He was Ryan Gosling’s son in The Place Beyond the Pines, the devilish goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and malicious gossip has it that he has what it takes to be the next Leonardo DiCaprio. Nonsense! If a legend then do it the right way: in Anton Corbijn’s new movie Life the 29 year-old American plays the role of the everlasting rebel JAMES DEAN
by Anton CORBIJN
„I have a degree in armed stage combat with knife, sword, dagger and epee.“ – Dane DeHaan
ANTON CORBIJN: No matter how doubtful my questions are going to turn out, you absolutely have to watch out for the quality of your answers.
DANE DEHAAN: What? But that is not fair!
CORBIJN: In the interviews, I did for Life, everybody told me that you turned down the role of James Dean five times. And all I could say all the time was: “I don’t know”. Did you really turn down the role five times?
DEHAAN: I’m afraid, this is true. At first they asked me to do an audition tape but I said: „I don’t think, that I am interested in the role.“ Then they asked me again for an audition tape, so I said: „I think, I am still not interested in the role.“ Then I had the meeting with you, where I said, that I am maybe still not interested in the role until Iain Canning, the producer, stepped in and I slowly started to get interested. Maybe I only turned down four times.
CORBIJN: And I thought, our meeting convinced you right away?
DEHAAN: (laughs) No, but it helped. Every meeting, that I had, helped a little. I was just shitting my pants. I mean, I am always saying, that I only want roles, that I am afraid of, but when the big challenge came, I scarpered.
CORBIJN: They also said that you didn’t want to meet me.
DEHAAN: Was that so? I have no idea! I can only remember, that I still met up with you. I wanted to be persuaded. And because I couldn’t talk myself into it, someone else had to do it. Iain and my wife, Anna had done it in the end. They said: What is your problem? You love the script, you like the director and it’s a role, that is going to challenge you.
CORBIJN: You had to gain a lot of weight.
DEHAAN: Yes, eleven kilos (twenty-four pounds). James Dean was 5’7” (1,73 m) tall and the weighted around 70 kilos (154 pounds). And I am 5’10” (1,78 m), so I thought, that 73,5 kilos (160 pounds) could work out for the role. But I had to put the weight in the right places.
CORBIJN: Yes, we couldn’t use a beer belly.
DEHAAN: But I had a little belly.
CORBIJN: Yes, Hollywood wasn’t that strict with bodies in the fifties.
DEHANN: You were allowed to have a soft body. You didn’t had to be buff.
CORBIJN: Dean, definitely did not have a six-pack.
DEHAAN: No, he wasn’t defined at all, none of the actors were. Except for Paul Newman. But he was naturally athletic. Dean and Brando had soft muscles. Farmers-bodies.
CORBIJN: But how was it for you, changing your body? Did it feel different?
DEHAAN: It felt different just because of the fact that I had to do a lot of things to get to the weight. Also a lot of training and lots of food: Protein shakes, tons of meat, eggs and coconut oil – totally silly.
CORBIJN: I always find it fascinating what a different look causes at people. If you enter a room, people look at you differently. Fellows encounter you differently, and maybe even your wife treated you differently.
DEHAAN: And I with myself too. When I looked into the mirror I said: “Who does this body belong to?” Really weird.
CORBIJN: Did you learn something new about Dean while you were shooting the movie?
DEHAAN: Well, I knew his movies, of course I mostly saw the legend in him. I didn’t know anything about his childhood. Nor did I know anything about his private life. I had to read all those things. Now I know about his weaknesses and problems. The two weeks, that Life is telling about, were extremely important to him. He looks back onto his childhood, when his private life gets taken away from him but that he can fulfill his dreams, of being an actor, with that.
CORBIJN: Do you read a lot, by the way?
DEHAAN: Well, I have to read scripts. I can hardly do more. The only book I read in 2014 was The Goldfinch.
CORBIJN: That is the novel by Donna Tartt, isn’t it?
DEHAAN: Yes, a wonderful book. I am reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore rigt now. There are a lot of conversations with animals in the book and because I am playing a character in my next movie, who can talk to animals, I thought, it might be helpful.
CORBIJN: What are you doing to get relaxed?
DEHAAN: I watch movies, I play golf and I cut wood. I love to cut wood. What are you doing to get relaxed?
CORBIJN: I think I don’t relax. In the past I was watching movies, but since I am directing movies, it’s not relaxing anymore. I have to analyze everything now.
DEHAAN: I had an acting teacher once, who always fell asleep, while we were playing. And when we were done with the scene, he always analyzed our play and he was so exact and on the point that I always thought: “What is he even doing? This can’t be possible.” Until I realized that he was only awake as long as we could get his attention. When we made mistakes, when we were not concentrated, he fell asleep. That was, of course, a measure to relax in between.
CORBIJN: How long did you take acting lessons?
DEHAAN: I started in my last year at High school and I continued at College. So five years of intense education.
CORBIJN: When I wanted to study photography in the early seventies, I had the bad luck, that photography wasn’t admitted as an artistic discipline. You were able to take photography classes at Dutch art colleges but only as a minor subject. So, to get into the classes, you had to take the regular art classes, which I had no idea of. I got turned down at three art colleges. Then I went to a school, where failed photographers taught me the art of photography – I hated that.
DEHAAN: You hated it?
CORBIJN: So much. They only talked about the technical aspects and I didn’t cared about them. So one thing lead to the other and I taught it myself, what obviously has it’s own advantages. But it also has the disadvantage that you don’t feel like a real photographer, because there are so many things you can’t do.
DEHAAN: I understand.
CORBIJN: That’s why I had to fight for so long to be respected as a photographer. But by now I only see it as a hobby.
DEHAAN: You don’t see yourself as a photographer anymore?
CORBIJN: Well, not in the strict sense. I take pictures of what I like to take pictures of and I can make a good living out of it. Photography is not a job to me anymore because I have too much respect for it. And because I don’t know so many things I would feel like fraud calling myself a photographer.
DEHAAN: Okay. And how about your job as a director?
DEHAAN: (laughs) Hobby or Job?
CORBIJN: By now more a job, because I am studying movies – like, not at a university, but privately. That is because movies are such a big commitment. Every movie costs me a year of my life. To get through this I really have to want it.
DEHAAN: When you say, you study movies, does that mean that you watch movies very concentrated?
CORBIJN: Yes, exactly. I watch movies, I am going to the theater, trying to find out what makes an actor better than the other actors, trying to recognize strengths. Nimi is really good at that (Nimi Ponnudurai, Corbijn’s wife). She can always remember names too. I forget every name.
DEHAAN: You are probably a visual type of a person and you can remember faces better. But apart from this the actors you are working with are all very different, or?
CORBIJN: Sure. There are for example many people who criticize Rob (Robert Pattinson, playing the second lead role in “Life”), because he did that trilogy – what is it called?
CORBIJN: Twilight, exactly. But I think Rob is just perfect in our movie, that role is like made just for him. But people only look at his past and they say: “How can you take him?” That is insane!
DEHAAN: People love it to postmark actors. It wasn’t different with James Dean either. He is the most postmarked actor of all the time, which maybe was because; there are only three movies he did.
DEHAAN: But he had so many different sides. When people think about Dean, they definitely don’t think about that scene in Giant, where he is 20 years older and sitting at the table completely drunk. They only see him as that adolescent rebel in Rebel Without a Cause. It’s often like this. Rob played the romantic vampire in Twilight and people think, okay, Rob is like that vampire.
CORBIJN: That’s why he is only starring in movies right now that have nothing to do with that. He wants to prove himself as an actor and plays someone who wants to prove himself as a photographer. I know it from you that you are a huge admirer of Philip (Philip Seymour Hoffman, played the lead role in Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man”). He was a person who literally disappeared in his characters.
DEHAAN: Yes, when I tried to train myself to speak like James Dean, I watched Capote again. Philip’s voice was so distant from his own voice, but you never felt for a second that it sounded fake.
CORBIJN: That was physically interesting too. He seems much shorter in Capote than he really was.
DEHAAN: He became a little man in that role.
CORBIJN: What languages do you speak?
DEHAAN: What languages? Only English!
CORBIJN: But you have Dutch roots, or?
DEHAAN: Yes, but I don’t know anything specific. I mean, I grew up with the culture of Pennsylvania Dutch but their culture is more German than Dutch. In Pennsylvania you have the Amish’s, the Mennonite’s and the Pennsylvania Dutch’s. But I never did genealogical research.
CORBIJN: But you know what your last name means in English?
DEHAAN: Yes. The rooster.
CORBIJN: I’d say: The cock!
DEHAAN: Well (laughs). But does DeHaan mean the same in Dutch what cock means in English?
CORBIJN: No, one haan is a male cock. Then your Dutch roots didn’t help you much while you were shooting Tulip Fever?
DEHAAN: No, not at all. Even though I had to learn how to paint for that movie. That was a challenge.
“I CUT WOOD.
I LOVE IT,
TO CUT WOOD.”
CORBIJN: How do you learn how to paint? Especially in which style?
DEHAAN: It was about Dutch portrait paintings of the 17th Century. There was this guy, his name was Jamie Routley, and Christoph Waltz and Alicia Vikander went there and let him paint a portrait of themselves, which we used as requisites. So I went with them and took a look over his shoulder. He is really cool, about my age and he gave me lessons. Only after one lesson I was better, than I ever thought I could be.
CORBIJN: Did we ever talk about music? What is the sound that you are, uh, grooving to? (laughs)
DEHAAN: To be honest with you music is not really my strength. When I’m alone I prefer the silence. Anna, my wife, often shows me songs, to find out if I like them. But music never had that effect on me.
CORBIJN: What I always liked about music was how it can transfer you from one feeling into another feeling in like a very short amount of time. Way much faster than a movie for example. Music on and you are already somewhere else. That is what I liked, the possibility of escaping, especially when I was younger.
DEHAAN: You spent a lot of time with musicians, or?
CORBIJN: Yes, but only as consequence for my love for vinyl’s and music. I wanted to be a part of that world because it meant freedom to me – I was raised in a very religious community. As a teenager I learnt how to play the piano a little. And I play the drums.
DEHAAN: The drums?
CORBIJN: Yes, a little bit.
DEHAAN: Do you also play the conga? (James Dean played the conga)
DEHAAN: I do a little bit (in the movie).
CORBIJN: I saw that. It’s nice hitting things for money.
DEHAAN: Haha! How about boxing? Do you box?
CORBIJN: No. You?
CORBIJIN: Any other combat sport?
DEHAAN: I did Taekwondo, when I was very very young. I nailed it until the yellow belt. I was seven years old back then. But I have a degree in armed stage combat with knife, sword, dagger and epee.
CORBIJN: Do you have any dreams or aims? Would you like to direct one day or playing other characters?
DEHAAN: I don’t know if I want to direct. Maybe when I’m older. But I am very pleased with what I have, because I always wanted to be an actor. Also I can’t really concentrate on lot of things at the same time. I think I would have a lot of difficulties with being a director and still being a pleasant person to be around with.
“Life” by Anton Corbijn with Dane DeHaan in theaters September 24th
Check out the HQ scans from the magazine below. Thanks so much to Kayla from Robert Pattinson LIFE for sharing them with me :)
And for those that don’t know the shoot that they used: it’s an INTERVIEW US 2014 shoot that Dane had, by Steven Klein. We have UHQ in our gallery for over a year, and today I added three photos that were retouched slightly differently (and used in INTERVIEW Germany). The shoot is iconic, so always a pleasure to remember it:
Photoshoots > 2014 > 0011