The First Time is a modern and realistic look at the angst and excitement of young love. Dave (Dylan O’Brien) is a high school senior who meets Aubrey (Britt Robertson), a junior, one night at a party and a casual conversation sparks a connection that keeps drawing them back to each other. From writer/director Jonathan Kasdan, the film also stars Victoria Justice, Craig Robertson, Joshua Malina and Christine Taylor. For more on the film, here’s the trailer.
At the film’s press day, actor Dylan O’Brien spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what drew him to this story and role, how relieved he was with the positive response as the film started to screen at film festivals, really staying in the moment as an actor, and how memorable the entire experience was. He also talked about what it was like to make The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, and how director Shawn Levy is going for a more PG-13 family feel, that they’ll return to shoot Season 3 of his MTV series Teen Wolf in December, with 24 episodes now, how he has no idea what’s to come for Stiles, and that he has no idea what Stiles’ first name is. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DYLAN O’BRIEN: It was an audition for me, like any other thing. The only thing that separated this film was that it was something that me, my manager and my agents all just really loved and really thought that I was right for it. For me, the script and subject matter was so personal to me. This was all still very fresh in my mind, too. I was 19 years old and this had all just happened to me, two years prior. So, it was really refreshing, in that sense, and in the sense that it’s entirely different than any other script I was reading or going out for. It’s a teen comedy, but none of it was raunchy or tasteless. It was really classy and really sweet, and a really true, honest, endearing story. Jon [Kasdan] changed a lot with the script and was writing the whole way, but he has such an understanding of relationships and how people communicate with each other. It’s fascinating because I don’t [have that]. It’s really incredible when somebody has such a beat on it.
Doing an independent film is always a bit of an iffy proposition because you never know how it will turn out or if it will ever get distribution. Did you breathe a sigh of relief when you finally screened the film and audiences really responded positively?
O’BRIEN: It’s weird because I knew that this could be good and I knew that I wasn’t just doing this for no reason. I was trying to make it good. I want everything that I’m doing and putting my life into to be good. We all felt that way. But, what was amazing was that it never became about that. That’s what helped it come out okay. We always had a quiet confidence that it would be good, and just a genuine love for doing it. I could have shot the movie forever, or three months. We didn’t have that budget, so it was five weeks. But, we genuinely loved coming in every day and doing the scene and talking about the scene and talking about the movie. It was something that became really personal to all of us. Even the whole crew was great. It was a really nice shoot. We had a really amazing time. Me, Britt [Robertson] and Jon [Kasdan] were really close, the whole way. The movie had a sense of comradery about it. Everybody wanted it to be good, and everybody thought it was so cute while we were doing it.
O’BRIEN: Yeah, that’s such a great part of the movie. [Craig Robertson and Lamarcus Tinker] are so good, and it’s such a good buddy friendship. It’s such a good threesome of friends. It’s exactly what it should be. It’s so real and so how friends would be. They’re three people who are kind of opposite to who each other are, but have this grounded love for one another. It’s who they turn to. I think Aubrey’s parents (played by Joshua Malina and Christine Taylor) are like that, too. It’s a different kind of relatable part to the story. They’re reactions to her antics in the scenes are such classic parenting. It feels like what parenting would be like. So much of the movie is what things are like. It makes you laugh because it’s like that, and it’s funny to portray it the way it is.
It seems like this performance really depended on both you and Britt Robertson being in the moment. Is that something that’s easy for you, as an actor, or do you catch yourself acting and have to adjust for that?
O’BRIEN: Yeah, it depends. That’s such a good question because that’s such a relevant thing, as an actor – committing and not being distracted by any kind of technical awareness, or whatever. You do have to block things out sometimes, and sometimes it’s easier than others. For instance, when we were shooting the sex scene for 12 hours, that was actually the easiest thing to do in the world. You’re never thinking about where the camera is, and you’re never thinking about anything else. You’re so directly and physically involved in the scene that you’re very much in it. It’s easier, in that sense. Something like the alleyway scene, where it’s like a mini one-act play and you run the whole 18 pages of it, it’s so much easier to get lost in it. That’s why actors love doing theater so much, I guarantee you. It’s refreshing to be able to do something where you don’t have to be stopped every two seconds, and you can just play it out and it’s done. I’m very technically aware. I always know what it’s looking like and what the camera move is. It’s hard for me to block that out and become actor-y and be in the moment. I think it helped that I connected to the material so much and that I connected with Britt so much and that I loved the movie so much. I just felt so comfortable in it.
O’BRIEN: Oh, it was completely, leaps-and-bounds different. We all had so much fun. It was this big ensemble cast and we all just fell in love with each other, which was a really lucky thing. I’ve never been on such an inspiring set, in the sense of just being blown away by everybody’s performance in the movie. Vince [Vaughn] and Owen [Wilson] are amazing, obviously. We all joked about how much fun we had on that movie, and that it didn’t even feel like we were working, really. It was like a summer camp, especially because it was such a big production and there were so many big production weeks. The First A.D. would be on a mic and you’d just hear your name from the heavens going, “Dylan O’Brien, time for coverage,” and you’d get up and run. But, it was a very supportive group. It was an amazing thing that I’ve never seen before, on anything else. Literally, the whole cast would tuck behind the monitors to watch someone’s coverage, and love it. Everybody genuinely just enjoyed each other’s performances and what everybody was doing. It was really an amazing thing. It has to be funny. There’s no way [it’s not]. The people in that movie blew my mind.
Would you say that the film is leaning toward an R rating?
O’BRIEN: No. I think the really smart thing that Shawn Levy did with it – and I could be wrong when it comes out R and is the raunchiest thing in the world – is that he has such good taste and he’s very classy in his taste and he’s very family-oriented, and he really did the right thing and leaned toward the PG-13 family feel. Box office is not what I’m referring to with this, but just as a movie, I think it’s the right call. I think you can take the most away from the movie with the lighter version. We don’t need the fucks and the shits and the cocks. It’s about the group coming together. It’s a total family feel, so it has to have [a rating that reflects that]. I think it will be good, and I think it will be sweet, too.
Who is the character you’re playing?
O’BRIEN: I’m a very cynical dick, at first, who eventually comes around to love the group. I’m very kept in about my feelings and who I am, and not open, in any way.
Have you talked to Jeff Davis at all about Stiles’ storyline for Season 3 of Teen Wolf?
O’BRIEN: I literally just texted him last night, telling him that we needed to get dinner and I needed to hear about my character for the season ‘cause I don’t know what’s happening.
O’BRIEN: We start shooting in December. And what I do know is that there’s going to be a four month gap that goes by, between seasons. We also have 24 episodes this season, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s quite a lot. I don’t know how that will go. I think 12 episodes was enough for us to handle on the budget that we have. It will be interesting. We’ve gotta squeeze it into one calendar year, too.
Have you thought about where you’d like to see your character go? Are you rooting for Stiles to remain the non-supernatural character throughout the series, or would you like to see him get more involved?
O’BRIEN: I don’t know. I don’t think about that stuff. I feel like it’s not my place to decide where my character goes. I definitely weigh in, heavily, with stuff. But, I’m as entertained as everyone else is, by finding out what my arc for the season is going to be and what I’m going to get to play. If it’s presented to me and I think it’s barbarically wrong and not, at all, anything that Stiles would be doing, I’ll say something about it. But, I really admire what Jeff does for everyone’s characters, and not just mine. He puts it out there for you and gives you the opportunity to play a great arc, over the course of a season. I just let him do his thing. You don’t disrupt genius at work. I think we just have a good balance, with the way he writes it and the way I play it, and the way I understand it and the way he perceives it. It is very collaborative. We do talk about it a lot. We’ll talk a bunch at this dinner, about everything – about what’s gone on in these four months, about where Stiles is what, about what’s going to be happening for him and what’s going to be changing. With the supernatural stuff, I personally think it would be silly if Stiles was turned into anything. But, if we’re in Season 5, sure, we’ve gotta do something. At that point, maybe it could even be funny. I was joking with somebody recently about how funny it would be if Stiles finally did get a superpower, but he was really cynical about it because he was Frog Man, or something. He did have a superpower because he could leap and jump really high, long and far, but it was essentially useless and embarrassing. I thought that would be funny. But, I don’t think something like that will happen.
O’BRIEN: That will definitely be something that’s tested this year, absolutely, with the nature of Scott and Stiles and how strong their bond is. They’re both growing up and having to go different routes, and that may or may not disrupt their friendship. It will be a test.
Do you know what Stiles’ first name is?
O’BRIEN: Oh, no, I don’t. There’s no first name. There just isn’t one. That’s just the joke. I don’t have one. I think the original Stiles was Rupert Stilinski, or something like that. There was one episode where they showed half of the name on a paper. I don’t remember what it said. The fans get really angry when you tease them with that stuff. I see it as being a comedic story point. I thought it was funny because you couldn’t see it, but people were outraged. Jeff is so funny because he spends a lot of time on Twitter. He gets so into it that he reads everything. People threatened him about Sterek, being like, “I swear to god, if you don’t let them be together, I will come to your house and kill you.” Jeff actually plays into this stuff. He sent me and Tyler Hoechlin an email that said, “You guys, I know that this is insane, but remain calm and don’t acknowledge any of it, no matter what you do.” But, we don’t go on Twitter, so we don’t read any of this and didn’t know what was going on, at all. It cracked me up. But, I can’t wrap my brain around that. Do they really want us together, on the show?!
The First Time opens in limited release this weekend in Southern California, New York City, and Phoenix, Arizona. If you’re in NYC or Los Angeles, it’s playing at these theaters:
- AMC Burbank Town Center 8
- AMC Broadway @ The Santa Monica Promenade
- AMC Orange 30 @ The Block
- Loews Village Theater 7
- AMC Empire 25 Theaters