You may know him from HBO’s critically acclaimed “In Treatment,” or as Cricket in “Lawless,” or as the “monster” in “Chronicle.” Or you may not be able to place him yet, but that will soon change. Actor Dane DeHaan is not one to shy from a challenge and continues to impress filmmakers with that aspiration. In his latest role in “The Place Beyond The Pines,” the actor plays **MILD SPOILER** the son of a waitress (Eva Mendes) and motorbiking bank robber (Ryan Gosling), who begins to travel down the similar path of his father, one paved with juvenile delinquency and motorbikes. Dane plays a pivotal role in a film about family and legacy, specifically the inherent impact a father has on his son, even if he’s not around (which inspired our list of 22 Great Father & Son Movies). If you want more of a taste of ‘The Pines,’ check out our TIFF review, and our interviews with Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and the movie’s director Derek Cianfrance (part 1 and part 2).
In this Q&A, Dane DeHaan discussed his first reactions to Cianfrance’s script for ‘The Pines,’ choosing roles that terrify him and why that’s a good thing, how well he meshed with Cianfrance, his upcoming role in the rebooted “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and more.
To start off, how did you get involved?
Well, I read the script when I was in Cape Town shooting “Chronicle” actually. The script was sent to me and it said take a look at the role of AJ (which Emory Cohen eventually took), but after reading it, the character whose soul really reached out to me was Jason. Even though in the script he’s described as a really buff half-Hispanic kid, obviously I’m neither of those things, but there’s something about him that really resonated in me. And so I didn’t make a tape for AJ, I just made a tape for Jason and I sent it and kind of took that gamble and I guess Derek really responded to the tape. Then I met with him on my layover back to LA after shooting “Chronicle” and then all of a sudden, he wanted to work with me just as much as I wanted to work with him, so that was great.
That’s so weird. I couldn’t picture you in the other role.
Sure, I couldn’t, it wasn’t the one that I responded to either.
Except for “Kill Your Darlings,” the roles that I’ve seen you in so far you seem to gravitate towards those introspective characters who’s got an internal life going on.
Maybe, Cricket is certainly unlike that as well, from “Lawless.” I do play a lot of very complicated individuals, but they’re different kinds of complicated.
How was it working with this cast?
It was really amazing. Derek creates such an amazing, viscerally real environment, where he really gives us permission to dig deep and bare our souls and entrust in one another, so it becomes an extremely rewarding and collaborative process with everybody, you know? Like truly across the board, it was an amazing process.
Did you do anything specifically to prepare?
Of course, I always do a whole lot to prepare for roles. Aside from the things I always do, like for this one, I build my bike. That BMX bike in the movie I built myself and learned tricks on it, because I wanted the bike to almost be Jason’s best friend, for him to have a really real relationship with the bike and I thought the only way I could really have that come across on-screen if it was like a baby that I made almost. And just stuff like that, we hung out as a family a lot in our house and went through walks in the park or went bowling and one time Eva made me watch her get a pedicure and just put me through things that like a mother probably put her son through. Just sitting and waiting… Aside from breaking stuff down and normal character work that I always do, I always try to find some actual thing I can actually do that will help deepen my performance.
You said that you break down the characters, but what is some of that process?
I start out looking at the script as a whole and breaking it down in terms of like central themes and central driving force of the script, if you will. And then I just start to get more and more specific. I start to look at my character, like what my character does, why they do the things they do and how they do it, and then ultimately try to form kind of a semblance of that character’s spine, like what drives that character, and then the work becomes more and more and more specific until I have almost a Bible for the movie and then I throw the Bible out the window and then I show up on set and trust that it’s there and go to work.
Do you do that for every role?
I think it shows because some of these roles are small, but I guess “Chronicle” opened up a lot of doors for you, right?
It did. I mean I shot “Lawless” before I shot “Chronicle” and then I shot this a week after “Chronicle, “so all of these three movies I did back to back to back. I was cast in “Kill Your Darlings” before “Chronicle” came out, as well, but obviously “Chronicle” has put me into the public eye much more and I’m very grateful for it for that, but I honestly think it wasn’t until when “In Treatment” came out, that’s kind of when the film world really started to notice me and I started to get a lot more opportunity.
“Kill Your Darlings,” that I just saw at Sundance, was very different for you. It’s like you’re a different person; that must have been fun.
It was a lot of fun. Yeah, it was a total blast, for sure.
What drew you to that role?
Again, like a complicated dude, I don’t know if I can pull this off, this terrifies me. How can I do it? If I can look at a part and say, “I don’t know if I can do that,” that’s what I want to do.
Is that the draw?
Definitely. It’s the task of tackling something I’m not actually sure I can accomplish. Because ultimately I think that’s what will help me grow the most.
You worked with a lot of great filmmakers recently, Derek Cianfrance, John Hillcoat and more. Is that also part of the draw when you’re going up for something?
Absolutely. I mean especially with a script like this. It’s such an ambitious script, but when you know Derek’s the one directing it, you know he can pull it off. “Blue Valentine” had the kind of viscerally, eerily real performances from Michelle [Williams] and Ryan, that’s what I strive for in my work. So the fact that I would have the opportunity to work with someone who could get that out of me was really exciting.
Let me ask you about ‘Spiderman,’ it seems like another neat detour for you. What’s in store?
It’s a long, complicated story how it happened, but I’m super excited about it. It’s going to be really awesome for sure.
Are you willing or ready to step into that world which can transform a person outside of the watching world with such a big movie?
I look at it as a really exciting challenge as an actor. To me, it really is the same thing as any other role. I’m sure it will have a bigger impact on how the public sees me than ever before, but if that’s the price that comes for being in an awesome movie like that, it’s not such a bad side effect.
And it’s also a great cast.
It’s amazing people, amazing director, amazing cast. The script is awesome. It’s really exciting.
“The Place Beyond The Pines” opens in wide release today, Friday, April 12th. — Interview by Rodrigo Perez