Why He’s On Our Radar: Chances are if you’re an avid MTV watcher, you already know who Dylan O’Brien is. And if you’re not, then welcome to the club. This year marks the 21 year-old actor’s second season on MTV’s hit teen series “Teen Wolf,” and his first time headlining a feature film, Jon Kasdan’s charming romantic comedy “The First Time” (out in theaters this Friday).
In the film, which had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year, O’Brien gives a lovable breakout turn as a bumbling high school student who falls for a girl after meeting her outside a house party. Problem is, she’s not single. Like the classic teen comedies (“Sixteen Candles,” “Say Anything” etc.) that clearly inspired it, “The First Time” is refreshingly honest in its dealing with first love and the pains of youth. As a result, it’s the most mature and intelligent film of its kind to come along in ages.
What’s Next: Next up for O’Brien is the mainstream summer comedy “The Internship,” which reunites “Wedding Crashers” stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two recently laid-off men in their 40s who try to make it as interns at Google. O’Brien plays a fellow intern. “What happens is it’s an intern week, and we have to put ourselves into groups and compete against each other,” O’Brien expalined. “The winning group is awarded jobs at Google. Our groups is kind of like the bad news bears. I’m kind of like the really mean, cynical one. It’s about our team coming together to perform well and learn to like each other. It’s a sweet movie.” “The Internship” opens wide June 7, 2013.
So let’s start with your roots. You got your start much the same way Justin Bieber got his start by first becoming a YouTube sensation.
Yes, a lot of people do compare me to Justin Bieber (laughs). I get it plenty, especially as an actor. I did start on YouTube. It wasn’t deliberate in any way. I wasn’t trying to find fame or be an actor even. I was the only actor I had to use in these little videos I wanted to make. I wanted to direct initially. I was going to film school and whatnot, but my lovely manager just randomly found me on that little YouTube and called me in. That’s how it all started.
So who initially gave you the idea to expose yourself to the world via the net?
It was always just what I loved to do — make these little videos and edit them. My dad’s a cinematographer, so I grew up being very exposed to not just movies, but being on set and seeing how it all went down. I was brought up on the technical side of things, and it’s why I wanted to be a director. Putting them on YouTube was my friend’s idea. I didn’t even know about YouTube. We had this music video that we made and she wanted people to see it.
I was very shy actually about my stuff. I never wanted anyone to watch. YouTube was like having a blind audience — I didn’t have to watch anybody watch my stuff. I started getting to know YouTube a little bit, took an interest in it, and started doing my own thing on there — just because I enjoyed it.
Thanks to “Teen Wolf,” a lot of people are discovering the videos for the first time. Are you embarrassed by them in any way?
I have to have a sense of pride about it now. I was embarrassed by it when it was current in my life. I mean I was 15 years-old when I shot those videos. I’m six years older now — I’m like an entirely different person. I think it’s sweet to look back. Obviously I critique the crap out of them (laughs), but I’m not embarrassed by them. I mean they’re not flawless, but it’s where I came from and how I started. I think fans like seeing how I started. I think they’d actually be pissed if I deleted everything because I didn’t think it was up to par.
You really display an innate comic ability in those early videos that has parlayed into your film and TV work. Who do you attribute your sense of comedy to?
Both of my parents are very funny people. They’ve always taught me to have a sense of humor about life. I was really into Jim Carrey as a kid, and I love “Friends.” I think “Friends” is kind of a school of acting in a sense, if you put it on season one through ten. I think I pulled it from everywhere. You can even go back to Han Solo in “Star Wars,” or Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones” — not necessarily comedies, but stuff like that. Comedy has just always been the thing that I have a good feel for.
You really get to do a lot of physical comedy in “The First Time.” Is that part of what appealed to you about the role?
That’s true. It’s funny because a lot of people said that, but it wasn’t a part of the deal when I was making the movie. It’s just something that kind of became a part of it, and it became vital in it — to show the physical awkwardness that can be had in a story like this. All of the comedic moments stem from honesty.
The film reminded me of the type of teen comedies that stopped being made in the late ’90s — comedies like the best of John Hughes, “She’s All That” and “American Pie.” Given that you were born in the ’90s, did you have to do your research after nabbing the role, or were you already familiar with the genre?
Because of my parents, growing up I was always watching old movies. I was brought up on nothing really current. I grew up on John Hughes stuff — I’d been watching “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles” since I was a kid. It didn’t really require much research. Like you said, I was born in the “American Pie” era which launched a string of raunchy teen comedies that took over. It kind of became uncool for a teen comedy to be sweet, nice, smart and classy. I think Jon does that with our movie — it’s a lot of the reason why I was attracted to in the first place, and why I enjoyed making it so much.
Watch some of O’Brien’s YouTube videos on page 2…