2015 – Vanity Fair (Italy)

Thanks to my friend Stefano we have an exclusive translation on an interview that Dane had with Vanity Fair Italy (+ a small article about James Dean & an interview with italian actress Alessandra Mastronardi). Make sure to check it below, it’s a really nice read: Dane talks about LIFE, James Dean, acting and his relationship with Anna Wood


Since forever, he thinks he’s one of the greatest and in college he watched all his movies. However, Dane DeHaan never imagined he was going to be asked to play the role of James Dean on the big screen. But then he thought about it, did some research about the person he needed to bring back to life and he found out several things. So he accepted to take part to Life.

James Dean did not attend the premiere of East of Eden. They were all waiting for him to appear on the red carpet but he bailed out. This is one of the scenes in Life. It’s not just a biographical movie, considering that it also tells us about Dean through his relationship with photographer Dennis Stock, who wants to create a photo shoot for Life about that young actor destined to become a myth. In the movie, Dane DeHaan plays Dean. He is a teenager, no beard, delicate and frail, and he looks much younger than Dean, although he died at the age of 24 and Dane is 29 at the moment. However there is no lack of determination, and contrary to his colleagues, he’s still humble and can take things ironically. He laughs a lot and not to please someone else. He’s just enjoying it. For example he starts laughing when I ask him if he ever did the same by not showing up on a red carpet or if he ever thought about not doing it.

“At the premiere of Lawless at Cannes Festival, no one invited me because all other actors were more popular than me. However my agent bought me some tickets and I decided I was going to sleep on the producer’s couch. At that point they could only find me a place on the red carpet. So as you can see I don’t bail out, I’m more a barge in kind of guy.”

What was your opinion on James Dean before the movie?

He’s one of my favourite actors since when I watched his movies in college. It’s exciting to see someone acting like he did. Today it’s still what some people are trying to do: to fully immerge yourself into that character physically and emotionally, to do instead of pretending. It’s just that he was the first to do so.

How did you get the role?

They asked me to film a video. But I felt like I couldn’t do it so I said no. They contacted me again: “are you sure?”. I rejected the proposal again. But then the producer explained to me that it was not going to be a biographical movie and that it was about how he went from being an ordinary person to an idol. So I realized that I was afraid: I always wanted difficult roles that could challenge myself and now that the chance has come I tried to escape. After accepting, I had 4 months to prepare myself, and when I got on the set there was no time to be afraid anymore. I did everything I could, and if I had failed I wouldn’t have been able to complain about not trying hard enough.

What did you find out about him?

While doing my research, I realized that the 75% of what people told me was wrong. For example, many of them think that he used to put cigarettes out on his skin. Actually, he used to paint people doing that, but if you look at his shirtless photos, you can’t find any sign on his skin. They invented a myth of a crazy masochist.

The rebel image is actually true or just another false myth?

That picture of James Dean in Times Square under the rain with a cigarette in his mouth became an entire generation’s symbol. Maybe it would have never happened if he hadn’t die before he could actually tell who he was for real and if he actually felt like he was being represented by that image. I’m not saying he’s not a rebel, but he was more than that. To me, Dean was an artist that didn’t accept to compromise. He believed he felt like he needed to screw the world before the world screwed him. He worked hard to get into the Actors Studio. He succeeded. His third lecture was a monologue and Lee Strasberg destroyed him. He never came back: he couldn’t accept the fact that his talent was not being recognized properly.

And what kind of a person are you?

Responsible, very educated. In school, I used to have high grades.

Have you always wanted to be an actor?

Yes, since I was a little kid. At the age of 4 I started attending theatre courses. In high school I used to sleep on the desk to rehearse for the school’s show. I used quickly eat at a fast food and then I was away to meet up with another group of actors. In college I studied acting: at that point I wanted it to become my job.

It’s weird that you did not start working as an actor since you were a kid.

I just wanted to act, but I didn’t care about money. My parents gave me everything, I just had to pay for myself once I finished my studies. But if I could study as an actor without having to take care of the money, I would definitely do it for the rest of my life.

Unlike other actors who went to Los Angeles, you moved to NYC with Anna Wood, who you married later.

We met at the university of North Carolina, she was studying acting as well. Once we were done with the studies, we moved in together. I was lucky: I started to work right away, I was not earning that much, but was enough to pay my rent. I also lived in LA for two years and half and it helped me a lot with my career. But I feel like at home in Brooklyn. I don’t want to talk about work during my free time, it makes me go insane those who talk about what they are doing all the time. And in LA they are all like that.

What do you prefer to do?

I’d prefer to take my dog for a walk, to watch a movie, play golf, which is somehow a way to meditate for me: it frees my mind. Which not many people find exciting. This is who I am. If they say that a show is boring, I will probably love it. I also have an estate property and I enjoy cutting wood. But most of all, I try to spend as much time as I can with my wife.

She’s an actress as well.

It’s nice to come back and have someone who can confront you and who understands what you’re talking about. It’s hard to be an actor. Those who don’t work in this environment don’t understand. And someone would hardly accept that their partner has to work abroad for 2 months straight.

There is a problem when one comes back and the other one has to go. Isn’t it?

It’s hard to make each other’s schedule match sometimes. And because it’s very complicated, we are super happy when we get to spend time together. After all it’s pretty much the same thing that you can see in the movie when James Dean comes back home in Indiana. He knows he won’t get the same chance anytime soon, but he also knows that he has to live far from there to make his dream come true.

You got married in such a young age. May I ask you why?
I fell in love. In high school I was sure that it was never going to happen, I never met any girl who I liked so much to the point of marrying her, I didn’t know if love even existed. But then, 2 years later, I met her and I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

James Dean – if he died at the age 80

What do we have left of James Dean? The point of view of a very young man

Cars and women, beauty and damnation: a “rebel”. This is especially James Dean, contrary to his professionality and his two late Oscar nominations, and a career with 3 movies released in just 1 year and half. His premature death made him a rebel icon that somehow satisfied the need for new things coming from the youngest generation that lived during the 50s in the United States. After 60 years and after generations of stars, and after internet, what’s left of him?

If I randomly stop someone who has my same age (21) and I ask him if he knows who James Dean is, he might probably say yes. “The cute one, the one on the t-shirts”. But if I insist and I ask for a movie title, he won’t probably be able to reply. It’s useless to mention East of Eden or The Giant; Maybe if I mention Rebel Without a Cause he might know who I’m talking about, but only because it has become sort of “way of saying”. Only few people of my generation, not even all my colleagues at the cinema course in my faculty, watched these movies enough to have an idea of his capabilities as an actor. James Dean is far away for those who grew up watching Leonardo Di Caprio. For sure Deana and Di Caprio have in common their absolute dedication for this job, a pair of mysterious eyes, a rare expression that the modern public knows how to appreciate. But the way of acting, the diction, the expressions, the typical drama of the Method that his idol Marlon Brando brought into the cinema world, prove that many years have passed. At the very beginning of Rebel Without a Cause, he plays the part of Jimmy Start, drunk at the police station, and he starts venting towards his family: at first, before writing this article, I had an hard time appreciating his way of acting, mostly because the theatricality was distracting me. For those who are used to watch Leonardo Di Caprio and his colleagues, James Dean’s way of acting might be a little “too much”, fake at times.

James Dean died way too soon and he did too little. If he lived for 80 years like Brando, he might have been able to play roles in perfect movies like The Godfather and The Island of Dr. Moraeu. He might have been able to grow and change in better. All we have left of him is an idea: a symbol of rebellion. For the new generations there is nothing but a cold and dull admiration. A star stays that way even when it dies. If his star hadn’t die so soon, today it would have been shining brighter than a blaze in the background.

For Alessandra Mastronardi (29), playing the role of James Dean’s girlfriend was like destiny. Although not many remember about Pier Angeli, Alessandra knew almost everything about her for a long time. “10 years ago I got my hands on a script about her life. The author sent it to me because she thought she looked like me physically. We didn’t have a producer nor a director, so nothing was done about it. But the story excited me and I started doing research on my own. While reading interviews, I realized that she wasn’t popular in Italy nor loved that much. After all, she moved to the US when she was very goung.”

Even though they look a lot like each other, their life path is taking different directions. After a 20 years career, two failed marriages and divorces, Anna Maria Pierangeli died of an overdose at the age of 39. In a letter which was found later, she told Jimmy (James Dean), that he was the only man she ever loved.

This is your second experience with an international cast. But I bet it’s a very different situation after To Rome With Love by Woody Allen.

Absolutely! That movie was directed in Italy with an Italian troupe. I only felt like I was in an American movie when I met Penelope Cruz or Woody Allen.

Instead, you filmed Life in Los Angeles?

Actually, even if the story takes place in California in the Summer, most of the scenes were filmed in Toronto in February. It was -20°, we had these big heaters to melt the snow. To avoid having the vapor coming out when talking, we had to keep ice cubes in our mouths.

In a love scene, you appear topless.

Do you want to know if it was hard to film it? A little. But I’m against nudity only when it’s for free.