We have a happy surprise! While promoting The Amazing Spiderman Part 2, Dane DeHaan was interviewed by James Franco for Interview magazine. They spent a lengthy amount of time talking about Life and James Dean. Robert Pattinson also briefly mentioned working on Life while promoting The Rover and Maps To The Stars.
We’re posting excerpts from both interviews, starting with Dane for Interview.
Self-confessed theater geek Dane DeHaan left his hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, while he was still in high school to study acting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Television roles (on HBO’s In Treatment and True Blood, among others) came quickly, and soon DeHaan was racking up an impressive roster of film credits. In a matter of just four years, he has worked with John Sayles (in the 2010 war saga Amigo), with John Hillcoat (across from Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf in 2012’s Lawless), with Steven Spielberg (reciting the Gettysburg Address to the president in 2012’s Lincoln), and with Derek Cianfrance (in 2012’s The Place Beyond the Pines). In last year’s Kill Your Darlings, he played Lucien Carr, a college friend of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who in 1944 murdered his admirer David Kammerer, and initially had his beatnik buddies help cover it up (Carr ultimately pled guilty to manslaughter and served 18 months at a reformatory).
Now 28, DeHaan again plays a real-life murder suspect (this time, Chris Morgan, a peripheral character in the West Memphis child murders), alongside Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, in director Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot, about the West Memphis Three, out this month. He’ll also appear in the little drama The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Peter Parker’s nemesis Harry Osborn—a playboy who morphs into the Green Goblin.
And for his next project, the young actor who has made a name playing troubled adolescents takes on his dream role, playing Mister Moody himself, James Dean, in Anton Corbijn’s forthcoming Life (opposite Robert Pattinson, who plays photographer Dennis Stock). If this series of roles sounds somewhat familiar, we thought it did too. And so we asked James Franco, who broke out in 2001 as the lead in the TNT movie James Dean and played Osborn in the Tobey Maguire-era Spideys (as well as Allen Ginsberg in Howl, 2010), to give DeHaan a call. Franco, who is presently doing Of Mice and Men on Broadway, rang from Brooklyn to discover that DeHaan, who’d recently flown to New York from Toronto, was only a few blocks away.
JAMES FRANCO: Hello, Dane. What were you doing in Toronto?
DANE DEHAAN: I was doing the film Life, in which I play James Dean.
FRANCO: That’s about the period that James Dean hung out with the photographer who did a photo series of him, right?
DEHAAN: Dennis Stock, yeah. Two weeks before East of Eden  came out, Dean and Stock traveled from L.A. to New York, spent some time in New York, and then they went back to Dean’s home in Indiana. The movie is about those two weeks of their lives.
FRANCO: So, while they were in New York, did Dennis Stock shoot the photo of Dean in Times Square that provided the model for that painting called Boulevard of Broken Dreams?
DEHAAN: Yeah, that’s his.
FRANCO: And then they went to Indiana and did all these cool shots of Dean on the farm?
DEHAAN: Yeah, like, with the cows, and playing the bongos and that kind of thing.
FRANCO: [laughs] Did you do all that stuff?
DEHAAN: Well, not all of it—there are a ton of photos. We took the most well-known ones, and told the story through the photos. So, you’re following them and see how the pictures happened.
FRANCO: Oh, cool. Because your director is also a photographer, right?
DEHAAN: Yeah, Anton Corbijn is a photographer. But he’s made four feature films now.
FRANCO: So the drive of the movie is just about how they made those photos, or is there something else going on?
DEHAAN: It’s the story of how James Dean is the catalyst and muse for the photographer. In the beginning of the story, Stock is an artist who’s worried about his future. From his experience with Dean, he learns to live in the present and what it means to be an artist.
FRANCO: If I remember it right, James Dean almost got in a motorcycle accident at Laurel Canyon and Sunset, and that’s how he met him? Was that Stock?
DEHAAN: No, he met Stock at the Chateau [Marmont] at a party that Nick Ray was throwing in 1954. Nick Ray introduced him and said, “You should get to know this kid—he’s got a movie coming out.”
FRANCO: Was that Rebel Without a Cause ?
DEHAAN: He hadn’t even been quite cast in Rebel yet. He was probably going to get it, and then Nick Ray threw this party and he showed up. He went to the party to keep hope alive, I suppose. Dennis went and saw East of Eden the next day, and was like, “Holy shit, who is this guy? I have to do a photo essay on him.” And that’s how it all kind of began.
FRANCO: And when they went back to Indiana, Dean went back to his high school—
DEHAAN: He went to the high school dance. There are photos of him signing autographs and playing the bongos with the four-piece band. There’s also a really beautiful photo, one of my favorites, with him sitting on an empty stage in the high school auditorium.
FRANCO: You grew up in Pennsylvania, right?
DEHAAN: Yeah, Allentown.
FRANCO: Do you ever go back there?
DEHAAN: Sometimes, around Thanksgiving, but rarely. My sister still lives in the same town where we grew up, but I don’t make it back there much.
FRANCO: I’ve had a developing relationship with people that I knew when I was younger, and I really enjoy going back home. But for a while it was weird. It sounds like James Dean had a pretty good homecoming, but, like, Janis Joplin went back home, and they still rejected her. What is your experience?
DEHAAN: I feel like home meant a lot more to Dean than it does to me. For him it was a place that he became a boy again, you know? But for me it feels foreign. I haven’t spent much time there since I was 17. Now when I go home, I don’t really know my way around. Everything’s changed a little bit.
FRANCO: We’ve played so many similar roles. What the hell, man! I guess we could say that you played the wizard first, though. I read that James Dean is one of your favorite actors. Is that true?
DEHAAN: He is.
FRANCO: As an actor looking at another actor, what do you think you could learn from him? Or what do you think made you like his work?
DEHAAN: I think what makes me like his work is how real he was—he’s emotional and open, but living in the moment and so impulsive. It seems like he followed his impulses better than anyone I can think of. Watching the old movies and seeing him be amazing even by modern standards of acting, everyone else just pales in comparison. It’s a really impressive thing. And it’s been an interesting process, getting to know more about him for the role. I always thought he was really into learning how to act and the craft of acting, but it seems as though he was self-obsessed with his own process. He didn’t want to be taught anything. He only went to, like, a very few acting classes, even though he fought so hard to get into the Actors Studio. As soon as he went, he got torn apart by Lee Strasberg and then basically never went up again.
DEHAAN: I always thought he was this acting nerd like I am. He was just born with the talent to act and this vivid imagination. But the way he went about getting there was actually kind of annoying. He’d trap himself in his trailer for hours before he would do a take and everyone was just kind of waiting around for him.
FRANCO: When you say you’re an acting nerd, what do you mean? Like, doing theater, or have you trained? How is what you do different from his approach?
DEHAAN: I guess Dean did as much theater in high school as he could. I just mean studying acting itself, going to school for it. I loved learning about it. I loved getting classical training in terms of acting. I would’ve stayed in acting school for the rest of my life if I could have. It was this amazing period of my life where everything was so safe.
FRANCO: That was in North Carolina?
DEHAAN: At the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. It’s the only state-run conservatory in the nation. They have a one-year senior year of high school program that I went to. And then the four-year college program that I also went to. You only have two hours of academics a day, and then the rest of your time is just spent taking acting class, taking dance class, taking speech class.
FRANCO: Dean was mean to Raymond Massey on the set of East of Eden because he and Elia Kazan thought that he needed Massey, who played his father, to really hate him—and vice versa—in order to play that role. I would never do anything like that. I never wanted to get in the way of anybody else’s work. But how do you reconcile that kind of live, vital, raw expressiveness of James Dean while still being a collaborative partner on movies, which are a very collaborative medium?
DEHAAN: The easy answer is that you save the bad boy for when you’re on camera. Once the cameras start rolling, you have permission to act that way.
FRANCO: But it’s important for you to have a healthy kind of working relationship with your director and your collaborators?
DEHAAN: Ideally. I love being directed. I always find it helpful to have someone else’s brain in the mix and not just have to rely on myself.
FRANCO: Is there some underlying thing that you think drives you to take the kinds of projects that you do? And let’s just bring up—I’m not bitter, but let’s just bring it up—you did turn me down for a role in my movie The Sound and the Fury. I was thinking that you would love it. But I think you said, “I never understood the book in high school and I still don’t get it now,” or something like that. [both laugh]
DEHAAN: I think that ultimately what drives my decisions is if I think the opportunity is going to challenge me in a way that makes me better as an actor. What’s going to make me grow the most? If the opportunity is presented to me and I’m kind of like, “Oh, my God, I have no idea if I can even do that, it seems like an impossible task …” Like the James Dean thing, I had no idea if I could pull that off; it seemed like something really far away. I didn’t look at myself and think, “Oh, I look like him,” or “I am him.” I didn’t really think I could pull it off, and that’s why I wanted to do it, to see if I could get myself to the place where I could do that, you know? There’s this quote that has kind of become a mantra in my life. It’s from the Bhagavad Gita. And it goes a little something like this: “You have the right to the work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of the work. Desire for the fruits of the work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness either. Perform …” Well, then it gets kind of religious. But, basically, what I think it’s saying is that all you can really trust in is your own personal journey in the work. I can’t worry what it’s going to do in my life, or what impact it’s going to have. All I can really focus on is the task at hand, you know?
FRANCO: Cool, man. Great talking to you. I really enjoyed it. I did a painting of you I hope you don’t mind. It’s a little goofy—my style is a little goofy.
DEHAAN: I can’t wait to see it. I’m hoping to go see Of Mice and Men sometime.
FRANCO: Just let me know when you want to come and I’ll set you up.
Click HERE to read the interview in its entirety.
Here is the brief excerpt from Robert Pattinson’s interview with Premiere magazine.
PREMIERE: The Rover seems like a new stage of your career. It is also how you feel?
ROBERT: The first time I ever felt like I was seeing an adult when I looked at myself on screen, was when I discovered the Dior ad that I filmed last year, directed by Romain Gavras. The Rover confirmed this feeling, which continued on Life, the film I just shot with Corbijn. I think I have more confidence in myself and these Cannes selections are helping a lot. After being dissed for years because of Twilight, my ego was a little bruised.