Dylan O’Brien on How His ‘Maze Runner’ Accident Affected His ‘American Assassin’ Performance

     September 15, 2017

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By now you’ve probably read a lot about Dylan O’Brien’s on-set accident. The Maze Runner star was struck by a vehicle on the set of third entry in the franchise, landing in the hospital and out of the public eye for over a year. To be honest – as I prepped for this interview with O’Brien, I had no intention of bringing up the accident. I figured that there would be numerous profiles exclusively detailing the horrific events and O’Brien’s remarkable recovery. Perhaps, for the first time ever doing press, it would be a welcome relief for an actor to talk about the movie he’s actually promoting: in this case – the spy-thriller American Assassin.

O’Brien’s actually very good in American Assassin, elevating what could be your typical stock-hero into a broken anti-hero, less interested in doing ‘the right thing’ than avenging the loss he’s suffered, the cost be damned. Any hints of the boyish charm of Teen Wolf and Maze Runner dissipate, revealing previously untapped notes of rage and sadness.

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Image via CBS Films/Lionsgate

In talking with O’Brien about this decidedly darker role, it became apparent how much the accident loomed over his performance – the actor channeling his feelings during recovery into the character. I may have had no intention about discussing the accident – but the conversation, naturally and inevitably led there…

In the following interview with Dylan O’Brien, the actor reveals how his Maze Runner accident affected his performance in American Assassin, his concerns over the film’s political message and the unending angst of being a Mets fan. For the full interview, read below.

(My interview tape began in medias res as Dylan chatted about the NY Mets less than stellar season)

Dylan O’Brien: It’s just one of those years, but I don’t think it will be a complete tear down and rebuild season…

Q: Yeah – my family are huge Mets fans…

O’Brien: It’s been a rough season. I thought this could be it. I thought this could be a good year… but I guess not…

Do you channel that angst for your roles?

(laughter)

O’Brien: Oh, yeah — that’s the only way. 

Real method acting…

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Image via Lionsgate

O’Brien: You channel whatever you can that truly gets you mad and that’s the Mets. Actually I was just in New York and I went to my first game of the year because I’ve been in South Africa for the first three months of the season. I was there on a night where we probably will have the best win of the whole season so it was really cool.

Well – that’s good.

O’Brien: deGrom was lights out and we beat the Rockets 14-2. It was amazing.

You’re the good luck charm. 

O’Brien: That’s a lot of pressure.

Getting to American Assassin

O’Brien: We can keep talking baseball if you want to…

We probably could.

O’Brien: Trust me – I’d love it.

(Laughter)

Did you have a favorite spy film performance growing up? 

O’Brien: I wish I had a more creative answer but The Bourne movies were really cool for me when I was a kid. I really loved that character. The first part, just where that character starts and his arc and Matt Damon… He’s one of my favorite actors ever. He’s always been a hero of mine growing up. That was always the coolest one for my generation. 

Did you ever pretend to be a spy as a kid?

O’Brien: Always. The Matrix is another version of that… I was all about that as a kid.

So a lot of slow-mo and diving bullets?

O’Brien: Yeah. A lot of rolling around your living room with a plastic gun. A lot of trying to run up walls.

How does actually playing a spy compare to watching your idols?

O’Brien: You definitely don’t feel as cool as those guys were to you. I’ll never be, at least in my mind, as cool as Jason Bourne. That’s something that’s normal though. First of all – you don’t look at yourself and go, ‘Yeah I’m even cooler.’ It’s a generational thing. It’d be great if some kids grew up with me as that Jason Bourne figure… But you can’t quite grasp that yourself necessarily.

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Image via Lionsgate

How did this script for American Assassin first come to you?

O’Brien: I worked with [producer] Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] before…

On Deepwater Horizon?

O’Brien: Yeah – and funny enough, I think he mentioned it to me while we were shooting. At the time though, I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then when American Assassin [finally got going], there was a lot of talk about ‘going older’…

Did the original script have a 35 or 40 year old in it?

O’Brien: I’m actually curious about that. I’m sure years ago it did because [the script’s] been around for awhile. Even the first draft that I saw, which was an early draft compared to what we ended up with, I’m sure was not ‘the first draft’. The thing’s been around for a decade. I think at some point they had an idea about going younger. Obviously that was up for debate, but yeah – I can’t remember the exact age it was written for or what draft I received…  I think it was a 25-year-old guy at that point. There was still some talk about making it a little older. But that doesn’t really require a huge adjustment…

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