This piece originally appeared in print in So It Goes Issue.4, Autumn 2014.
You may not know it yet, but Dane DeHaan is a movie star. Leading man, can’t take your eyes off him, movie star. Rising to prominence with stand-out roles in sleeper sci-fi hit Chronicle and HBO’s In Treatment, the Pennsylvania born actor went on to steal scenes from Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf in the John Hillcoat prohibition era bootlegger film Lawless and out-Gosling Gosling in Derek Cianfrance’s gripping 2012 outing, The Place Beyond the Pines. Today, DeHaan is one of the most in-demand young actors working in Hollywood. Life, the Anton Corbijn film in which DeHaan plays James Dean, is one of the most anticipated releases of recent times. In a very special interview, friends and collaborators from The Place Beyond the Pines, DeHaan and Cianfrance discuss true love, nightmares and film.
Derek Cianfrance: Dane when was the first time you fell in love?
Dane DeHaan: When I was in high school I used to say I didn’tbelieve in love. I would think I was going to be alone for the restof my life and now I’m the guy who’s married to his high-schoolsweetheart. In a weird way I’ve never been through a big breakup.I’ve only been in a long-term relationship with one person. Hername is Anna, so Anna is the first time I have been in love, true love.
DC: Wow. Growing up, did you ever have an ‘A-ha!’ moment aboutwanting to be an actor?
DDH: I never had an ‘A-ha!’ moment. I always knew I wanted tobe an actor. I don’t really remember anything else apart from alwayswanting to be an actor. Forrest Gump is a movie that stuck with me. TheTalented Mr Ripley too.
DC: Did you ever see Purple Noon?
DDH: No I’ve never seen that. What is it?
DC: I’m not going to tell you, you should watch it. I preferred ittoThe Talented Mr Ripley. You should watch it and then we’ll talkabout it.
DC: As an actor your work means wrapping your mind around awhole other person and not thinking about yourself. What’s it likewhen you are done being that person? Do you go through a periodof confusion or identity crisis?
DDH: It almost seems pompous to say it, but it is somethingsimilar to that. There have been things that have ended that havetorn through me like a death. If it’s something I have grown so closeto, when it’s over it hurts, you know. I did a play once and I couldn’ttalk about it for about three years without crying because it waslike a death to me when it ended. That’s kind of what it’s like withthese characters. It’s almost like getting a best friend and you learneverything about them and you learn how they work and you livewith them and then this part of you dies and they go away.
DC: When was the last time you cried Dane?
DDH: I think the last time I cried was when I watched the JustinBieber documentary a few nights ago! That movie is designed tomake you cry but you know, it got me, it really did!
DC: Do you ever get recurring nightmares? In no way related to theBieber documentary.
DDH: Yes, I imagine ants crawling out of my skin. I will look downat my hands and there will be this giant bug in my skin or spikesgrowing out of my hands and it won’t hurt but it will be disturbingto look at. Sometimes I take them out and again it won’t hurt at allbut it will be really weird to look at and freak me out. That is myrecurring nightmare.
DC: How often do you have that one?
DDH: I would say twice a month.
DDH: It has different ways of manifesting itself. It’s not always thesame dream but it’s the same theme.
DC: We had an interesting first meeting during the audition processof The Place Beyond the Pines.
DDH: Yeah, I was pretty stubborn throughout. You wanted me toaudition to play AJ and I didn’t want to be AJ, so I made a tape forJason and you wouldn’t watch my tape at first because you knew Iwas being stubborn. I think you watched every other tape until youwatched mine, so you’re stubborn too!
DC: When I finally watched your tape, I realised you were the guy;the guy to be Jason. The fact that you knew it before I did made mecompletely trust you forever. When I met you it was just that pure trustand admiration. I like being wrong. I am wrong most of the time, butsometimes it’s great to be wrong. That’s what I love about filmmaking– that collaboration of ideas and people. Everyone puts their ego tothe side and they are on a quest after truth and then higher forcescall or something.
DDH: The memory that stuck with me is when we were in thewoods and there were so many mosquitoes because a hurricane hadjust ripped through town. They were everywhere and a woman whowas doing the make-up was walking in a full body mosquito net aroundthe forest.
DC: We had so much fun with it. Sometimes when shooting a movie, reallife kicks in. Remember when you had the gun on Bradley (Cooper)and Bradley disarmed the gun from you in a second like a ninja?
DC: I used to watch that frame by frame in the editing room. It wasliterally two frames – him grabbing the gun and then bullets flyingeverywhere. These ninja moves! I remember you had to stand furtherback in the first take. That’s what I love about working on set, findingsome truths and not having to hit certain marks. I think that’s why weconnected because we both wanted that.
DDH: That kind of a set is rare where you have one take andsomething is too raw so you don’t do it, but on this set you should grabthe gun. That’s what acting really is and that’s why we connected.
DC: You’ve got that fire inside of you to be able to do anything youwant to do.
DDH: Thanks, Derek.
DC: I think you know yourself well enough, like you knew yourselfwell enough not to be AJ and have good instincts to turn things downand say yes to certain things. By turning things down you are alsosaying yes to other things. By saying no to AJ you were saying yes toyour true path and I think that is a huge thing for any creative person– to trust their instincts. I have to say, with casting Pines, that was oneof the challenges I had; these two movie stars that were in Act Oneand Act Two, you know, I have the Ryan Gosling movie then theBradley Cooper movie and then I had to go to a third movie of thesekids. When I found you and Emory I felt like you were of that ilk.Carrying that baton of being incredibly gifted craft people as actorsbut also undeniably charismatic and compelling human beings. Tellus about taking on the role of a real-life character like Lucien Carr inKill Your Darlings. What approach do you take to that? How do you goabout embodying a Beat who is publicly known and mythologised?
DDH: I guess with acting there is no method to the madness.Lucien Carr for example is not a well-documented person, so there isvery little to read about him – I had to dig in. James Dean was obviouslydifferent; he is so hugely documented to the point of mysticism andmost of it isn’t really true anymore because he isso widely writtenabout. They are very different roles in that sense. With Lucien Carrit was trying to get a feel for who he was through his letters, but thescript is very important with the James Dean film Life. On top of thescript, I wanted to find the real Dean; one book I read would say onething, and the other would say something completely different. Somesay he only smoked Marlboros and some say he didn’t care what hesmoked.
DC: How have you found that shift between making movies on anindependent scale and then going over to a studio project? I thinkyou’ve dealt with more extremes than I have.
DDH: The main thing with studio movies is that you have so muchtime. On The Amazing Spider-Man 2 we had six months and no one wasever in a hurry. If you don’t finish a scene that day then you do it thenext day. With independent movies, a lot of the time you are going sofast, you’re always pushing. Time is money and ultimately they don’thave as much of that. You’re on set to be an actor and that part of it isalways the same with the only difference being the resources.
DC: The movie I’m doing at the moment (The Light Between Oceans)seems very similar to every other one I’ve done in the way that thereis never enough time and never enough money. You know that saying‘a squeaky wheel gives you grease’? I’m like the squeaky wheel. I amthe most annoying person in the whole world. I guess it was the samewith Blue Valentine and Pines. With this one, we are pushing all of ourresources to the absolute limit. I sort of like that. I honestly would geta bit nervous to take those boundaries away. I think boundaries as anartist are very important. Boundaries in filmmaking are important because if you have an edge to go to, you can get as close to the edgeas possible, but if the edge is taken away from you then it’s hard toknow the shape of something. I appreciate edges and I always knowmy budgets and my schedules inside out because I feel like I haveto know the playground I’m playing in. So yes, this is slightly biggerthan anything I’ve done and more period than anything I’ve done.Its heart and soul are human and present – I want it to be in the now.I don’t want to make antiquated movies.
All images by Guy Aroch