For a 25-year-old actor with only three years in the movie business, Dane DeHaan has had a remarkable run. Since first appearing on screen opposite Oscar-winner Chris Cooper in John Sayles’ Philippine-American war epic “Amigo” in 2010, DeHaan led the critically acclaimed sci-fi sleeper hit “Chronicle”; worked with Derek Cianfrance on his anticipated follow-up to “Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond the Pines” (it premieres next month in Toronto); acted opposite Reese Witherspoon in Atom Egoyan’s next, “Devil’s Knot”; and played Lucien Carr, a key member of the Beat Generation, in “Kill Your Darlings,” alongside a cast that includes Daniel Radcliffe and Elizabeth Olsen. This is all in addition to his TV work which has seen him make lasting impressions on two HBO shows: “In Treatment” and “True Blood.”
In his latest to hit theaters, “Lawless” (it opens this Wednesday in select theaters via The Weinstein Company), the University of North Carolina School of the Arts grad plays the youngest member of a moonshine bootlegging gang (the other members are played by Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke), struggling to make a living in Depression-era Franklin Country, Virginia during the Prohibition Era. The film, which premiered at Cannes earlier this year, marks director John Hillcoat’s reunion with writer-musician Nick Cave, who penned his breakout feature, “The Proposition.” Cave’s scipt for “Lawless” is based off of Matt Bondurant’s novel “The Wettest County in the World.”
Indiewire caught up with DeHaan to find out which of his upcoming projects he’s most proud of, talk “Lawless,” and find out what he and LaBeouf have in common.
You must be the envy of most actors having seemingly bypassed the ‘movies best left ignored’ stage. How did you do that?
Inevitably, I think the people that want to work with me are also the people that I want to work with. I think that can really come through in a meeting. I can’t really sit down in a meeting for some shitty movie and be like, “Wow I really want to be part of this,” and come across as genuine. It’s not until I sit in a room with people that I respect. I’ve been lucky to come across some kindred spirits in that way, and those are the people I get off with. I guess because of that, those are the kind of people I’ve ended up working with.
Has it been challenging to maintain that sense of integrity while navigating the movie making business?
It is. It requires patience and it requires tenacity. This is a business that we are a part of, but I would like to think of myself as an artist within this business. To me it’s just kind of about reminding myself why I do this and why I’ve always done this, and not letting the glitz and glamour of it all take control of me.
What or who do you credit that mature mindset to?
Well, maybe acting school? I started going to acting school in my senior year in high school and I remained in acting school through four years of college. During very formative years of my life I was looking into myself, I was peering into who I am as a human being and trying to get a truthful grasp of that. I think that I tried as hard as I could to go through that without any judgement. I think in the end I came away with a pretty good understanding of the human condition.
And that’s kind of been the basis for my work — truth and the human condition.
The Prohibition-era is so vividly depicted in “Lawless.” John Hillcoat does a remarkable job of rooting his film in such a tangible reality. What did you do to make that time period a reality for you as a performer?
Some of the things we did that were really helpful, like one time we met with a moonshiner, a modern day one living now. What came across to me more than anything, was if I was as extreme as that guy is in real life, they would think that I was way over the top. He was just such a character. That kind of gave me a lot of freedom I think to delve into this world, and understand who these people were. They really are down and dirty people who are all about this thing — moonshine is an art form to them, it runs their live. It is what they are masters at.
It really started from that. If that’s what these people do, what comes along with that, and who are these people because of that.Did you bond on set with your fellow moonshiners?
Yeah, absolutely. I always try to have my relationships offset somewhat mimic my relationships on set. I guess invetibaly because of that, I probably got closet with Shia during the filming. We got to know each other pretty well, because, you know, we both come from an ideal that you have to be really doing things on camera for them to come across as truthful. We wanted to form that relationship.
With the other brothers, it was a lot of offset, a lot of hanging out in bars and bro’ing out to help inform the relationships on screen.
While out promoting “Lawless,” Shia’s been courting a lot of press by declaring that he’s done with studio films and is in it for the indies now. Did he talk of that while on set with you?
I think that the one thing that I learned about Shia going into this experience that I didn’t know before, was that Shia is an artist and Shia is an actor. He has been really lucky to find great success and stardom within the business, but I think “Lawless” is his first real departure in which he expresses himself as an artist. Those are the kind of conversations I like to have with people, especially with people who are likeminded. We talked a lot about our goals and our aspirations.
What is your overall goal? It sounds like you have one, or several.
Well I really just want to continue to challenge myself. And I want to continue to grow as an artist. I never want to stop. Al Pacino for instance, that’s a guy who never stops. He’s always trying to better himself. He’s in this because he’s an actor. He’s not in this because he wants fame. I feel incredibly lucky to do what I love and what I’m truly passionate about as an artist — and have people like it. If I could just do that for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy person.
In Derek Cianfrance’s upcoming “Place Beyond the Pines,” making its premiere in Toronto, you play Ryan Gosling’s son. Explain…
I think people will realize when they watch the movie that it’s a generational movie. It’s honestly like three movies in one. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I know Derek just wants it to be shown to the world in Toronto, but I am so excited for the world to see that film. I think it’s beautiful and wonderful. I think it will be really well received.
Ryan’s my dad, but not necessarily at the same time that you see me as his son. The movie itself really spans — it’s epic in scope like “The Godfather” — like 20 years.
Of all your upcoming projects, which one are you most excited to share?
I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to be a part of something, that I am of being a part of “The Place Beyond the Pines.” It was such an incredibly whole, creative process. After seeing the film, I’m so proud of the product. It’s really my style, and those are the kind movies I want to make for the rest of my life.
What are you working on right now?
I just got married, so I took some time off to get married [laughs]. Then I did this supporting role for a movie called called “Devil’s Knot.” And right now I’m up in Toronto making a 3D movie with Metallica.
Yeah, but I can’t say anything more about that. That’s all you’re going to get out of me.