Dylan O’Brien can recall the precise moment he broke the internet. It was during the summer of 2021, when he was filming TikTok videos sporting a Balenciaga shirt, a platinum blond buzzcut, and a temporary snake tattoo slithering up his forearm. The actor’s fans went rabid, fawning over his new look. But the thing is, that wasn’t him—the Dylan O’Brien who prefers to keep his appearance, as he puts it, “plain” and “accessory-less”—that was a character for the upcoming social media satire, Not Okay.
He looks back on that transformation like a scientist examining an otherworldly specimen under Twitter’s global microscope. “I was still exactly who I was,” the actor says. “And then I just put on this video game skin, and people were like, ‘That’s what we want you to look like.’” But before that can be interpreted as a gloomy statement on how the world would perhaps prefer O’Brien emulate Pete Davidson, he breaks out into a wholesome smile. “I thought I looked awesome! I’ve never looked so cool.”
It’s somewhat understandable why O’Brien’s fans were so pleasantly surprised. The actor rose to fame as a dorky sidekick in cult smash series Teen Wolf, then ascended even higher as a straight-laced, affable leading man in The Maze Runner franchise and Love & Monsters. He’s equally as down-to-earth when he joins our Zoom call from his home in Los Angeles. Dressed in a white t-shirt (sans accessories), he’s quick to lighten the mood even when the topic of conversation threatens to turn serious.
O’Brien’s latest film, the ’50s gangster whodunnit The Outfit, sees him explore the murkier depths of morality, a side of him rarely exhibited since Stiles Stilinkski was possessed by an ancient spirit at Teen Wolf’s peak. (Unless you count his turn as the scarf-stealing boyfriend in Taylor Swift’s All Too Well short film.) “There was something really special about this script,” he says, remembering that when he read it for the first time on a plane he “stood up and clapped.” Soon after landing, he emailed an audition tape straight to director Graham Moore, a method he admits to having a very low success rate. (So far, it’s worked only once.) “I’ve definitely done that before when I feel particularly passionate about something,” he explains. “But it’s a line you don’t want to [cross]. I don’t want to beg for things. You want to be wanted. It’s weird how this business works, it’s like dating,” he jokes, bursting into laughter. “You have to play hard to get.” [More at Source]
Minutes into meeting Dylan O’Brien, he lets me in on a secret: Growing up, he was a massive American Idol fan. We’re outside his Bustle photo shoot where he’s bumping Remi Wolf, the soul-pop artist who briefly appeared as a contestant on the show’s 13th season. But O’Brien notes he also rides for the series’ OGs like Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson. “I’m obsessed with people,” O’Brien says of his enthusiasm for reality TV. “How are you not obsessed with people?”
The revelation is peak O’Brien — a little embarrassing, totally earnest, and altogether endearing —and the rest of the 30-year-old’s time on set is littered with more of these interactions. When an intern sneezes, he compliments her on how “cute” it sounds. After introducing himself to the production coordinator, he marvels that she shares a name with his sister Julia. Once the aforementioned intern lets it slip that he was her childhood crush, he thanks her and compliments her Balenciaga trainers. Disarmament is the former Teen Wolf star’s superpower. But at what cost?
“I really care about making people feel comfortable, sometimes to a fault,” he admits when we decamp to a hotel bar nearby. Once we’re seated, a fan approaches him to record a message for a friend back in Colombia. Naturally, O’Brien obliges. “I think it’s something that I owe myself to embrace, because it’s a good quality, for the most part,” he says. “It’s very important to me that the entire team on every job just feels [good]. I always say I’m not really an actor, but what I bring to the table is a good time.”
His friends and collaborators agree. When co-star Zoey Deutch found herself living in the same London apartment block as O’Brien while filming their new movie, The Outfit, the pandemic was still raging. Days on set were heavy, with O’Brien playing the heir apparent to a vicious cadre of gangsters who operate out of the shop of a Chicago tailor, played by Oscar-winner Mark Rylance. When the pair got home, they would bliss out by watching more reality TV. “He just loves sh*tty TV so much,” Deutch says. For much of the trip, O’Brien was in the throes of rewatching Vanderpump Rules — he calls the show “my Godfather,” when I ask him about it later — while Deutch was “deeply involved” with Love Island U.K., of which O’Brien is also a fan. “It’s such a great quality of his, and so out of character because he’s so smart, intellectual, and interesting,” Deutch adds, Though for the record, the ever-earnest O’Brien thinks the idea that reality TV isn’t intelligent is “insane.” [More at Source]
Zoey Deutch and Dylan O’Brien (who costar in “The Outfit”) will reunite on screen for “Not Okay,” out on Hulu on Aug. 5, WWD has learned exclusively.
Writer-director Quinn Shephard is behind the project, in which Deutch plays Danni Sanders — a fame-seeking, wannabe influencer who fakes a trip to Paris to up her social media game. After an incident takes place, the story unravels.
“I wrote the first draft of this script for Makeready in 2018, right around the ‘Summer of Scam’ and during an explosion of anxiety on the internet,” Shephard told WWD. “I found myself deeply affected by the endless scroll through headlines of violence and political news, mixed ceaselessly with influencer scandals, cancel culture and sponsored ads for teeth whitening that will somehow make you forget that the world is burning.” [More at Source]