The bookish geek and the boyish heartthrob merge in the personage of Dane DeHaan, a 26-year-old Pennsylvania native who’s suddenly swimming in Hollywood deals. DeHaan was largely unknown less than one year ago, when his most famous turn was as Jesse D’Amato on HBO’s In Treatment, the veritable talent factory that also nurtured Mia Wasikowska, the actor’s Lawless co-star. In February 2012, winter’s annual glut of multiplex garbage was given a minor boost by Chronicle, a found-footage genre flick that saw DeHaan play a teen abusing newfound superpowers. Like Leonardo DiCaprio before him, DeHaan has that classic look of cherubic blond innocence, tinged with enough awkwardness (and bottled-up rage) to aid an outcast volatility. It’s a quality that’s given DeHaan a cool dramatic edge, ever since he went all Firestarter in Chronicle and scored ample critical kudos. He also put himself on casting directors’ radar, as proven by the rush of roles that have steadily followed his breakthrough.
In Lawless, John Hillcoat’s moonshine-runner western, DeHaan gave a memorable performance as Cricket Pate, the ill-fated colleague of Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf’s Bondurant brothers. Within months he moved on to appear as a Union soldier in Lincoln, lending his malleable skills to the year’s finest ensemble. Filmgoers may have also caught him in Jack & Diane, which gave him a small part as the friend of Riley Keough’s werewolf-courting lesbian.
And yet, 2012 is bound to prove a mere warm-up for this on-fire performer, whose biggest bit of casting news came just days ago. Sucked into the reboot phenomenon that is the Amazing Spider-Man franchise, DeHaan will succeed James Franco as Harry Osborn, playing the villainy-bound chum of Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker. Since Chronicle already helped to place DeHaan in fanboys’ good graces, the announcement seems largely well-embraced, and it cements the young star as someone whose household-name days aren’t far off.
The Spider-Man gig is surely the most high-profile of DeHaan’s recent achievements, but it’s set to arrive after a full year of growing DeHaan ubiquity. The lithe star is among the exciting actors poised to bring life to Kill Your Darlings, 2013’s Beat-Generation drama that also features Elizabeth Olsen, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Inheriting the role from the great Ben Whishaw, who was initially considered, DeHaan will portray Lucien Carr in the film, expanding his tackled eras to include New York of the 1940s (Radcliffe will play Allen Ginsburg, while Foster will portray William Burroughs). Additionally, DeHaan will act opposite Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth in Devil’s Knot, Atom Egoyan’s narrative thriller about the West Memphis Three, the wrongfully accused trio who’ve helped make Joe Berlinger’s career. DeHaan’s role remains unconfirmed, but one can only assume he’ll be rocking the prison garb of one of the jailed boys.
One might say DeHaan has had a somewhat typical career trajectory, if now marked by a rather enviable, atypical surge. A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the actor made his TV debut as many struggling actors might: with a guest spot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He then dutifully popped up in an obscure film from an indie auteur, starring in Amigo for director John Sayles. But then came a brief arc on HBO’s True Blood, and finally, Chronicle’s official opening of the flood gates. Before long, the elfish scene-stealer will be exchanging dialogue with Ryan Gosling, rounding out his 2013 slate with A Place Beyond the Pines, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine follow-up. It’s all part of the job for the now-tireless DeHaan, who’s surely reached a place well beyond anonymity.