Since playing a troubled gay teenager in the third season of In Treatment, Dane DeHaan has gone on to land roles on True Blood, the sci-fi sleeper hit Chronicle, and some of this year’s most prestigious films, including the supernatural lesbian romance Jack and Diane, the Prohibition-era drama Lawless (with Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, and Guy Pearce), and the crime saga The Place Beyond the Pines, Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to Blue Valentine. Later this year, DeHaan will star as Lucien Carr opposite Daniel Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg in John Krokidas’ Kill Your Darlings. We spoke to the 25-year-old Pennsylvania native about his breakout success and those pesky Leonardo DiCaprio comparisons.
What can you tell me about the character you play Kill Your Darlings?
Well, in Kill Your Darlings I play this guy, Lucien Carr. When Allen Ginsberg first went to college he ran into Lucien Carr, and they ended up having a very complicated but inspirational relationship, especially on Ginsberg’s end. Lucien Carr is really the person who introduced Ginsberg to Kerouac and to Burroughs, and he was really the person to be like, We are the new vision, we are the beat poets, and this is what we are going to do. He kind of set the movement in action. But he also had a very complicated relationship with an older man named David Kammerer, who was his cub master when Lucien was fourteen and David was twenty-five. And David would actually follow Lucien around from private school to private school and college to college as Lucien was getting kicked out for basically going out at night with David. And this relationship kind of became very overbearing, as Lucien was becoming a man, and becoming more of an adult himself. And he kind of just couldn’t take it anymore and murdered David Kammerer, then colored the murder as an “honor-slaying,” which back then meant he claimed he was being raped by a man and killed him in self-defense, which actually pretty much gets you off for murder in the 40s.
Were you surprised by Chronicle’s success?
Yeah, I guess I was surprised, because I feel like the marketing for it was almost all viral and, in terms movies these days, almost non-existent. The fact that we really made that big of a splash with the little bit of marketing that Fox gave us was surprising, and I think really speaks to the fact that we were four people that were really committed to making that movie what it should be. There was also a part of me that thinks that if it came out at a different time and there was just a little more out there, it could have been even bigger.
Has there been a marked difference in your life post-Chronicle?
I think In Treatment was really the first time that the film and television industry first started taking note of me. But I think Chronicle is my first introduction into the mainstream world, like, Here I am, I’m in movies now. My life isn’t that much different, honestly. I mean, it might just be because it’s all being put into perspective, because most of the time I’m hanging out with Daniel Radcliffe, and he’s just constantly being flocked by people and has no privacy whatsoever and goes around with body guards in SUVs. So it’s certainly not to that extreme yet, and it’s certainly not the extreme it was with Shia during Lawless.
Why do you think so many people compare you to Leonardo DiCaprio?
Why do I think they do it? Well, I think we have very similar eyes. I really like DiCaprio, the younger work especially. I think that he played a lot of very varied, but fully-embodied characters, and I would hope that’s true for my work too. I don’t think it’s just a physical thing – although I think there are undeniable physical things we have in common – I think we bring an intensity to the screen that is somewhat comparable.
How did you make the leap from local theater to doing acting professionally?
I went to college for it at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where I really kind of learned how to work on it and how to do it. And then from there, they have a showcase where you basically do two two-minute scenes and hope to get an agent out of it, and I was lucky enough to get an agent. I mean, honestly, from there I just never stopped working, and the jobs kept getting bigger, and I just kept taking them and saying, “thank you,” and moving on to the next. I honestly haven’t struggled that much, I’ve been unbelievably lucky.