ROUNDUP: Dane DeHaan talks about Life and becoming James Dean

Dane DeHaan

Since Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson were cast in Life last year, DeHaan has had some opportunities to talk about the film. While promoting Kill Your Darlings, Metallica Through The Never and Life After Beth, DeHaan shared the process in becoming James Dean. The following are excerpts and video of our Dane DeHaan roundup.

From Digital Spy (Jan. 8, 2014):

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 favorite actor. So there’s definitely a responsibility to honor him, and honor 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.”

From Delaware Online:

DeHaan — who appears in this summer’s “Amazing Spider-Man” sequel — has been preparing for months now for the difficult task of playing James Dean in the indie film “Life,” which starts shooting next month.

“It’s really intimidating, yeah. But that’s kind of why I did it, you know. Because I like to do things that intimidate me and terrify me and kind of seem impossible and then I get to try to do it,” he said. “But yeah, luckily I’ve had since this film wrapped pretty much to work on it. So I’ve had months to try to research it and stuff.”

From Total Film (Jan. 21, 2014):

Q: And you’re currently working with a dialogue coach?

DeHaan: For the James Dean movie called Life. He had a very specific voice so I’ve gotta have it, too! It’s a challenge. His voice was a lot higher than mine, but it’s fun, you know, that’s what I like to do. The harder it is, the more fun it is, but it’s definitely a challenge, for sure. Today I’m doing the coaching for an hour and a half. I’ve been doing it for a couple of months already and I do it twice a week til we start shooting. And once we start shooting, the dialect coach is on set to make sure everything is going well.

While promoting Kill Your Darlings at TIFF, Popsugar talked to Dane about Life and Robert Pattinson:

From The Daily Beast (Oct. 20, 2013):

You’re set to star in a biopic about James Dean. Those are some big shoes to fill. How will you go about playing the iconic actor?

This script is about two weeks of James Dean’s life, right before he became really famous. It’s a film about how a normal person can be turned into an icon. I’m really interested and looking forward to figuring out who James Dean as a person was, not who the person that most of us have a poster of on our wall is. I think that they are very different people, and I want to get to the humanity of who he was. He’s my favorite actor, and I’ve always idolized him like a lot of people have. His performances have really overwhelmed me in every way. He was ahead of his time, being one of the only people doing this cutting age stuff. That’s what’s always attracted me to him but I never gave much thought about who he was as a person.

From The Refinery 29 (Sept. 25, 2013):

…When we mentioned his just-announced role as James Dean in the forthcoming film Life, that the actor’s eyes really lit up.

 We heard you were just cast as James Dean. Is that intimidating? 

“Yeah. He’s my favorite actor.”

That must be a complete mind warp to be playing your favorite actor. 

“Yeah, it’s really crazy and I have a lot of respect for him, so I will treat it with that much respect. I’m always looking for projects that scare me, that seem kind of impossible, and that will stretch me as an actor. That script is so good, and Anton [Corbijn] is an awesome director, so it’s a really intimidating job, but one I’m excited to have.”

Do you plan on studying his films on a deeper level now? 

“Well, I think one of the things that’s great about the film is that it’s not about the icon James Dean, who you see in the films. This is a James Dean that — I mean, it’s right before East of Eden came out — and he doesn’t really know what’s going to happen. I think what’s really beautiful about the movie is that it gives me the opportunity to find out who James Dean the person was, not James Dean the icon. When you really start reading about him, he wasn’t that brooding, uber-serious kind of guy that he was in his films. He was actually a really fun-loving, free-spirited kind of guy. I think the script does a really good job of showing how a normal person can be made into an icon.”

From Collider:

COLLIDER: What are you looking for with future roles? I know you’re doing the LIFE movie.

DANE DEHAAN: Yeah it’s just about…whether I’m in the next Spiderman movie or not, it’s still about continuing to challenge myself as an actor and continuing to hopefully be given opportunities where I can really tear from myself and challenge myself and hopefully get better. I only do this because I love acting and that’s my part of the puzzle, that’s my part of the job. With LIFE, that to me is a really challenging, terrifying opportunity so that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m looking forward to doing right now. It’s different but it’s really hard and it’s someone I have a lot of respect for. Also, the script is really great and the people involved are really great. Ultimately, I think it all boils down to challenging myself and getting better.

COLLIDER: Can I ask when you’re filming that and have you started researching the role

DANE DEHAAN: I think we’re filming in February and I’ve started. I’ve started to scrape the surface and put it into my consciousness and start thinking about it and reading about him and all that stuff.

From Chicago Tribune:

DeHaan’s performances of troubled and complex young men have earned him comparisons to actor River Phoenix, who died at age 23 in 1993, and famed Hollywood anti-hero James Dean, who died at age 24 in 1955.

The actor said it was “flattering” to be compared to both Phoenix and Dean, the latter of whom he is scheduled to play in an upcoming biopic about Dean’s friendship with photographer Dennis Stock.

“People mostly remember James Dean from ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ but ‘Giant’ is a complete transformation and a huge range of age and character. To me, James Dean is my favorite actor, he’s one of the greatest there ever was,” DeHaan said.

Dane has been spreading the good news about Life but he also deserves some good news spread about him. He’s up for the BAFTA rising star award this year but it’s not the first time he’s been praised. We caught a couple of reports when doing our Life research:

From The Guardian:

Finally he joins up with director Anton Corbijn to make a biopic of the life of James Dean. DeHaan will be playing Dean.

He may not have quite the same celestial bone structure as the original Rebel Without A Cause (though “a lot of people say I look like David Bowie”), but DeHaan is capable of generating the same on-screen intensity. His deep-set eyes radiate a toughness that belies his skinny frame. He can storm around like an emotional hurricane on the verge of gobbling up everything around it.

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LA Times rising star