BUSTLE – 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.”
Being a preternaturally affable, good-vibes-only kind of guy was a survival skill O’Brien picked up as an adolescent, when his family moved from New Jersey to California when he was 12. “[It was] the worst thing to happen to me as a kid,” O’Brien recalls of trying to make friends in a new middle school. He found a salve in YouTube, sharing 14 videos between 2007 and 2009. (His account, moviekidd826, is still live, and it features comedy skits and videos of O’Brien lip-syncing to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.”) He signed with manager Liz York, whom he still works with today, off the videos alone, and in 2010, he landed the role of Stiles Stilinski on MTV’s series Teen Wolf. Overnight fame followed. “All of a sudden girls were coming up to me in places, wanting to take pictures,” he says. “It was very scary.”
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LA TIMES – For the past year, Dylan O’Brien has been in hiding. He spent most of his time inside his home in Sherman Oaks, wondering if he’d ever be the same person he was before the accident. Not just emotionally, but physically too: After major reconstructive surgery that left him with four metal plates holding one side of his face together, he feared he’d never look the same again.
“It’s a miracle, what they’ve done,” O’Brien says, placing his hand on his cheek. Indeed, the actor’s team of doctors must have done some incredible work, given the fact that he looks almost exactly as he always has — the boyish teen heartthrob who has amassed an army of young female fans since he began working on MTV’s “Teen Wolf” at age 18.
Of course, he’s 26 now, so he’s filled out a bit, and there’s also a hint of patchy scruff on his face. He had enough gravitas to him that the producers of “American Assassin,” which opens nationwide Friday, felt confident casting him as the grizzled action-hero Mitch Rapp — even though the character in Vince Flynn’s bestselling books was widely believed by readers to be in his 40s.
“American Assassin” is the reason O’Brien emerged from his self-imposed exile. He’d signed onto the film just a few weeks before he began work on “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” the third and final installment in 20th Century Fox’s post-apocalyptic young-adult franchise. He was hoping “Assassin” would mark the beginning of a new period in his career. In 2017, after six seasons, “Teen Wolf” would come to an end, as would the “Maze Runner” series.
“I’ve never looked at myself as this pop candy type,” O’Brien says, peppering his speech with more colorful language. “I felt like I was more real than that, so I would get mad when someone would say [I was a teen heartthrob]. I’d be like, ‘I’m 19! I’m a stoner!’ I really resented that.”
He was so excited to begin work on “Assassin” that he fielded calls from director Michael Cuesta just as production began in Vancouver, Canada, on the final “Maze Runner” film. Together, they discussed how O’Brien would approach the character, a 23-year-old who is recruited by the CIA to hunt down terrorists after he witnesses his girlfriend’s murder at the hands of Muslim radicals.
USA TODAY – LOS ANGELES — Dylan O’Brien knew there would be online turbulence when he was cast as black ops killer Mitch Rapp in American Assassin.
O’Brien, 26, understands that fans of Vince Flynn’s best-selling novels might not visualize the star of MTV’s Teen Wolf as the guy to take on the lethal hitman, a part that Thor’s Chris Hemsworth turned down for scheduling reasons.
“Maybe people didn’t assume I could step into this role and be believable,” says O’Brien. “All’s fair in filmmaking, but no one knows you like yourself.”
He knew he could defy those expectations, unleashing an angry young killer-in-training in the edgy origin story American Assassin (in theaters Friday), a portrayal fueled by O’Brien’s emotional return from an injury last year on the set of Maze Runner: The Death Cure that nearly ended his career.
He was cast in Assassin while holed up in his L.A. home, feeling angry and depressed as he recovered from a serious head injury suffered when he was thrown from the harness of a moving vehicle during a stunt.
“There’s the physical recovery. And you’re going through a post-traumatic psychological recovery as well,” O’Brien says. “Your mind is so consumed with doubt, you’re just beaten down. And you feel guilt in a really weird way.”
Not only was Maze Runner filming postponed because of the accident (the movie will be out in January), but he had doubts whether he could take on any parts, much less an action role.
“You start experiencing things that are abnormal, you’re just not yourself. What you don’t realize is that you’re reacting to a situation where your brain experienced severe trauma,” says O’Brien. “You’re irritable and isolated and you’re angry. So angry. Because that can give you some power back.”
He realized he could fuel those feelings into the character, who loses his fiancée in a terrorist attack, a trauma that consumes Rapp with a desire for revenge as he trains with a black ops specialist (Michael Keaton).
I’ve updated the gallery with some outtakes of Dylan for Entertainment Weekly at Comic-Con during 2011, 2014, and 2015. Enjoy :)