Paul Dano makes his directorial and screenwriting debut with the release of “Wildlife” on Friday, and he knew right from the beginning that he wanted Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal to star in this milestone project of his.

The movie, which is an adaptation of Richard Ford’s novel of the same name, tells the story of a boy named Joe (Ed Oxenbould), who watches as his parents drift apart when his dad, Jerry (Gyllenhaal), goes away for work and his mother, Jeanette (Mulligan), starts up an affair. After Dano and his longtime partner, Zoe Kazan, co-wrote the “Wildlife” script, they sent it over to their Oscar-nominated friends, Mulligan and Gyllenhaal, and the film’s story instantly won them over.

“When you have a friend who’s written a beautiful screenplay, and he asks you to play a part in it, and you have a tremendous amount of respect for him, it’s a pretty easy accept,” Gyllenhaal told International Business Times at the New York Film Festival screening of the movie. “I think it’s a beautiful book, and I was deeply moved by the script. Particularly, the ending of the movie, I think, is — it’s just very, very moving.”

He continued: “As [Dano’s] friend, realizing that he had things he wanted to resolve and speak about as a filmmaker and as an artist and to be able to help him do that, to be a part of it, felt like an honor.”

wildlife movie party Paul Dano, Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal at the after party for “Wildlife,” presented by Casa Noble Tequila, on Sept. 30, 2018 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

As for Mulligan, she found “fascinating” the role that she would be playing, specifically. It was a different type of character for her and one she felt wasn’t seen enough in movies, which is why she was excited to take on the project.

“I think it was that [Jeanette] was screwing up her life, quite dramatically, and I thought that was really exciting to see on screen,” she told IBT at the event. “It was the flawed part of her character and her weaknesses and her vulnerabilities that I found interesting. And that she had the ability to be kind of amoral and unpleasant and not a great mother.

“We sort of have a sanitized, idealized version of mothers on screen a lot of the time, or if a mother is a bad mother on screen, she’s only a bad mother. Whereas, I thought this was interesting because this is someone who’s clearly been a great mother for 14 years, and now she’s hit a rock and a hard place, and she can’t get through it, and she sort of abandons all of her maternal duties.”

Dano couldn’t be happier with how the casting of the film turned out and shared with a small group of reporters at the screening that he felt “very lucky” to have these actors in his directorial debut.

“Carey and Zoe did a play together, a long time ago, so she’s been a friend of ours,” he explained of how the casting came together. “She’s a phenomenal actor, and she luckily fell in love with the part right away and was sort of all in from the get-go and really gave herself to the entire process, to the entire film. And I’m really proud of her.

“Jake is also somebody who I’ve known for some time, and Carey and Jake have known each other. And I knew they maybe would want to work together and thought it would be a fun pair. And Jake’s a phenomenal actor and also a phenomenal champion as a producer. And I think they’re both really, really good in the film.”

Catch Mulligan and Gyllenhaal in Dano’s film, “Wildlife,” when it hits theaters on Friday.