Without Stones there is no arch.
DANE DEHAAN. Young actor conjures the flaws of tragic heroes
Dane DeHaan slinks into the coffee shop in a black leather jacket, black pants, and silver sunglasses, muttering that he needs a coffee. When he sits down across from me and takes off his glasses, he reveals arresting, light blue eves rimmed with deep red.
In the past year, DeHaan has acted in several films, which have left him drained. He tends to plav struggling outcasts: a lonely, bullied high school kid (with super powers) in the recent Chronicle, a gentle, brilliant cripple in the fordicomingLawless and an irreverent. Beat-era intellectual stalked by an older man in Kill Your Darlings. At the time of our meeting, he’s still in the midst of 14-hour days on the set ofKillYour Darlings and has had few chances to sit down and ponder over coffee.
I ask him why he gravitates towards such difficult roles and he shrugs before taking a long pull from his cup. “I had a pretty good childhood,’’ he states as if it were a confession,
“but I still found myself always interested in those kinds of people. I remember w hen Columbine happened; everyone was quick to paint those kids as criminals. Although what they did was horrific, I didn’t think labeling them as monsters was giving them a fair chance. I think people are quick to judge the kinds of people that are in trouble and aren’t always willing to look at them with understanding, or try to figure out where they’re coming from. So (hat s the part of acting that’s interesting and hard to me. 1 think that understanding is important.” That level of empathy is part of what makes DeHaan appealing on screen. His characters may be troubled, but they emanate a distinct vibrancy; they seem loveable, regardless of their questionable actions. When DeHaan’s character in Chronicle wreaks havoc on Seattle, combusting with rage and pain, the audience understands that he’s not inherently cruel: he’s reacting to a lifetime of abuse and disappointment. The viewer can’t help but feel sorrow’
for him rather than sit in smug judgment. In Lawless, when a corrupt detective comers Dal laans character) Cricket, the viewer laments. Lawless is a bloody, bullet-riddled film in which every one gets a taste of violence, but it’s different with DeHaan’s character; we don’t want him to get hurt. We feel, somehow’, that he doesn’t deserve it. .Aid maybe that’s what makes DeHaan’s work interesting: no one really “deserves” to be hurt, but of course no one escapes life without injury. DeHaan reminds us of human fragility —the universal vulnerability of simply being alive.
Getting this deep into the guts of a character can be consuming and even a bit obsessive, so on tire last day of shooting each of his films. DeHaan partakes in a ritual: he declares to himself that die character he’s been playing will die that day: When he tells me dies. I raise an eyebrow, and he laughs, picking absentlv at the lid of his coffee cup. “Yeah,” he reiterates, “I say,’Lucien Carr [the Beat character in Kill Your Darlings] dies today:
Today he flies.” That way, when its over. I can let it go.” The next week or two involve a mourning period. “I spend such a long time trying to understand them and be on their side,” he explains, “and then once I’m on their side, I try to make them a part of who I am, so I really fall in love with all of them. When it’s over, it can feel like a death.” If lie’s grown particularly attached, he will even cry over his character’s death.
Somehow, DeHaan doesn’t sound pretentious when he says this. I feel a sudden surge of sympathy for him: it must be tough, getting so attached to people and then saying goodbye,
over and over- like losing a string of imaginary friends or parts of oneself. But DeHaan seems well-adjusted and not in need of my pity, and I lind myself wondering if his stability has something to do with the happy childhood he alluded to earlier.
DeHaan grew up in an affluent suburb of Pennsylvania, never expecting to enter Hollywood. He lived in a big white house with a pool ii 1 the backyard, and loved play ing pretend with his friends. His favorite props were a Peter Pan sword, a Captain Hook hook he grins as he reminisces and a Dick Tracy phone booth, which he’d
made out of a refrigerator box. Now adays, he lives in Beachwood Canyon in L.A. and has a fiancee named Anna who he’s marrying in June. He likes to golf and go to the farmer’s market. Sometimes he watches movies.
At the end of the interview, DeHaan jumps up, swiping his empty coffee cup from the table. “Nice meeting you.” he says, while I fumble with my jacket. His sunglasses are on and he’s out the door before I get my purse over my shoulder. As I listen to the bell above the door jingle in his wake, I realize that I’m about to enter a bit of a mourning period of my own.