Dane DeHaan Q&A: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, James Dean, In Treatment
By Emma Dibdin
Dane DeHaan is among the five nominees for the EE Rising Star Award at this year’s BAFTAs, alongside George MacKay, Lupita Nyong’o, Will Poulter and Léa Seydoux.
Since his breakout role as adopted teenager Jesse on HBO’s In Treatment, DeHaan has rapidly established himself as one of Hollywood’s most mesmerising young actors. While he’s known for playing troubled young men – including Chronicle‘s doomed Andrew Detmer, Ryan Gosling’s conflicted son in The Place Beyond the Pines, and most recently the charismatic but unstable Lucien Carr in Kill Your Darlings – he’s the opposite of predictable on screen, bringing a nuanced sense of psychology to every new character.
He’ll next be seen as Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and he’s recently signed on to play James Dean opposite Robert Pattinson in Anton Corbijn’s drama Life.
Digital Spy caught up with DeHaan yesterday to discuss cutting his teeth on In Treatment, his complex arc in Spider-Man, and the unique challenges of playing his favourite actor in Dean.
Congratulations on your nomination! How did you find out the news?
“Thanks, I appreciate it. I’ve been home in New York for a little while, and I woke up to a bunch of tweets from people congratulating me, so it was really exciting. It’s a good thing to wake up to.”
What’s your feeling on awards season in general?
“I think it’s definitely a perk of the job that I get to do this thing I love to do, and then people love to watch me do it, and then sometimes you even get awards for it! The whole thing is nothing to complain about, that’s for sure. When people recognise your work and want to reward you for what you’ve done, that’s a good feeling.”
Your big break was in the third season of HBO’s brilliant In Treatment. The show had a very intimate, play-like tone – what was that like as a young actor?
“Yeah, people say it’s like a play, and it’s certainly written like a play, because it’s between two people. But the process of shooting it is nothing like a play, you know, in a play you would get a minimum of four weeks of rehearsals. On In Treatment you get sometimes 24 hours, sometimes two days, if you’re lucky a week.
“But it’s such a great opportunity for a young actor – they give you incredibly challenging material and then they trust you with it, and they continue to challenge you, and it’s a great showcase. Those scripts are like candy for actors, and I think to not be treated like “a young actor”, but to have such high demands on you and to get the opportunity to play such a challenging role, it’s such a gift. It’s a great way to be introduced to the public.”
Did you and Mia Wasikowska talk much about your experiences on In Treatment when you worked together for Lawless?
“Yeah, absolutely. We had Sarah Treem in common – she wrote both of our characters, she wrote the teenage character on all three of the seasons. And while I was filming In Treatment, Mia’s film The Kids Are Alright was coming out, and I went to the premiere of that with Sarah.
“It was great to talk about Gabriel [Byrne], and we made a little video for Gabriel at one point. It was definitely something that had a huge impact on both of our careers.”
What’s the character arc for Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
“When you first meet Harry he’s just graduated from high school, and he has to come back to New York to help deal with Oscorp, and its legacy, and his father [Norman Osborn, played by Chris Cooper]. He also sees Peter Parker for the first time in a long time; they were childhood friends. So it’s really about Harry having a friendship with Peter and an allegiance to Peter, but also being the heir apparent to Oscorp, and having to deal with that.
“It’s becoming very obvious that all of these villains are originating from within Oscorp, in one way or the other. There are things that Harry feels he owes Peter, and things he needs from Peter, there are things he feels he needs from Spider-Man, and then there’s his responsibility to Oscorp. It’s a very complicated storyline, really cool and dynamic.”
Peter was quite an isolated character in the first film, so the friendship is an interesting new wrinkle.
“Yeah, and it’s a friendship that… I mean, they haven’t been friends for such a long time, but they definitely both feel like they used to be best friends, and ideally they would love to rekindle that friendship.”
You’ve recently filmed your first comedy, Life After Beth. Was that a change of pace for you?
“Yeah, it was great. I filmed it about two weeks after Spider-Man, which was a pretty intense process, and at that point I had gone through about three and a half years straight of doing pretty intense stuff. So all of a sudden I found myself on set with Aubrey Plaza and John C Reilly and Molly Shannon and all these people that I just find hilarious.
“I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself, and ways to do things that are kind of scary, and I think having to be in a comedy with people that funny was one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve had.”
And you’ve signed on to play James Dean in Anton Corbijn’s Life…
“Yes, I did. I start filming that in February, and I’ve just been working really hard on it. It’s quite an undertaking, but I’m very excited.”
When we spoke to you for Kill Your Darlings you mentioned how comparatively little is known about Lucien Carr, whereas there’s so much information out there about James Dean. What’s your research process been like?
“Yeah, there’s a wealth of information on James Dean, and everybody has an opinion on him. James Dean made some kind of impression on everybody.
“Whenever I bring up the film with people, they always have something very specific to say about him, whether it’s something that’s true or something that’s been created, because of his whole myth and how iconic he’s become. He’s a person that has made such a big impact in so many people’s lives, and he’s also my favourite actor.
“So there’s definitely a responsibility to honour him, and honour who he really was, and try to dig the truth out of all the stories that have been told about him and all the stories that have been made up. What’s true, and what’s not. I think for every fact you can find about James Dean, you can find a fact that’s the complete opposite.
“Everybody has a different story, and ultimately it’s been a really interesting process of digging through everything and trying to figure out who he really is.”
The film focuses on James Dean’s friendship with photojournalist Dennis Stock. Is there a sense in the script that Stock is trying to get to the truth about Dean in the same way you describe?
“Well, Stock’s photo essay was done before East of Eden came out, so James Dean wasn’t famous at all, nobody really knew who he was. In the industry there was some buzz that there was this guy, and he’s in this movie that Elia Kazan directed and he’s supposed to be really good, and they started to show some screenings of it and it started to gain buzz.
“But James Dean really didn’t become the icon that he is until after he died, so I think, sure, as a photographer he was probably trying to capture James Dean as a person, but there wasn’t this whole mythical iconic persona to compete against.”