When Dane DeHaan was studying acting at UNC School of the Arts he had a poster of James Dean on his dorm wall.
DeHaan graduated in 2008 and has gone on to star in the HBO series In Treatment, and films like Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines, Kill Your Darlings and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but one thing hasn’t changed.
“The poster is still on my wall,” he says on the line from his home. “I’m looking at it right now.”
In new film Life the twenty-nine-year-old actor plays Dean in 1955, just months away from the release of East of Eden. After a chance meeting a photographer played by Robert Pattinson becomes convinced the actor is the perfect subject. The two have an undeniable bond but Dean is hesitant, leery of exposing himself to the publicity machine.
DeHaan, who gained twenty-five pounds to play the screen icon, calls Dean one of his favourite actors.
“I was learning about acting and my acting teacher told us to go home and watch Marlon Brando and James Dean movies. I started watching them and he was just amazing. It was amazing to watch someone start the revolution of the kind of acting that most people do today but do it in such a beautiful way.
“It’s so exciting to watch those movies and see James Dean existing in this world with all these other over-the-top actors and just take them to school. The contrast was so jarring. Now you see a movie and there are obviously people who are better than others, but generally they’re trying to do the same kind of acting. In those movies that’s not really happening.”
DeHaan, who will soon be seen playing another real life character, Karl Rove in Young Americans, says “people think they know a lot about Dean but not many people really know much about him at all,” and hope Life will change that.
“Ultimately that was one of the reasons I took it on,” he says. “I realized that there are a lot of young people who don’t know who James Dean is, and that’s a sad fact. I would hope you would watch his movies first and then watch our movie or watch our movie and then watch his. I hope it opens a door for a lot of people to rediscover him not just as a persona but as an amazing talent.”
JAMES DEAN SIDEBAR:
Dane DeHaan joins a long list of people who have played Dean since the icon’s death in 1955
James Franco became a star, and won a Golden Globe, playing the rebellious actor in the TV biopic James Dean. Franco got so into character he went from non-smoker to a two-pack-a-day habit — in real life Dean smoked more than two packs of unfiltered Chesterfields a day — and learned to ride a motorcycle.
In 1976, Stephen McHattie won praise playing Dean in the TV movie James Dean written by William Bast, Dean’s best friend and roommate.
Also interesting is the video installation piece Rebel which features a female James Dean in the form of performer Nina Ljeti, and an Animaniacs episode featuring Slappy Squirrel giving Dean a class in method acting.
Stephen Hawking is the world’s most famous physicist. Suffering from a motor neuron disease related to ALS, he is paralyzed and has been wheelchair bound for most of his life. Communicating through a speech-generating device he continues to share his ideas and write books like A Brief History of Time, which stayed on the British Sunday Times best-sellers list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.
His story is well known; lesser known is the story of his (now ex) wife Jane.
A film at TIFF aims to fix that. The Theory of Everything is not just the biography of a great man but also the story of the great woman behind the man. As Jane Hawking, Felicity Jones portrays the strength, wisdom and occasional frustration it took to be Hawking’s partner.
“As is often the case with very famous and rich people there is someone in the background doing all the very unglamorous work,” she says. “Jane is a fascinating woman in her own right. I met her and was very intimidated. She had a tremendous force of character and strength to do what she did. It is not easy being the carer in that situation, particularly for someone who is very famous. You can feel eclipsed, so for all of us it was about bringing Jane’s story to life.”
The movie, which is based by the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking, is just as much about her as it is him. Jones, who was recently seen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and on TV in the HBO hit Girls, says she met with her real-life counterpart to soak up as much of her spirit as possible.
“There is so much richness in her life it would have been stupid of me not to have her as my resource,” says Jones, who plays Jane from a teenager well into her fifties. “It was about capturing her essence. The essence of this woman is somebody who is strong willed, who is persistent and was an academic in her own right. Incredibly intelligent. It is taking that and also bringing your instinct and inhabiting that person as much as possible.
“When I went to visit Jane we sat down to look at pictures. She had old slides of her and Stephen when they first met. Looking at those pictures and seeing the dynamic between them when they were on boating holidays was fascinating. Stephen at that point wasn’t able to move so Jane would be steering the boat. I wanted to absorb as much as possible from what she was showing me. When I met her I felt a little bit disingenuous because we’d be talking and I’d be observing things about her. Like I was a detective trying to find clues about her character.”
Jones says Jane is “very pleased with the film. She has been very supportive all the way through. You don’t want the person to watch it and say, ‘Well, that’s awful. That wasn’t right at all.’ You have to care for the people you’re playing and show that in your performance.”
At two-and-a-half hours the new Spider-Man movie is almost equal parts action and story. The first fifteen minutes contains not one, but two wild action sequences that’ll make your eyeballs dance. If you haven’t had your fill of special effects for the week your thirst will be quenched early on. Then the onslaught of story begins. Jammed packed with plot, bad guys and lots and lots of moony-eyed love, it’s the busiest superhero movie in recent memory.
Fresh out of high school Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is being pulled in two different directions. He loves Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) but is troubled by a promise he made to her late father (Dennis Leary) that he would never let anything bad happen to her.
Meanwhile, Peter’s old friend Harry Osborn (Dane De Haan), heir to the OsCorp fortune, is battling a hereditary genetic disease he thinks can be cured with a dose of Spider-Man’s blood and Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a low level OsCorp electrical engineer, has an accident that rewires him into Electro, a highly charged villain with the power to control electricity.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is this is a movie with several well-crafted dramatic moments. Too bad most of them feel like they’re lifted from another movie and dropped into this one as placeholders for the action sequences. Peter Parker is shedding tears over his love life one minute, swinging on webby vines through the streets the next. Both tones are well executed, but they often feel forced together.
Garfield works to distance himself from Tobey McGuire’s Spider-Man. First thing you notice is that he’s not as mopey as McGuire; as Parker Garfield is nerdy and angsty, not downcast and ennui ridden.
Secondly, he’s witty when playing the web slinger. The Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies didn’t use Spidey’s comic book sarcasm but Garfield’s Mach 2 version isn’t shy to let loose with some entertaining trash talking.
His portrayal is bright, punchy and more akin to the comic books than anything McGuire or Raimi put on film.
Emma Stone’s football-sized eyes and smart smile rescue Gwen from the simply fulfilling the girlfriend role. She brings some spark to the character and shares some good chemistry with (real life boyfriend) Garfield.
Speaking of sparks, Foxx could have used a few more as Electro. A bundle of neurosis before his electro charged accident, Max becomes one of the rare villains who was more interesting before he got his powers.
De Haan, who was so good in “Chronicle,” is interesting as Harry / Green Goblin. His obsession with finding a cure for his disease is a springboard for his transformation into the Goblin and Da Haan embraces a malevolence that makes the character memorable.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has good actors—plus a fun cameo from Paul Giamatti—a love story and some good action—you will believe a man can swing above the streets of New York—so why does it feel somewhat unsatisfying?
Maybe it’s the two-and-a-half-hour running time, or the something-for-everyone mix of action, heartbreak and comedy, or perhaps it’s the fact that it feels like a well made copy of the first Garfield “Spider-Man” movie, which itself was a riff on the McGuire movies.
The Spider-Man movies don’t skimp on the stuff that puts the “super” into superhero movies. There’s web-slinging shenanigans and wild bad guys galore, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 director Marc Webb calls the relationship between Spidey and girlfriend Gwen Stacy, “the engine of the movie.”
The chemistry the real-life couple brings to the screen is undeniable, but it almost didn’t get a chance to blossom. Before Emma Stone landed the role of the brainiac love interest, Mia Wasikowska, Imogen Poots, Emma Roberts and even Lindsay Lohan were considered.
Stone won some of the best reviews of her career playing Gwen in The Amazing Spider-Man — Peter Travers said she, “just jumps to life on screen” — in a role that gave her the biggest hit of her career to date.
Smaller roles in Superbad and Zombieland hinted at her ability to be funny and hold the screen, but in 2010’s Easy A she turned a corner into full-on Lucille Ball mode, mixing pratfalls with wit while pulling faces and cracking jokes. Smart and funny, she’s the film’s centrepiece.
The movie begins with the voice over, “The rumours of my promiscuity have been greatly exaggerated.” It’s the voice of Olive (Stone), a clean-cut high school senior who tells a little white lie about losing her virginity. As soon as the gossip mill gets a hold of the info, however, her life takes a parallel course to the heroine of the book she is studying in English class — The Scarlet Letter.
Stone is laugh-out-loud funny in Easy A, but her breakout film was a serious drama.
In The Help, she plays Jackson, Miss. native “Skeeter” Phelan who comes home from four years at school to discover the woman who raised her, a maid named Constantine (Cicely Tyson), is no longer employed by her family. Her mother says she quit, but Skeeter has doubts. With the help of a courageous group of housekeepers she tells the real story of the life of the maids, writing a book called The Help.
The Flick Filosopher called her performance, “on fire with indignation and rage,” and she moved from The Help to a variety of roles, including playing a femme fatale in Gangster Squad opposite Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin, and lending her trademark raspy voice to cave girl Eep in the animated hit The Croods.
The 25-year-old actress is living her childhood dream of being an actress but says if performing hadn’t worked out, she would have been a journalist, “because (investigating people’s lives is) pretty much what an actor does.
“And imagine getting to interview people like me,” she laughs. ‘’It can’t get much better than that.”