HEAT VISION

Dylan O'Brien on 'Love and Monsters' and His Viral 'The Social Network' Video with Sarah Ramos

Dylan O'Brien
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The actor half-joked of the well-received scene that took 13 takes: "I think you just got me more clout in this industry than I’ve gotten in a decade on my own."

Throughout quarantine, Dylan O’Brien’s friend and fellow actor Sarah Ramos has been virtually recreating famous movie scenes with other actors and releasing them on Twitter to great fanfare. In May, O’Brien and Ramos collaborated on her latest “quaranscene” involving David Fincher’s The Social Network, and the results were astounding. Not only did the video go viral, racking up 2.4 million-plus views, but Social Network star Andrew Garfield even gave O’Brien’s take on the Eduardo Saverin character his stamp of approval. Since Fincher is known for his meticulousness and excessive number of takes, O’Brien and Ramos felt like their own attention to detail would make the director proud, especially since O’Brien performed 13 takes for the 85-second video.

“We were on Facetime when she sent that to me, and I just started doing it. I already kind of knew it, and she was like, ‘Okay, that’s the one. We should do that,’” O’Brien tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We shot it separately, and I was annoying the shit out of her with how particular I was and how many takes I sent to her. I made a joke to her; it’s not even a joke really, but I was like, ‘I think you just got me more clout in this industry than I’ve gotten in a decade on my own.’ It was definitely a trip to see the effect that it had. We were definitely hoping that Fincher saw it somewhere secretly and was amused.”

Despite the brief return to his YouTube-like roots, O’Brien is also back on the screen in Paramount’s Love and Monsters, which premieres today on PVOD. Set in a “monsterpocalypse,” O’Brien’s Joel Dawson goes on a dangerous trek to reunite with his girlfriend, Aimee (Jessica Henwick), after seven years apart. Since O’Brien shoulders much of Love and Monsters by himself, he was grateful to have one particular unsung hero on-set, someone who helped him reacclimate to stunt work following his devastating accident on the Maze Runner: The Death Cure set in 2016.

“With this film, our stunt coordinator (Glenn Suter) is someone who I worked with when we had to redo the third Maze Runner, and he meant a lot to me during that experience,” O’Brien explains. “He’s someone who prioritizes safety above anything: above it looking cool, above achieving something for the director, above feeling pressured from time on the day to make the day and getting yelled at by people. He prioritizes safety above anything else, and he will very quietly tell someone that he’s not ready to go if he’s not certain that something is going to be done safely. Obviously it was a very difficult thing for me to go back and finish the third Maze Runner. I had a lot of support that got me through all that, including my cast, who are like brothers and sisters to me. And Glenn was really a big piece of that as well.”

In a recent conversation with THR, O’Brien also discusses the bond he created with Love and Monsters’ canine actors, Hero and Dodge, his experience with Antoine Fuqua on the upcoming Infinite and Paramount’s continued support of his career.

So I have it on good authority that you ate a lot of oysters while making Love and Monsters in Australia. What’s the story behind your off-set ritual?

That’s so funny. Yeah, I forgot about that. Yeah, Jess (Henwick) and Tre (Hale) love oysters. Did Jess tell you this?

Yeah, she said she’s “obsessed” with them.

Yeah, they were definitely obsessed with them. When we were shooting down on the Gold Coast for a few weeks towards the end for all the beach stuff, I think it started to become an every night thing where we’d go and have oysters. It’s funny, especially for me, because I am not someone who eats oysters regularly or can just eat oysters all the time. Oysters were definitely an acquired taste in my adult life. When you have good ones, obviously, they’re unreal. So I can confirm that happened. (Laughs.) Oysters and arcade.

Last year, I talked to another one of your co-stars, Kaya Scodelario, about her Paramount movie, Crawl, and she singled out Maze Runner producer-turned-executive Wyck Godfrey as her champion for that role. Since you’ve recently made Love and Monsters, Infinite and Bumblebee for Paramount, did Wyck champion you for these roles as well?

Wyck, yeah, he was definitely a big supporter in all of these things. Funnily enough, when I first walked out of a general meeting at Paramount, they had sent a few scripts, post-meeting, and little did I know that one of them would go on to become Love and Monsters. But the meeting was down the hall from Wyck and I hadn’t seen him or talked to him in a while. So I went and said what’s up. But yeah, Wyck’s always been a really, really big supporter of mine since the Maze movies and has done whatever he can to help support. The Bumblebee thing was also a tie to Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who I know from a few things, starting on Deepwater Horizon. So yeah, it’s just funny. It’s a funny little, small world that continues going round and round in this business, I guess.

I also asked Jessica this question, but let’s pretend that the premise of this movie actually happened in real life and we had to retreat to these underground bunkers to avoid being eaten by monsters. Since everyone had a job to perform underground, what would your job or role be in a similar environment?

I mean, a chef is the least creative answer because that’s what I am in the movie.

Not just any chef — a minestrone chef.

(Laughs.) Yep. I could definitely be the coffee-maker. I do love making the coffee. Whenever me and my friends go on weekend road trips to some house or place, everyone always makes fun of me because I bring my coffee maker. (Laughs.) I insist on bringing the coffee maker. But domestically, it’s funny how in the bunker, Joel is kind of like the mother hen in a way. I am sort of like that too with my group of friends when we go on these trips. So yeah, I guess mother hen has become my answer. (Laughs.) Someone stop me!

I won’t turn that into a headline. You have my word.

(Laughs.) Oh my god, I didn’t even think about that.

“Dylan O’Brien says he’s a mother hen!”

Totally! (Laughs.)

Did you spend some time training with the dog in the movie, or was there a dog trainer that would guide from the sidelines?

Well, both. Zelie (Bullen), the dog trainer, owns Hero and Dodge. Dodge is the double; Hero is the main dog. She’s an animal trainer and animal lover through and through. So the first thing that I had on my schedule when I got out there was to develop a relationship with the dogs so that they were comfortable with me. That was very important to me and that’s a huge part of them being able to achieve their job, you know? So obviously, they’re acting and they’re trained to do certain things. Zelie spent weeks training them, going through the script and seeing all the things that they’d have to do, whether it’s tug on my leg, bark, save me, run to me or kiss me. Whatever it is, she finds the best way for them to achieve that and she trains them for weeks ahead of time. I’d go out to the ranch each day for a couple hours and basically just go in and out of doing some of the things in the script. But mainly, I’d just hang with the dogs, have them get comfortable with me and just develop an actual offset relationship with them, which was the best and super easy. I love dogs and I loved these dogs. I mean, I can’t tell you how many mornings I would arrive to set and just immediately get on the ground and have them climb all over me and lick my face. I love dogs licking my face. I’m not afraid of that. I love it. (Laughs.) Yeah, those dogs were one of the best parts of doing this movie, and Zelie, too, to be honest.

You went through quite an ordeal a few years ago. Are you feeling more and more comfortable doing action sequences again, or are you still taking it slow?

Look, I will always look at stunts on set differently. There’s just nothing that’s going to change that, but it’s in a good way. A lot of the good things that came out of that horrible experience is that, ever since and going forward, I will always be hypervigilant and vet everything before I’m put into a rig. I will always look out for myself in a way that when I was younger, you don’t think to do, especially when you’re on a set and you think everyone’s an expert and everyone knows what’s going on. There is a very make believe-y kind of energy going around, and you don’t think that anything could actually go wrong. And when you have something go extremely wrong, like I did, I think it definitely shakes you and it’ll never not shake me, you know? With this film, our stunt coordinator (Glenn Suter) is someone who I worked with when we had to redo the third Maze Runner, and he meant a lot to me during that experience. He’s someone who prioritizes safety above anything: above it looking cool, above achieving something for the director, above feeling pressured from time on the day to make the day and getting yelled at by people. He prioritizes safety above anything else, and he will very quietly tell someone that he’s not ready to go if he’s not certain that something is going to be done safely. Also, just on a personal level, obviously it was a very difficult thing for me to go back and finish the third Maze Runner. I had a lot of support that got me through all that, including my cast, who are like brothers and sisters to me. And [Glenn] was really a big piece of that as well. So I guess to answer your question in a very long way, I’ll always look at those things differently, but it’s just the new way that I’ve moved forward. And again, it’s good in a lot of ways because it’s definitely informed who I am today.

For the scenes with monsters, you likely had to act with a tennis ball on a stick or a bust of some kind. Based on what other actors have told me, there always seems to be at least some concern about overacting or overcompensating for what’s not in front of them. Is that something you get used to after a while?

What’s so funny is I’ve never thought about it like that. (Laughs.) I never thought about it, like, “Oh man, am I going to be doing too much?” That’s a dangerous thought. I don’t know. I am weirdly used to it, I guess. I have had a lot of experiences with reacting to a tennis ball on a stick, whether it was on Teen Wolf or Maze Runner. Coincidentally, a lot of the things that I experienced as a younger actor, a lot of my first experiences, involved that setup. You have to picture a big monster and all you have to go off of is either nothing or sometimes just a ball. I think I’d rather have nothing there and paint it in myself than have this big corny-looking, practical monster head. You know what I mean? If anything, that would kind of crack me up. Whereas the fun of acting in a world like Love and Monsters or Maze Runner or Teen Wolf is the imagination of it. So I have a lot more fun being in those scenes and getting to color it in myself as to what’s going on. And also, I think you put a lot of trust into these visual effects teams. I’ve worked with a lot of brilliant ones and they always know what they’re doing. They’re never going to make you look an idiot, but then there's constant communication too. You should always be talking to your director and your visual effects supervisor. Really having them tell you what it’s going to be, what it’s supposed to be, so you can let your imagination take it from there, is the only way to do it. It’s fun.

One of the few bright spots during this pandemic was your viral The Social Network cover with Sarah Ramos. Today is the movie’s 10th anniversary, actually.

Oh no way!

How did this come together?

Oh, that’s so funny. You are the first to bring this up, by the way. I didn’t realize it was the 10th anniversary today. So Sarah is a really good friend of mine. She’s one of my best friends, and when she started doing these quaranscenes at the beginning of the pandemic, we talked about doing one together. She sent me a bunch of things at one point, and just naturally, the thing that stuck out to me the most was that Andrew Garfield scene from The Social Network. It’s just so iconic. We were on Facetime when she sent that to me, and I just started doing it. I already kind of knew it, and she was like, “Okay, that’s the one. We should do that.” What’s funny is when she first sent it to me, we had a really funny exchange. I was assuming that I’d be Andrew’s character, but she was like, “Oh, you want to do Andrew?” And I was like, “Yeah, who was I going to do?” She was like, “Well, I was going to be Jesse and Andrew.” And I was like, “Well, who was I going to be?! Timberlake?” And she was like, “Yeah, I didn’t think you would be down to go that hard.” It was something like that, but it was hilarious. I was just like, “I totally thought you were casting me as Andrew.” So yeah, that’s how it came about, and we had fun doing it. We shot it separately, and I was annoying the shit out of her with how particular I was and how many takes I sent to her. I think I sent her 13 takes in a row at one point, and she texted me back saying, “I’m busy editing something.” But it was cool to see the response to it, honestly. I made a joke to her; it’s not even a joke really, but I was like, “I think you just got me more clout in this industry than I’ve gotten in a decade on my own.” So yeah, that’s really funny. I can’t believe today’s the 10th anniversary. That’s insane.

I noticed that you even added some tears at one point. Did you do that for all 13 takes?

No, what’s funny about the tears thing is that we had an argument about it. Sarah is so particular about getting it exactly right and honoring it to a T, which I’m really weird about too. So, on that one take with the tears, I thought I went too far and I was surprised that she used it. When she sent me the cut, I was like, “Oh, you used the tears take.” And she was like, “I’m not going to not use that.” (Laughs.) And then, the conversation ended there. Sarah’s really funny like that. She’s a very specific filmmaker, and when she has an idea, she sticks to it, which I completely respect. Yeah, I definitely got into it. (Laughs.) I think it was just fun to do after not doing much for a little while.

I wouldn’t be surprised if your agent receives some interesting calls about that video. The Internet is a powerful thing, obviously.

Yeah, I agree, man. It was a trip to see. It was definitely a trip to see the effect that it had. We were definitely hoping that Fincher saw it somewhere secretly and was amused.

Fincher would also be proud of your 13 takes, even though he’d add another 47.

(Laughs.) Yeah, I was going to say. I think it’s about 60 with him.

I touched on it earlier but how was your time with Antoine Fuqua on Infinite?

Brief, but great. I really dug Antoine and we still keep in touch. I just texted him the other day actually because I saw that he and Jake Gyllenhaal are remaking a movie that I’m obsessed with.

The Guilty.

Yeah, The Guilty. It’s incredible. So I guess I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m in Infinite very briefly. I was really game to just go and play because of Antoine. I’m a fan of his, and I spoke to him on the phone about it. He seemed really cool and really excited about me, which felt cool. I’m excited about it. I know that he’s had a rough go of it. He’s had to do all of that movie’s post-production during the quarantine, which I imagine is a huge pain in the ass. So yeah, I’m excited to see how that turns out. Antoine’s just really cool, and I hope I get to collaborate with him again on something.

Heinrich Treadway is quite the character name.

Yeah. (Laughs.) How’d you dig that up?

Like I said earlier, the Internet is a powerful thing.

(Laughs.) Oh man.

We’re pretty much out of time, but out of curiosity, do you own a Dominic Smith New York Mets jersey yet?

You know what’s funny, I don’t. I actually have only ever had one Mets jersey in my life that I still wear, and I’m weirdly loyal about it. I thought about this recently and how it’s this irrational leftover childhood thing in me. Like, I definitely want to collect jerseys of guys that I worship before they’re done and retired. I’ve been tracking Dom for a long time, obviously. I think he’s been in our system for seven years now, and I was really excited about him too. Dom is from Gardena, which is not far from where I went to high school. So I knew about the kid and I was really excited when we drafted him. We’ve had a couple of exchanges on Twitter over the years too, when he was in the minors. It’s just so fun to see a guy come into his own like he did this year. He got a lot of shit early on because everyone expects you to come up when you’re 21 and 22, and immediately be Ronald Acuña or Juan Soto. I’m just really happy for him that he exploded like he did this year. He just looks so comfortable and confident out there. He’s also just the greatest dude in the world and he’s so talented. I mean, that swing is a gift from the Gods. So it was really fun to watch him bust out of his shell this year. And yeah, I definitely want a Dom jersey, a Jacob deGrom jersey and a Michael Conforto jersey. My David Wright jersey, which I’ve had since I was 13 or 14, still has beer stains on it and I refuse to get them out. (Laughs.) Obviously, that’s still my go-to. I have to wear it to every game, but there’s no reason I can’t start collecting these other jerseys that mean something to me too. It’s a good point. Point well made.

They’re certainly more comfortable than all the cardboards jerseys we’re seeing of late.

(Laughs.) I know, man. I know. I think it’s even weirder that I’ve gotten used to them. So strange.

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Love and Monsters is now available on PVOD and Digital.

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