The Precious director called the drama, which premieres at the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow (May 24), "completely different" to his previous work.
Matthew McConaughey stars as an investigative reporter seeking to clear the name of a man on death row (John Cusack) with the aid of his wayward brother (Zac Efron). Nicole Kidman plays a love interest for both brothers.
Asked whether the film was closer in tone to his pulp thriller debut Shadowboxer, Daniels told IndieWire: "No, I think Precious was closer. I don't know, it's a hard question.
"This is different, completely different. It's more of a coming-of-age thriller. There's some sexy stuff going on in there but for the most part it's really a thriller."
"I like casting against the grain," he explained. "Everyone is cast against the grain in this movie. Every character is unexpected.
"When Sofia dropped out, I was told 'No' by several people about Nicole, but I remembered her performance in To Die For. And I knew that she would bring justice to the character. And people hadn't seen it before."
He compared Kidman's participation to his casting of Mo'nique and Mariah Carey in Precious, calling all three "just unexpected ways of going".
"Acting is acting," he added. "An actor's doing something that they ain't comfortable doing, or not seen to do. And that excites me.
"Very similar to Mo'nique. It was unexpected. And with Mariah. Just unexpected ways of going."
Watch a preview clip of The Paperboy below: