Dane Dehaan has spent the first four years of his professional career making an unbelievable impact with film fans and critics alike. Most recognizable from his emotionally charged role in 2012’s ‘Chronicle’, his hard work and dedication to his craft recently landed him the coveted role of Harry Osborn in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’. His most recent project pairs him with some of young Hollywood’s most prestigious names. ‘Lawless’ features an all-star cast which features Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman and Mia Wasikowska and was adapted from the 2008 novel “The Wettest County in the World” by Matt Bondurant. ‘Lawless’ is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers: bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia. In this epic gangster tale, inspired by true-life tales of author Matt Bondurant’s family in his novel “The Wettest County in the World,” the loyalty of three brothers is put to the test against the backdrop of the nation’s most notorious crime wave. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Dane Dehaan to discuss his journey and evolution as a young actor, the challenges involved with bring ‘Lawless’ from script to screen and much more!
You are becoming quite a familiar face on the silver screen. How did you get started on this journey into the entertainment industry?
Acting is the one thing I have always been passionate about in my life. Looking back, I can’t think of a time when I didn’t love acting. When I was a three years old, I loved to play pretend and then it came to a point of me wanting to do community theater around my town in Pennsylvania. That turned into me wanting to do all of the school plays and eventually led me to acting school. After acting school, I jumped right in and started working. I have been really lucky in having something I am truly passionate about throughout my entire life and now I get to do it for a living!
Who would you cite as some of your biggest influences as an actor, be it a mentor or other actors?
I went to college at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Two of my most influential teachers there were the dean at the time, Gerald Freedman, and a Mask teacher there named Robert Francesconi. They are the biggest influences, hands down, on me and the way I work, anytime I am creating a character. As far as actors, the first actor saw that truly excited me was Philip Seymour Hoffman. I remember seeing him hop out of that red convertible in ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ and thinking “Who is that guy?!” [laughs] I became kind of a Phil Hoffman junkie when I was in high school. I have probably seen “Love Liza” more than any other youth in America! [laughs] My other two favorite actors are Al Pacino and James Dean. James Dean because I think he was amazing and I can’t even begin to imagine the work he would have gone on to do had he lived longer. I absolutely love the three movies he had done. Pacino I enjoy for many of the same reasons as Hoffman. He continues, day in and day out, to look for projects that challenge him and focus on the work and the craft of acting. That is what I love and that is so important to me. When I see actors out there who really keep that alive, it really turns me on to the whole thing.
Your latest film is ‘Lawless’. What was it about this script or character that attracted you to the project?
It was a no-brainer to me to try and get involved in the project because I came in a little late in the game and by then the script was already amazing and it already had a cast of the most unbelievable young actors I had ever seen between Shia [Labouf], Tom [Hardy], Mia [Wasikowska] and Jessica [Chastain]. I also got to play a really interesting and complex character that was unlike anything I had done before, so it really was a no-brainer!
What type of research did you do for this role and do you have a typical process when it comes to bringing a character to life?
I have things that I always do. I always break down the script and have certain work I do on the character, just my normal actor work. I do also look at ever role I get as an individual person and I have to find my way into that person. For Cricket, I knew he had rickets, so it was a lot about finding the best way to have the physicality of the character but still make it believable and consistent. I started by looking at pictures of people with rickets and then talked to a few doctors about the condition. I didn’t want him to be this stereotype. I think it would have been easy for him to be the giddy, limping sidekick. I didn’t want to call to much attention to his rickets but in doing that, I felt I had to put an incredible amount of work into still making it accurate. I looked at a lot of pictures and I decided what I wanted my legs to look like. I worked very closely with the costume department to develop shoes that were essential on angles and kept the illusion of my feet being flat on the floor but kept my legs bent at a consistent angle throughout the movie. That was one specific thing that I did for the character of Cricket.
There is such a wealth of young talent in the film, as you mentioned. What did you learn from your time on set with these other very talented people?
I learn something from absolutely everybody. Whether it is someone like Gary Oldman, who is basically a living legend, or Shia, who has extreme success early on in his career or Mia, who is up and coming and someone who has had a career path very similar to mine. I came in and it was my first big movie. I will always look at different actors and figure out what it is they do better than me and how they do it, because that is what I can learn from.
We had the pleasure of speaking with director John Hillcoat. In your opinion, what did he bring to the table for a project like ‘Lawless’ and what was your experience working with him?
[John] Hillcoat is such a gentle soul. He is just as gentle as his movies are violent! [laughs] Which is something I didn’t expect! He is so open and a collaborator but he also has a clear vision. One amazing thing he did was give us two weeks of rehearsal time where we were sitting around the table with him and Nick Cave. We were just going through the script, scene by scene and line by line, discussing it all. We would discuss if it would make sense on the day we were going to do it and ended up making changes the script but ended up keeping, obviously, most of it. It gave us all a clear understanding of what he wanted to achieve in the scene, so when we were doing 30 setups a day on set, we could still move at a very efficient pace but feel like we were accomplishing the job we set out to accomplish. That is a really comforting feeling — being on the same page with the director.
Do you have any aspirations to one day explore work behind the camera?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t rule it out but right now, I am just having so much fun acting.
In all seriousness, you are doing a terrific job!
Oh! Thanks so much! I really appreciate that!
Looking back at you time with ‘Lawless’. What do you feel was the biggest challenge it presented to you as an actor?
That is a tough one. I try to take it day by day and scene by scene when I am on set. If I had to pick the hardest day on set, I know what that was. It was the scene where Shia and I run out of gas in the car. That scene just wasn’t coming to life when we were filming it, whether it was because we were tired or something else, I don’t know. On that particular day, we were having trouble with that particular scene. We were going by the script and had the camera on dollies. We were getting frustrated that we couldn’t do it and frustrated with each other. A couple hours later, we had ended up going handheld and going completely off script and ended up coming out with something I thought was a really great scene. However, it certainly didn’t come easily! That is one we really had to fight for.
Your work has been very diverse. Do you ever take a moment to reflect on how you have evolved as an actor since starting out?
I haven’t given it much thought but I would like to believe that I keep digging deeper and that my work keeps getting more thorough. I think I have been afforded such amazing opportunities and have been around such amazing people that I have soaked up a whole lot of lessons over the past four years I have been a professional actor. My passion for the work and to continue to grow as an artist has never faltered. I just keep moving along and trying to do it better and better each time.
Is there a particular type of role or a genre that you are excited to explore as an actor in the short term?
Honestly, no. I look at every opportunity that come to me as it’s own thing. I have enjoyed every kind of movie and genre. It is really all about continuing to challenge myself and whether I think a script that is presented to me is something that could turn out to be great and if I can contribute to making it a great experience while making the film and an end product that people really enjoy. I love things to be hard and I get really frustrated if things are too simple. I am always looking for something to challenge me. If I read something and I say “I have no idea how I would every possibly do that!” that is probably the role I am going to do!
You have had a great 2012 and as it winds down, I was curious for what you are most thankful this holiday season?
I got married this past year, ya know? I am going to go with the fact I am most thankful for my marriage!
Good answer, my friend! That will keep you out of hot water! Congratulations on your marriage and your great work. All the best to you in the coming year!
Thank you, man! Happy Holidays!