Dane DeHaan radiates cool. He’s perched loosely cross-legged in a comfortable armchair at the center of a trendy downtown New York hotel suite, backlit by floor-to-ceiling windows that frame an expansive, sunny skyline. Even in the act of checking his iPhone (he’s been glued to Twitter all day, but we’ll get to that), his movements are slick, fluid—precise, yet unstudied.
The same could be said of his acting style. His roles tend toward the dark, complicated soul, with a chord of volcanic anger bubbling beneath the surface—but where some young actors might push too far, DeHaan manages a delicate balance of empathy and unbridled chaos. He burst onto the scene via a regular role on HBO’s In Treatment, followed by a pivotal role in Josh Trank’s Chronicle, then steadily built his credits aside Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf in Lawless, as Ryan Gosling’s son in The Place Beyond the Pines, and as Lucien Carr to Danielle Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings.
DeHaan’s latest part takes him into big-budget film-franchise territory: as Harry Osborn in director Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which sees him tackling the part of Spidey’s (Andrew Garfield) nemesis, Harry’s evil alter ego, the Green Goblin. It’s a role that raises DeHaan’s talent for embodying firecracker-like tempers to an extreme level, but—while speaking with Vanity Fair during the NYC leg of the Spider-Man 2 press tour—he was nothing but laughs, enthralled and delighted by the flood of PhotoShop mockups pouring in that afternoon via Twitter, thanks to a tweet (and one very catchy hashtag) posted the night before, by his onscreen co-villain Jamie Foxx, who plays Max Dillon, a.k.a. super-villain Electro.
Dane DeHaan: Jamie started #GetOnTheDaneTrain and it’s made my Twitter really fun. Everyone’s making all these “Dane Train” images now [scrolls through a few to show me]. I think the hashtag was trending a little while ago on Twitter! I also think that maybe Dane Cook has used “get on the Dane Train” before, because he got in on it and he was like, “I had a Dane train 15 years ago, but welcome aboard!” My Twitter wasn’t working for half of the day [still looking at phone]. Look at all these submissions! Here’s a Dane Train with great danes! [Reading] “Choo-choo! All aboard the Dane Train!” [Laughs] A bunch of Dane Trains and great danes! They’re so fun!
You’re obviously getting a taste for the level of public adoration that a big film like this affords you.
It is really wild, but it’s fun! I’m having a good time with it, I’m embracing it. I’m excited!
You’ve worked with Daniel Radcliffe, Andrew Garfield, and next with Rob Pattinson—so you basically got the British royal-film-actor guide to handling the fame that comes with huge franchise films.
Yeah, look it’s not like we sat around talking about it, and they didn’t actually give me advice, but I think inevitably it was really helpful to be around people whose lives have been affected by franchises like this. The movie hasn’t come out yet but it’s not like a ton of this has been a huge surprise to me. I am experiencing it for the first time, but it hasn’t been overwhelming because I’ve seen people deal with it before.
You live in Brooklyn, right?
I’m in Bed-Stuy. It’s the best borough in the world.
Hell yeah! Brooklyn! Dane Train! [Laughs] Dane Train’s going to Brooklyn!
How does Brooklyn hold up to all this amazing world traveling you’ve been doing? Which do you prefer?
Brooklyn! I’m happy to travel with things like this, and it’s really cool to be in all these cities, but I always can’t wait to go home. Brooklyn just feels like home to me.
Speaking of trains, have you seen any particularly noteworthy subway graffiti on a Spider-Man 2 poster?
I haven’t really been in the subway that much recently! When there were In Treatment posters, I was riding the subway a lot, and I always loved when I saw someone draw a dick in my mouth. [Laughs] That’s on my wife’s [actress Anna Wood] bucket list, actually, is to be defaced on a subway poster. You know, it’s the small things.
What is this I hear about you getting severely dehydrated in your Green Goblin suit during filming?
It wasn’t so much dehydration, as it was heat exhaustion. Like, my brain was literally melting—that’s how hot my body temperature was. Basically, the first day they just had to pour buckets of ice water down my suit, but it was literally turning to steam—that was how hot my body was. The next day they got me this cooling vest—I wore it underneath the suit, it has these tubes so in between takes I would hook up to a cooler full of ice water and it would pump ice water through me and keep my core cooler. But I lost seven pounds in two days of filming! Which was pretty much all the weight I’d put on for the movie!
That’s insane. I guess the whole “With great power comes great responsibility” line applies, here.
Yeah, I mean—look—it’s nothing to complain about! I still got to be the Green Goblin, which is the coolest thing ever, and I knew when it was happening that these are the stories you tell. It’s exciting, and if it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun.
I’m loving Green Goblin’s coif in this film. What pomade does he use? Is it Dapper Dan?
[Laughs] Yeah! The hair pays homage to the purple hood that he used to wear, it crowns in the front and it swoops in the back, and that’s why it has that shape, because that was the general shape of the purple hood. But we knew wearing purple booty shorts and a purple tank top and a purple hood wouldn’t really hold up in a modern-day interpretation.
What about the Jeopardy! theme Harry hums? Was that your idea?
That was in the script. But then on the day they were like, “I don’t think we can do the Jeopardy! song!,” because, you know, you have to pay for it! And I was like, “No, we have to do the Jeopardy! song—it’s way too cool!” I fought for it.
Where do you stand on watching yourself in a film, once it’s finished?
I think it’s important. I don’t do it a lot, I probably see my films like two or three times, but I think it’s important to watch and to be able to be critical just as an artist. And to be able to think, What can I do better next time? I never watch while I’m filming—I don’t watch playback or anything—but I enjoy watching the film after we’ve made it. I could be reminiscing or I could just be watching it from a critical standpoint.
It must’ve been a new experience to watch yourself in Spider-Man, since there were moments when it must’ve looked wildly different than when you were on set.
Yeah, and it’s a Spider-Man movie, so the six-year-old in me is like, “Yeahhhh!” So yeah, this is different and there are more surprises, because I didn’t even know what some of that stuff was going to look like.
You’re playing James Dean next—that’s a fairly iconic role, in its own right.
It’s an interesting thing, because when I told people I was playing James Dean in a movie, they would just tell me something about James Dean. And most of the time they would be wrong. Because he’s such a myth! So it became about reading as many books as I could find and comparing and contrasting what’s in those. He’s always been one of my favorite actors—I’ve had a poster of him on my wall since I was in college. For me too, there were things I thought about him that I found out weren’t true. Like he was mythical to me as well, but I had to make him human.
As a fan of his, did you feel pressure taking the role?
I had a lot of trepidations about doing the film. I said no to it a lot, before I decided to take it on. And ultimately what made me want to do it is that I wanted to show people who he really was. One of the things that’s really interesting about the film is that you see how a normal person can be turned into an icon. And also, I want to introduce younger generations to James Dean. Because unfortunately a lot of kids don’t know who James Dean is, and that’s a scary thought to me. I want teenagers to watch this movie and then go and watch James Dean movies!
The film follows his work with photographer Dennis Stock [played by Robert Pattinson], right?
Yeah, it’s like two weeks of his life right before East of Eden comes out, and Dennis Stock gets permission to do the first ever photo essay of him, for Lifemagazine, and they go back to New York and they go to his hometown in Indiana right before the East of Eden premiere.
I saw that you retweeted one of Dennis Stock’s photos of Dean, where he’s taking a ballet class. Tell me that’s a hint toward a scene in the film!
No, we didn’t do that part of it! But he used to take dance class with Eartha Kitt! I’ve had some dance class in my day. I’ve done tap, I’ve done ballet, I’ve done modern dance—I’m a classically trained actor, so dance is part of that training, just to get us into our bodies and make us feel free to move. Not that I’m the best dancer in the world, but I have taken a bunch of classes!