Interview: Dane DeHaan Has a Busy Year


It’s hard not to be impressed by the presence of 26-year-old actor Dane DeHaan in the past few months and he doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

After making his mark in the hit found footage superpowers movie Chronicle in early 2012, DeHaan scored a number of plum acting assignments which culminated earlier this year with a key role in director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines as Jason, a disassociated teen whose new best friend A.J. (Emory Cohen) seems to know more about Jason’s history and something that happened between their fathers years earlier. DeHaan only appears in the last third of the movie, but it’s a pivotal section that pulls together the previous two sections featuring Oscar-nominated actors Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, so it’s quite an achievement for the young actor.

In September alone, DeHaan will have two movies playing at the Toronto International Film Festival, starring opposite Daniel Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg as Lucien Carr in a look back at the Beat Generation with Kill Your Darlings (October 16), as well as Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot, a look into the investigation into the murder of three West Memphis children that got three teens thrown into jail for 18 years. If that wasn’t enough, DeHaan stars alongside no less than frickin’ Metallica–West Memphis 3 supporters themselves–in Nimrod Antal’s experimental thriller Metallica: Through the Never (out September 27).

And all of that is even before he comes full circle by co-starring in next year’s summer kick-off superhero movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Peter Parker’s often troubled best friend Harry Osborn. got on the phone with DeHaan recently, mostly to talk about his work in the last third of Derek Cianfrance’s dramatic triptych, but also to try to get him to open up about how he seems to have all of these great opportunities seemingly falling into his lap. “Place Beyond the Pines” is an interesting movie because it’s a triptych and you don’t come in until the very end, so how did Derek approach you about the concept of the movie and was it pretty obvious what was happening in the other parts of the movie before you came on board?
Dane DeHaan:
Yeah, I was given the script before I met Derek or auditioned for the role so I was certainly aware of the other stories. Ultimately though when I started working on it, I kind of threw away those two thirds of the movie and just focused on my third.

CS: Was that a method thing where you didn’t want to know too much about your father until you had to know more about him?
Yeah, I read the whole script but then once I got the job, Jason doesn’t know anything about those two thirds of the story. He only knows his story and he only knows him so that became my job.

CS: Most of your scenes are with Emory Cohen, so how much time did you spend together with him rehearsing and getting those parts together?
We didn’t rehearse at all. Derek doesn’t rehearse, not even when you get to set. He just rolls the cameras. He doesn’t say “action,” but what Emory and I did do was we spent about a week of time together in Schenectady before we shot, just getting to know each other and trying to form some semblance of the relationship we have in the movie off-screen.

CS: It’s an interesting relationship, because it’s definitely not a straight friendship and it’s got a bit of a one-upmanship quality to it. He seems to know more about you than you do know about him, so how do you develop something that with another actor, well, it’s not a buddy-buddy friendship.
I don’t know if I agree that he knows more about me than I do about him, but we are friends in the movie for a little while and then it just becomes a not-trusting relationship, so I dunno, you just kind of somehow get yourself thinking like, “Oh, this kid is cool and I like him but what about him don’t I trust?” and “What is it about this person that is similar to my relationship to this person in the movie?” And then you just fool yourself to believing that’s truly how you feel about the person and then hopefully that comes across on the screen.

CS: Do you draw from anything in your own life or other roles?
No, that’s not really how I go about things. I never draw from my actual life. I kind of create a separate reality and fool myself into believing that.

CS: Is that hard to do when you’re so busy doing a lot of different roles? Do you generally need to spend a lot of time before each role to get into that place?
Well I wouldn’t do this if it were easy, and I only take roles that are challenging, so yeah, it’s hard.

CS: What are some of the things that Derek does as a director to get you into that headspace? I talked to him a lot about “Blue Valentine” and his unconventional ways of working with Ryan and Michelle for that, so did he do the same thing with you guys, too? Were there a lot of surprises when you were on set like having a script but not really being on the script so much?
Yeah, that’s definitely how Derek works. I never talked to Derek about the script. I only talked to Derek about my character and when you show up on set, it’s a very collaborative and creative experience because you kind of go in with the knowledge of what the scene has to be to fulfill its role in the movie, but no expectation to what it’s going to be, so even though cases of three pages of dialogue could easily turn into a scene of silence or a scene of silence could very easily turn into a really long dramatic scene as long as it fulfills its role within the movie. So it’s about finding out what that is on that specific day and living within the world of the movie and just letting the cameras roll and seeing what happens without expectations.

CS: As an actor, when you see a movie like this after the fact, is it surprising or hard to figure out how it goes from what you shot on set to what it is on the screen?
Well, I mean, I was very well aware that Derek leaves himself with a huge job in the editing room for sure because he films so much stuff and it’s never the same. I mean, I’m incredibly happy with the end result and what Derek made out of it. I’m really proud of this film.

CS: I haven’t seen some of the other films you’ve been doing lately but I was curious where this fell amongst filming “Kill Your Darlings” and “Devil’s Knot” and the Metallica movie because you’ve been doing a lot of things.
I filmed “Lawless” first and when I wrapped “Lawless,” 24 hours later I was in Capetown, South Africa shooting “Chronicle” and then I wrapped “Chronicle” and two weeks later I was in Schenectady, New York shooting “Place Beyond the Pines” and then about a month later I was shooting “Kill Your Darlings.” So on those four movies, I pretty much shot back-to-back-to-back before any of them had come out or anything. Yeah, those four movies were pretty much a marathon before any of my movies had been released to the public.

CS: That’s pretty amazing and you have a couple movies at the Toronto Film Festival including “The Devil’s Knot,” which I’m excited to see since I’ve been following the story of the West Memphis Three for a while. Do you play one of those guys?
No, I don’t. I play Chris Morgan, who was also detained for questioning, actually in California, because he had left West Memphis a couple days after the murders and he was also interrogated for around 18 hours similarly towards the end of his interrogation said something that could have been interpreted as a confession, but his confession was just ignored as they paid to the one of the three that confessed.

CS: I hate to generalize, but you seem to be drawn to darker characters and that includes your role in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” so have you thought at all about doing a comedy or trying to do something to break away from these darker roles you’ve become known for?
I’m actually filming my first comedy right now. Yeah, it’s called “Life After Beth” and it stars me and Aubrey Plaza and it’s got a really awesome funny supporting cast of like John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Paul Reiser, Cheryl Hynes, and it’s a really zany funny script, so that will be my first comedy and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.

CS: That sounds good. You can’t be too dark with those people around you. And you’re also done shooting “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” as well, but we haven’t really seen you much in the footage shown at Comic-Con. How was that experience and do you feel your character has a pretty good arc in this movie or do you think a lot of it’s going to be saved for the next two?
Yeah, it was a really great experience and a really great luxury to have four months to prepare for a movie and then six months to shoot it. I’m an actor who likes to work, you know? And I was able to work on this one more than I’ve been able to work on anything so I had a really amazing time shooting it. I worked with really great actors and a really great director and the script was really awesome, and I left completely fulfilled in a way that I didn’t think I would be and I think the fans are really going to love it.

CS: There were a few hints that Harry might not become the Green Goblin but might instead be Venom, and there’s been lots of teases, so will that be answered in this movie? Or will we have to wait for one of the sequels?
You’ll just have to watch the movie and find out.

CS: There’s been talk about a sequel to “Chronicle,” but Max Landis is no longer going to be involved writing, so do you feel they can make a decent sequel to the movie without Max?
Well, it’s really Josh Trank who was really the impetus. The movie was really his idea. I mean, Max certainly put it down on paper and he did a great job doing that, but it’s a story that lived within the mind of Josh certainly and I certainly give him credit for that. But I have no idea what’s going on with the sequel. I haven’t gotten a single phone call regarding it. I am completely in the dark about what’s happening and I hope that if it is made that it honors the first one in terms of the passion that went into the first one and the passion that comes across on the screen. I think we really made something special and I think it was something special because there were a lot of really cool people involved that had a lot of passion that battled every day to make that movie work. I just hope that whatever they do with the second one—if there is a second one—honors the first one in that way.

CS: It had the feeling of being an independent movie in some ways.
Yeah, I mean we didn’t make it independently. We made it under the tentpole of 20th Century Fox.

CS: Of course, but it was made on a lower budget than those movies normally cost.
Yeah, I mean it definitely had a lower budget than “Spider-Man.”

CS: What else are you excited about doing next? You obviously are doing some comedy with “Life After Beth,” so what do you want to do down the road a few years? Do you have any aspirations to write or direct?
Um, I don’t think so. I’m having a lot of fun acting, you know? That’s what I’ve always liked to do, and I have no idea what’s going to happen down the line, but I just am really excited about all the great scripts that are coming my way and all of the many great opportunities that are presenting themselves and I just hope to continue to challenge myself and to grow as an actor and to continue to be presented with amazing opportunities. I’m extremely thankful for everything that has happened so far and I really hope it doesn’t stop anytime soon.

The Place Beyond the Pines is available on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, August 6.

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