29-Jun, 09:02

16:07, January 13 177 0

2017-01-13 16:07:10
Movie Star Dane DeHaan: He Broods. He Pouts. He ... Golfs?

Dane DeHaan has watery, nearly translucent blue eyes — somewhere between mysterious and radioactive, “made for cinema,” according to the director Derek Cianfrance — and a haunted stare that has made him Hollywood’s go-to avatar of teenage torment. In the few years he has been acting on film, he has played a high-school loner turned telekinetic terrorist (“Chronicle”), the troubled son of an absent father (in Mr. Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines”), and a tortured analysand (“In Treatment”). So when a reporter asked Mr. DeHaan what they might spend an afternoon doing together, the answer came as a surprise.

Golf?

“I always say if I could do anything, I would be a professional golfer,” said Mr. DeHaan, whose handicap is a country-club respectable 12, on a windy December morning at the driving range at Chelsea Piers in New York. “But I’m not good enough, so I’m an actor.” He reared back and drove into a golf ball with a satisfying thwack, and it sailed out toward the Hudson River.

Finding one of American film’s favorite young interpreters of subcutaneous roil on the links (or the range, barring that) was not what I expected, I told Mr. DeHaan.

“No one expects me to golf,” he said. “I don’t think there are so many moody, brooding people on golf courses. But I always say that golfing and acting are very similar to me. I think they’re both singular practices. It’s something that no matter how hard I work at, or practice, I will never be as good as I want to be.” (There’s that roil.)

Actually, Mr. DeHaan contests the descriptions, now standard, of him as a tortured-artist type (though he did recently play James Dean in “Life,” a Dean biopic). He has played happy-go-lucky (in John Hillcoat’s 2012 bootlegging period piece “Lawless”) and straight man to a marauding zombie girlfriend (“Life After Beth”). But it is Mr. DeHaan’s brittle soulfulness that has booked him four Prada ad campaigns and kept him on lists of soon-to-break-out stars.

That break has been primed by independent films like “The Place Beyond the Pines” and the studio-system imprimatur of a key role as the Green Goblin in “The Amazing Spiderman 2.”

In 2017, he is headlining, for the first time in his career, two major films. “A Cure for Wellness,” a creepy thriller from Gore Verbinski, the director of “The Ring” and the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, comes out next month, with Mr. DeHaan in nearly every frame. And Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” a reportedly $180 million sci-fi spectacular — the most expensive film ever made in Europe, according to Variety — follows in July, with hopes of expanding into a franchise. In that one, Mr. DeHaan is not the surly teenager or the supporting villain: He is, for the first time, the hero, Valerian himself — with a supermodel consort, no less: Cara Delevingne.

Mr. DeHaan is, unlike many young actors, untroubled by his slow and steady ascent. He lives a not-particularly-starry and personal-assistant-free life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, after an unhappy two-and-a-half-year stint in Los Angeles.

“I feel like Hollywood can really take people, take a hold of them and make them feel pressure that doesn’t need to be there,” he said. “I don’t want Hollywood to influence me, I want to influence Hollywood.”

He now shuttles there a week or two a year for meetings. (He also admits he takes himself too seriously “almost all the time.”)

“I think a lot of people put that pressure on themselves,” he said, gazing out over the driving range. “I think people feel like this is their moment and they have to capitalize on it, or whatever. I want to do this forever. So I’m more than happy to just kind of let things happen.”

It helps that he has not been without an acting job since graduating from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2008. He had been so eager to act that he finished high school there as well, as part of its high school program. “I never waited tables out of school,” he said. “I waited tables summers between college in anticipation of waiting tables.” His return to the restaurant never arrived.

He followed a well-worn path — the “Law & Order” guest appearance, Off Broadway theater, recurring roles on HBO — before crossing over onto the big screen. Luckily, he added, even if doing “The Aliens,” a three-man play by the Pulitzer winner Annie Baker, which he performed in a 104-seat theater and for which he won an Obie Award, was “one of the best experiences of my career.” “Still,” he added, “when I was doing Off Broadway plays, I would have been making more money collecting unemployment.”

Mr. DeHaan looks younger than his 30 years, and his delicate, almost alien handsomeness makes him an unusual fit for a Hollywood megastar. He had to adopt a “bro lifestyle” to bulk up for “Valerian.” But he has always found support among directors, including Steven Spielberg, who cast him in a small part in “Lincoln,” and Mr. Cianfrance.

“Movie stars have this charisma to them, this undeniable thing where you can’t stop looking at them,” Mr. Cianfrance said. With Mr. DeHaan, he said, “I felt that same kind of magic as when I met Ryan or Bradley for the first time.” (Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper were co-stars in “The Place Beyond the Pines.”)

At the time of his casting in that film, Mr. DeHaan was not well known; Mr. Cianfrance had not seen any of his other films. “There was discussion of other more established actors for that role, and actors that would have secured financing in an easier way in that time,” he said. “But across the board, he was undeniable.”

Mr. DeHaan has an intensity that holds the screen, whether he is uncovering the sinister truth about a Swiss spa in “A Cure for Wellness” (“We want to do what ‘Jaws’ did to a day at the beach to the health spa,” Mr. Verbinski said) or battling aliens as a time-traveling special agent in “Valerian.”

“With Dane, 30 seconds after I sat down at the bar with him, the restaurant, I knew that it was him, for sure,” said Mr. Besson, the director of “Valerian.” “After one minute, my problem is, if he says no, I’m in trouble. It was already printed in my head.”

“Valerian” is a different kind of film, and a different kind of acting, for Mr. DeHaan, who is classically trained and speaks reverently of “doing” rather than “acting.” (On the inside of his forearm, “i do.” is tattooed in tiny letters, as a reminder.) “Valerian” was shot largely in front of a blue screen, for the visual effects to be added in later. And yet, Mr. Besson said, “you can see what he’s seeing. He’s watching the alien or the spaceship. You have no doubt about it.”

After five months shooting “A Cure for Wellness” in Germany, and six months shooting “Valerian” in Paris, Mr. DeHaan returned to Brooklyn for a break. His wife, the actress Anna Wood, is pregnant; their first child is due in the spring.

“Unless I make an effort to be home, I would probably never be home,” he said.

So he has lolled for a few months enjoying what may be the twilight of his mostly anonymous life, trying to separate himself from stardom and all the oddities it entails. Golf, now a more occasional hobby than the everyday obsession it was when he was a young boy in Allentown, Pa., helps.

“One of the reasons I still love it is that when I’m golfing, all I think about is golfing,” he said, as I lobbed questions about his first trip to the Cannes Film Festival and the roles that got away. At the mention of an agent, his swing, once balletic and effective, fell out of joint.

“See?” he said with a laugh. “Start bringing up business, and I start spraying balls all over the place.”