Interview: DANE DEHAAN, Lawless

Gavin Schmitt Interviews Dane DeHaan

Dane DeHaan is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He is most known for his portrayal of Jesse on HBO’s critically acclaimed drama series “In Treatment”, starring in the third season of the series alongside Gabriel Byrne.

Dane made his Broadway debut in 2008 with American “Buffalo” and began his film career under the direction of two-time Oscar nominee “John Sayles” and opposite Chris Cooper in “Amigo”, released by Variance films in 2011. Horror fans will recognize him from “True Blood”, and he is poised to make his superhero movie debut in “Amazing Spider-Man 2” as Harry Osborn.

GS: Why did the were-panther story in Season 4 of “True Blood” end so abruptly?

DD: I don’t know. My responsibility on that show was to be a were-panther, but I certainly was not involved with writing the story or the plot of the season. I’m probably not the right person to ask that question. I just got the episodes as they were coming. I didn’t know ahead of time what it was supposed to be or where it was supposed to go.

GS: You didn’t even know one day to the next?

DD: No, not really. Just episode to episode. And one day I stopped getting episodes. (laughs) And I went on to do “Lawless”. There you go.

GS: What was it like on the set of “Lincoln”? Did you know it was going to be a big deal and get the Oscar buzz it did?

DD: It was an honor to be on that set. I only really have a cameo in the movie, but I’m proud that this was my first cameo. It’s a set I was excited to go it — it’s a huge production and you’re starring at Daniel Day-Lewis… until you look to your left, and there’s Steven Spielberg. There’s something very surreal about that, and you could tell when you were there that something special was happening. And I’m just happy to be a part of it.

GS: It definitely seems like you’ve been working with every big name out there and are on the verge of becoming A-List…

DD: Yeah, I don’t pick projects because of how famous I think they’re going to make me, but rather on the challenge that they present to me as an actor and artist. I’ve been really lucky in that a lot of the projects that excite me are also the ones that excite the people that have been doing this a lot longer than me, this profession, and it’s a great feeling. Who I want to be working with are the people at the top of my game, the top of the profession, and as I continue to do things I’m passionate about with these talented people, my opportunities seem to grow. But I’ve only been making movies for two years, so we’ll see. The way I look at projects now from how I did two years ago is a vast difference. And it just gets more exciting…

GS: I love the story behind “Lawless”. Was there any sort of homework, getting to know your character or the time period?

DD: No, nothing required per se. It’s our responsibility as actors to create the most fleshed out, realistic, truthful characters that we could. Actors all work very differently to find their way into their individual characters. I was never told, “You must read this.” It was an independent journey for all of us.

GS: And how does your method differ from others?

DD: I have a specific way I work, things I always do. But then there are things I do differently depending on what or who the character is. With Cricket, who has rickets, I wanted to avoid him being the happy-go-lucky, limping sidekick. I wanted him to be a fully fleshed out human being that just happens to have a limp and just happens to be best friends with a certain person, the main character. In developing the limp, I actually did a lot of research looking at pictures, talking to doctors, figuring out how I wanted my legs to look and bend that would be realistic. Once I decided how I wanted to walk, I realized I couldn’t walk like that and still have my feet flat on the floor. So I worked closely with the costume department to develop shoes that had angles in them. That allowed me to walk on the sides of my feet at a very consistent angle throughout the film.

GS: I appreciate that you wanted Cricket to be something more, because that sort of character could have become just a comic relief…

DD: Thank you. It’s really important to me to bring truth and humanity to all of my work.

GS: Did you do something for your eyes, or are your eyes really that bright?

DD: No, those are my eyes. They’re really that blue, I have husky eyes. It’s nothing really.

GS: What was done on set to give the film a period feel?

DD: The garage I lived in and the bar, hotel and station, these were built for the movie. And they’re not facades, but actual full-on buildings you could walk around in. The garage is so complex, there are parts of it you never even get to see in the movie. The tools and stuff create an entire life within the set, and that was a real treat to have. It felt like we were actually there because, well, we were.

GS: From your point of view, how does John Hillcoat’s directing differ from Spielberg’s?

DD: Honestly, that’s a very hard thing for me to compare because I was on the set of “Lawless” for nine weeks and only on “Lincoln” for two days. (laughs) I can tell you that Hillcoat is a very gentle person, he is a collaborator. We made the movie for a lot less money than “Lincoln” and we had to move a lot faster, doing thirty set ups a day. Hillcoat had two weeks of rehearsals beforehand, to make sure everyone was on the same page and comfortable. He wanted to make sure that when we came to the set, everyone was prepared to do it. It was amazing to be on set with Spielberg, but I can’t say we truly got to dig deep together because it was just one scene. There was no extensive conversation of what we wanted to achieve and who my character was. There was much less responsibility, so I would have to have a more in-depth experience with Spielberg to really compare the two.

GS: That makes sense. It’s my impression that Spielberg is very hands-on and knows what he wants.

DD: Yeah, I think he did. He definitely had a very clear vision.

GS: Are there any stories from “Lawless” that haven’t been told?

DD: There are definitely stories, but I think at this point they’ve all been told. Nothing jumps out to me that says, “I can’t believe no one talked about that.”

GS: You have nothing?

DD: Well, the story I like to tell is the road trip that Shia (LaBeouf) took from Los Angeles to Georgia. At the start of the movie, we drove from LA to the set because we didn’t know each other at all and we knew we were supposed to be best friends in the movie. We figured the best way to do that was to trap ourselves in a car with one another for four days straight. That was great. We spent Valentine’s Day together in Shreveport, Louisiana at a gumbo restaurant. I will never forget about “Lawless” because of that trip.

GS: You know, a trip like that could have had the opposite effect…

DD: It totally worked. I love Shia, he’s a great guy. It could go either way, but we were there with the intentional of becoming really close friends, and really close friends we became.

GS: Let’s wind this down — what’s the next project we should be looking for?

DD: I have “Place Beyond the Pines” with Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance who did “Blue Valentine”. It did great in Toronto and was picked up by Focus Features. It’s a really great film and the one I’m most proud of. “Kill Your Darlings” with Daniel Radcliffe. I made a 3-D movie with Metallica, and I have a supporting role in “Devil’s Knot”. It’s all been very exciting.

GS: Dane, thanks for the chat.

DD: Sure thing, thank you.

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