteering to help others and they’re getting educated. That was cool to see.
“It turned out to be quite a moving experience for me as a person as well as really important for the film.”
In the movie, which based on a true story, Dano plays troubled Nick Flynn, who unexpectedly meets his estranged conman father, played by Robert De Niro, while working in a homeless shelter in Boston, Massachusetts.