- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Dylan O’Brien has kicked off the second decade of his career with his first bona fide period film, The Outfit, a 1950s gangster drama set entirely in a tailor shop. Starring alongside Oscar winner Mark Rylance and Zoey Deutch, O’Brien plays Richie, the son of a Chicago crime boss who’s desperate to protect his standing in his father’s organization amid a series of threats. O’Brien greatly admired the way that Rylance set the tone on filmmaker Graham Moore’s set, as the decorated English actor understood the need for both focus and levity. O’Brien also quickly bonded with Deutch, so much so that they’ve already collaborated on another film together, Quinn Shephard’s social media satire, Not Okay.
“Yeah, we only [sign on] together now,” O’Brien jokes to The Hollywood Reporter. “No, we just really hit it off, and we became friends pretty immediately. And with Not Okay, Zoey told me about it when we were in London, shooting The Outfit. And then they reached out to me for a part in it, and since I obviously love Zoey, I’ll sign up to support her any fucking day. But it is, in fact, a really cool idea, and I felt like it was a finger-on-the-zeitgeist concept, with a really cool way into it.”
O’Brien is also shedding a bit more light on why he didn’t return for the upcoming Teen Wolf movie, and his reasons are more than understandable.
“When [the movie] came up, I immediately tried to make it work, but then I just realized that I was going against my gut feeling the whole time,” O’Brien shares. “I think I was doing all of those things for other people and not myself. I was like, ‘Oh, I actually don’t feel like I want to open that door back up, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I should just listen to that instinct and go with it.’ So that’s ultimately what I decided, and I think I kind of knew it in my heart the whole time. It was already left in a really nice place, you know? So I didn’t want to touch it. I didn’t want to fuck with it.”
Late last year, O’Brien co-starred alongside Sadie Sink in the Taylor Swift-directed All Too Well: The Short Film, and he remains impressed with Swift’s spontaneity.
“We fully breathed out these improvised moments in the scenes, and there was never a plan for the music to stop so the [kitchen fight] scene could play out. That was actually Taylor’s call,” O’Brien says. “After we did just one take of the kitchen scene, she came over and she was like, ‘This is it. I’m going to use this dialogue. We’re going to let this play. You’re right in the pocket. Let’s just do it again.’ And that is such a testament to her instincts as a director, which I found super impressive. So to make that [kitchen fight] call on the fly, she’s the shit.”
In a recent conversation with THR, O’Brien also discusses his upcoming slate including the M. Night Shyamalan-produced The Vanishings at Caddo Lake and David Stassen’s Maximum Truth. Then he offers his thoughts on his beloved New York Mets and expresses his desire to tell a baseball story onscreen.
Outside of your Amazing Stories episode, The Outfit is your first foray into period pieces. You’re also doing some cool accent work. Have you been wanting to time travel in this way for a while?
Yeah, but not specifically. Period pieces are certainly really fun. They lend you a whole plethora of elements that you otherwise don’t usually get, like the accent. When you’re in such a placed piece, like a 1950s Chicago outfit, it’s fun because you can lean into those things a little more and play with them because they fit the context. And that goes for everything in this period piece: the suits, the suspenders, the old cigarettes, chain smoking. I had a conversation with [co-writer/director] Graham Moore at one point where I was just like, “Should I be smoking every time you see me?” And he was like, “No.” (Laughs.) And I was like, “Maybe that would be kind of cool.” But it’s just so fun as an actor to have so much more around you to utilize, so I really enjoyed it. It’s definitely a period piece, but it’s not for the sake of being a period piece. It’s a really well-crafted script and story. So I wasn’t going out and hunting for a period piece, necessarily, but when I read the script, I was just like, “Holy shit, this fucking awesome.” (Laughs.)
You have several scenes with Mark Rylance, including a conversation scene that is quite dynamic. While I’m asking the obvious question, did you enjoy getting in the ring with one of the most acclaimed actors on the planet?
Yeah, of course, but it’s always nerve-wracking. I’ve worked with a few very prominent actors, and I’m always curious to see how it’s going to be. I’ll be like, “Are they even going to talk to me? I wonder if they’re friendly.” I had always heard that Mark was really, really nice, so I wasn’t necessarily worried about that, but I was still interested in what the whole vibe was going to be. Are you going to feel good around them, or are you going to feel inferior? (Laughs.) Are you going to feel comfortable? Are you going to shoot the shit in between takes? Or are you never going to speak outside of the scenes? With Mark, he couldn’t be a sweeter person. He’s a really gentle presence. And for somebody who so effortlessly commands so much of the attention with his presence onscreen, he really allows everyone around him to succeed and thrive, too. And he really wants that for you. So he’s not a selfish actor by any means, and he doesn’t keep to himself or not talk to anyone. He’s so gracious and kind to the crew and to everyone. He’s also extremely focused. He has his process that he sticks to, but he’ll also stand up for it and fight for it if he has to. So all of that was just really nice to see, especially in this day and age where method acting has become a publicity tool for actors to be taken seriously. It’s become a contest, in a way, to say, “Look at all the crazy things that I did. I hope that makes you take me and my work more seriously.” (Laughs.) It’s sort of used as a tool now in Oscar campaigns rather than it, I believe, originally stemming from real-life experiences and drawing on them to influence your performance. So Mark is really deep like that, and he gets deep into his thoughts, his process and his preparation. He’ll focus when he needs to, but he’ll also fuck around when he wants to. And that’s really nice to be around. For someone who’s such a fucking heavyweight and is so universally respected, he doesn’t take himself seriously at all, and I really respect that. I really connect to that. Sometimes, a self-serious actor can really, really drain everyone around them, and I find that it usually stems from insecurity more than anything. Making movies is really hard, and so everyone should at least feel really comfortable. Everyone should feel like they have a voice. They should feel like they can joke and that they don’t have to walk on eggshells. So if you’re starting a film from somewhere other than that kind of place, I think it’s insane. You’re just fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. So I really respect how Mark approaches the work and the community of a set.
So are you and Zoey Deutch a package deal now? Or is it just a coincidence that the two of you made two new films [The Outfit and Not Okay] so close together?
(Laughs.) Yeah, we only [sign on] together now. (O’Brien jokes.) That’s it. No, we just really hit it off, and we became friends pretty immediately. And with Not Okay, Zoey told me about it when we were in London, shooting The Outfit. I asked what she had going the rest of the year, and she was like, “Oh, there’s this movie for Searchlight that I’m excited about. It’s a cool concept. I’m producing it, and it has this talented young writer-director [Quinn Shephard].” And then they reached out to me for a part in it, and since I obviously love Zoey, I’ll sign up to support her any fucking day. But it is, in fact, a really cool idea, and I felt like it was a finger-on-the-zeitgeist concept, with a really cool way into it. It balances this satire with a really grounded take on wrestling with current humanity amidst this social media landscape that we all participate in now. It’s just sort of our culture now. But I really liked it because it wasn’t a mean take. It’s actually extremely understanding of our world. That’s what it is. If you’re saying you’re not a part of it, I just feel like you’re full of shit a little bit. Unless you’re living out in the woods, it’s just what we do now. So it was a really cool concept, and I really thought I could do something with the character. And obviously, the Zoey love made it a no-brainer.
A couple hours ago [this interview took place March 11], the studio released a few photos, and it’s obviously quite the contrast from your Outfit characters.
Yeah, it’s so funny. But what’s cool is that it’s just such a different thing. We both came out of this entirely other world, and when we were on set for Not Okay, we sent pictures to Graham with our new looks. It’s quite a different pivot.
Looking ahead even more, can you tell me a bit about the M. Night Shyamalan-produced The Vanishings at Caddo Lake? I know that Night responded to the script to such a degree that he decided to fund it himself, and from what I’ve seen of its filmmakers, Celine Held and Logan George, on Servant, it should have a strong point of view.
Yeah, Celine and Logan are the shit. I saw their shorts a couple of years ago, and I was just like, “I want to meet these people.” There’s just something really special about their collection of shorts. So we had a meeting, just generally, because I was a fan of their shorts. I hadn’t even seen their feature [Topside] yet. So we met and had a good meeting. And about eight or nine months later, I was in London because I had just finished The Outfit, and that’s when I got the script from them. They wrote it in the time since we had met, and I fucking loved the concept and the script. I just think the world of them, so I attached myself immediately. And then they ended up not even having to take it out to get financed, which was the plan. They went and did a couple of episodes of Servant, and they showed the script to Night, who was like, “I want to produce this for you two.” So it kind of just came together. They’re incredibly talented filmmakers, and they were amazing to get on the ground with because they really know what they’re doing. I had actually never worked with two directors before, so I was really curious about how that was going to be. But it was just seamless, man. It’s a really cool concept, and it’s definitely a swing. But, man, if it works, it could be really special. Logan is a super talented editor, too, so I can’t wait to see what he did with it. Editing is definitely going to be a huge factor in the type of film that it is.
So I have to admit that I wasn’t all that surprised when you didn’t return for the Teen Wolf movie. You’ve worked hard to not only create new opportunities but to also make a name for yourself beyond that show. So I just didn’t see you going backward at this point in your career. Did part of you just want to keep moving forward?
Yeah, that’s what it came down to. But I still have a lot of heart and loyalty to the show. When [the movie] came up, I immediately tried to make it work, but then I just realized that I was going against my gut feeling the whole time. I think I was doing all of those things for other people and not myself. So I just kind of realized that. When I had identified the feeling that you just articulated, I was like, “Oh, I actually don’t feel like I want to open that door back up, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I should just listen to that instinct and go with it.” So that’s ultimately what I decided, and I think I kind of knew it in my heart the whole time. But again, there’s a lot that goes into it, and I think I was trying to make it work for parties that did not include myself, really. And once I realized how I actually felt about it, I was like, “You know what? I think it’s totally fine to leave this, and I actually want that.” It was already left in a really nice place, you know? So I didn’t want to touch it. I didn’t want to fuck with it.
Well, I don’t blame you one bit, not that you need my approval.
(Laughs.) No, it is nice to hear, because even just peripherally seeing any kind of negativity surrounding it … Again, I just don’t want to taint something that was left in such a nice place, but it was kind of hard because I do care. I care about the fans. I care about the show. I have such an undying loyalty to that show and what it was for me. Nobody could ever truly understand that. It was my fucking school. It was my first role. It was everything to me. So I do really care about it, but it is nice to actually hear support and understanding.
I read your recent response to all the Nightwing fan-casting that’s been going on, and it’s yet another example of how much attention the superhero genre gets now. It’s the biggest game in town. As a young actor, do you feel like you have to get one of those roles? Does it seem inevitable?
No. In the way that I want to approach my career, I just don’t think it would benefit what I want to do, nor do I think it’s interesting to me. Why can’t I be disinterested in those things? (Laughs.) It’s just not what I’m into, and it’s not what I’m interested in doing with my career and job. I’m also not closed to anything. I would entertain everything. But also, those things are a big life change as well. I don’t think people think about that a lot. It’s a really big commitment. So all that stuff goes into it. And you’re right. It is the game now, and I can’t believe how much I talk about it. Even when I answer honestly, everyone is like, “Wow, watching Dylan lie about this is hilarious. He’s obviously Nightwing.” And I’m just like, “This is crazy.” (Laughs.) So I have literally heard nothing about it. It’s not a real thing. (Laughs.) It’s just funny how it all happens, and yes, it seems to only happen with these superhero things.
You just made a movie called Maximum Truth, right?
I have familial ties to your director, David Stassen …
Get the fuck out of here! (Laughs.) That’s amazing. Yeah, I love Dave [Stassen] and Ike [Barinholtz]. They’re fucking awesome. That was a really fun time and so crazy. It was an ambitious little feat. We did that movie in, like, 12 days. Yeah, they’re really good guys. Man, that’s such a trip. What a small world.
I consider David and Ike to be the American version of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Both duos started as childhood friends, and then they made their way out here one way or another. They’re also both writing partners, and only one of them acts.
I know, it’s crazy. When I first met them in person, I went over to their house, and I was just like, “Wait, so how do you guys know each other?” And they were just like, “Chicago. We’ve known each other since we were 8.” And I was like, “What?! That’s fucking incredible.” (Laughs.) So I love that shit. I really value that in people.
So how did Taylor Swift’s All Too Well: The Short Film go down? Did you have to go out for it like any other project?
No, I guess that was something that Taylor had specifically thought of me for. So she reached out to me and asked if I wanted to do it. And I, of course, said yes. It was automatic. Yeah, I woke up one day with a text from my manager saying, “Taylor Swift’s manager is asking if she can reach out to you about a project.” And I was like, “Whoa.” (Laughs.) And then I gave her my number, and not even an hour later, I got this iconic fucking text from her that was so long and so funny and really, really thoughtful. And it was a full pitch of what she wanted to do. It was awesome.
For the dialogue that we couldn’t hear, was it still scripted?
Oh, none of it was scripted. None of it. Even the scene that ends up playing out wasn’t scripted. It’s funny because I proposed this idea, and then I ended up being the one to throw it all out. But super early on, I said to Taylor, “For some of the bigger scenes, it might be a good idea to get some kind of template on a page in case we start getting bogged down on the day.” Because we had to shoot it in two days. And when we actually got to it, we just played out these scenes. So it was a really fulfilling couple of days, and it was an amazing exercise. We were just fully in it at that point, and we played out these scenes, particularly the dramatic ones, like the breakup scene or the fight scene in the kitchen. We fully breathed out these improvised moments in the scenes, and there was never a plan for the music to stop so the [kitchen fight] scene could play out. That was actually Taylor’s call. After we did just one take of the kitchen scene, she came over and she was like, “This is it. I’m going to use this dialogue. We’re going to let this play. You’re right in the pocket. Let’s just do it again.” And that is such a testament to her instincts as a director, which I found super impressive. She’s so confident in what she wants, and she comes in really prepped. She also has such a specific vision. She’s so meticulous and intentional about everything, which wasn’t surprising at all. Seeing her instincts and confidence on set, she knew when she got it. So to make that [kitchen fight] call on the fly, she’s the shit.
Do you think she’d make a great feature director?
I think she’d be wonderful if she’s inspired by it. She’s a born and bred storyteller, and she’s got really good taste. So the tools are definitely there. It would just be a question of whether or not her heart would be in it because that’s a big commitment.
I just spoke to Sadie Sink’s dad, Shawn Levy, and I regret not asking him about Love and Monsters. [Writer’s Note: Levy played Sink’s character’s father in All Too Well and produced O’Brien’s 2020 adventure film.]
It received nearly universal acclaim, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t enjoy it. So has there been any talk about revisiting the Love and Monsters world?
I haven’t heard much, but I don’t think it’s completely out of the realm of possibility. With the COVID of it all, I think studios were sort of in a period where they took a brief pause on making decisions and optioning sequels, especially for something that was an original piece of material. It wasn’t an IP thing, but God, what a sick feat that would be, though, to get a sequel for that movie. I love that movie so much. From the second I read it, I just loved it so much, and I believed in it so much. I don’t even know if it would’ve gotten green-lit today. I think we got it in right under the wire in a sense. So I’m just so happy that we got it made and that it turned out the way that it did. And I’m so happy that it was received and embraced and appreciated in the same way as all of us who worked on it. It’s always cool to be a part of the little engines that could. I feel like that’s my career. (Laughs.) So I would kill to do another one. And who knows? Maybe we’ll get the call one day.
We talked previously about the Mets, and I’ve been wondering ever since if there’s a Mets story you would tell onscreen. Does anything come to mind?
There’s something interesting to me about the ’86 Mets team and a Winning Time vibe. A limited series about the ’86 Mets team could be really cool. That team is absolutely compelling enough to have a story told about them, and it could be a wild and really fun series. But at some point, I would love to do a baseball thing in some capacity before I hang it up, especially now. God, baseball movies have been extinct for so long, but Bull Durham is the top dog for me in terms of tone. So something about the ’86 Mets team, in a Bull Durham tone, could be fucking awesome.
Now that the baseball season is no longer on hold, how are you feeling about this year’s team? How much suffering do you think you’re in for this season?
(Laughs.) Yeah, the lockout ended up being three months. It’s funny because I forgot we had fucking Max Scherzer. We got Starling [Marte]. I love the Mark Canha snag. Look, perennially, I am optimistic. It’s the most Mets fan thing about me. So I can’t wait for the season. [Jacob] deGrom and [Max] Scherzer are going to be iconic at the top of the rotation. It’s going to be historical. I hope they both just fucking stay healthy. [Francisco] Lindor, now in his second year, will be more comfortable in New York. He had a baller second half. And we’ve still got some moves to make. I think we’re going to swing some trades, maybe get another starter. I completely forgot we had [Robinson] Cano on the team. That’s going to be interesting. (Laughs.) God, I wish we could get Freddie Freeman, but that’s just never going to happen in a million years. But I can’t wait, man. I’m always stoked about the Mets. There’s nothing more fun than when the Mets are winning in New York. It just feels alive. It’s so much more exciting. I’ve got Yankees fan friends. I’ve got L.A. [Dodgers] fan friends. And God, if it’s not a 95-win season, they’re just like, “We fucking sucked this year, bro.” And I’m like, “Ugh, what a miserable existence.” Luckily, I was brought up to just love and stick with my team no matter how shitty they are. Even in the worst down years, there’s always something to be excited about, someone to be excited about or someone to look up to. So I love being a Mets fan. In the past, I’ve had people say to me, “Why don’t you switch teams?” And I’m just like, “If you’re saying that sentence, you have no idea what it means to be a fan. You’re not a real fan. What are you talking about?” (Laughs.)
Fair-weather fans …
I guess it is fair weather, yeah. But that’s not what it is to be a fan. You’re just not really a fan of the sport. (Laughs.)
Lastly, when’s the next Ramos-O’Brien cover scene?
I don’t know! It’s funny because we put out the Social Network one on Sarah’s birthday, coincidentally. So when we did our second one, we put it out on my birthday. So maybe we’ll just stick to that. Maybe we’ll just keep it on each other’s birthdays every year. Or maybe, at some point, we can finally figure something out on a little larger scale. We’ve always wanted to make something together on a larger format. Did you see [Andrew] Garfield responded to it?
Of course! I’ve heard him praise it a few times.
We cracked up over how insane it is. (Laughs.) The dude is on an Oscar press tour and he’s getting asked about this little video that we made. It’s so wild. Such a trip.
The Outfit opens in theaters on Mar. 18.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day