Minutes after meeting Dylan O’Brien, he lets me in on a secret: Growing up, he was a massive american idol Fan. We’re in front of his Bustle photoshoot, where he meets Remi Wolf, the soul-pop artist who briefly appeared as a contestant on the show’s season 13. But O’Brien notes that he also rides for the show’s OGs like Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson. “I’m obsessed with people,” O’Brien says of his passion for reality TV. “Why aren’t you obsessed with people?”
The reveal is Peak O’Brien – a little awkward, totally serious and totally adorable – and the rest of the 30-year-old’s time is dotted with more of those interactions. When an intern sneezes, he compliments her on how “cute” it sounds. After introducing himself to the production coordinator, he is amazed that she shares a name with his sister Julia. When the aforementioned intern reveals he had a crush on her childhood, he thanks her and compliments her Balenciaga coaches. Disarmament is the first teenage wolf Superpower of the Star. But at what cost?
“It’s very important to me that people feel good, sometimes it’s a shame,” he admits as we head to a nearby hotel bar. As soon as we’re seated, a fan approaches him to record a message for a friend in Colombia. Of course, O’Brien complies. “I think it’s something I need to own because it’s a good quality for the now part,” he says. “It is very important to me that the entire team simply feels comfortable with every job [good]. I always say I’m not really an actor, but what I bring to the table is a good time.
His friends and associates agree. When co-star Zoey Deutch was living on the same London block as O’Brien while filming her new film, The outfit, the pandemic was still raging. Days on set were grueling as O’Brien played the heir apparent to a vicious cadre of gangsters operating out of a Chicago tailor’s shop, played by Academy Award winner Mark Rylance. When the couple got home, they would be happy to see more reality TV. “He just loves sh*tty TV so much,” says Deutch. For much of the trip, O’Brien was busy watching again Vanderpump Rules – he calls the show “my godfatherWhen I asked him about it later – Deutch was “deeply involved” with it island of love UK, of which O’Brien is also a fan. “It’s a great quality of his and so out of character because he’s so bright, intellectual and interesting,” adds Deutch. But for the record, the always serious O’Brien thinks the idea that reality TV isn’t intelligent is “crazy.”
Being a preternaturally agreeable guy who only has a good mood was a survival skill O’Brien learned as a youth when his family moved from New Jersey to California at the age of 12.”[It was] worst thing that happened to me as a kid,” O’Brien recalls trying to make friends at a new middle school. He found an ointment on YouTube and shared 14 videos between 2007 and 2009. (His account, moviekidd826, is still active and contains comedy skits and videos of O’Brien lip-syncing to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.”) signed with manager Liz York, with whom he still works today, just from the videos , and in 2010 he got the role of Stiles Stilinski in the MTV series teenage wolf. Overnight fame followed. “All of a sudden, girls came up to me in some places and wanted to take pictures,” he says. “It was very scary.”
teenage wolf ran for six seasons from 2011 to 2017. O’Brien received four Teen Choice Awards and three MTV Movie Awards for his work in the film maze runner trilogy, all of which spawned a very specific kind of fame: the internet boyfriend. In 2022, Twitter has a short attention span – a week of excitement about Lee Pace and euphoria‘s Angus Cloud next – but O’Brien’s place in the pantheon is eternal. Among his 6 million Twitter followers, he often goes viral for his “right side of the story” tweets, in which he poked fun at Ted Cruz, JK Rowling and Donald Trump Jr “We love a woke king who only tweets to tug at people and call them out on their bullsh*tAnd “Dylan O’Brien’s Twitter is why he’s my white boi of the month.”
When I ask him about this worship, his demeanor changes. “It’s so funny, my palms are sweating. It’s overwhelming [and] It’s wonderful,” says O’Brien, tearing up. “It’s just gnarly to think of my little self experiencing this really special thing.”
For a long time, O’Brien rode the wave of this success. If not filmed teenage wolf or maze runnerHe supplemented his filmography with projects that would help him become a real box-office star: he went full romantic as the lead The first timeand showcased his comedic skills alongside Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn The internship. But Operation Make Dylan O’Brien a Star came to a screaming death in 2016 when he suffered a concussion, fractured face and brain trauma after being hit by a vehicle while filming a stunt for the finale maze runner Movie in Vancouver. Production was halted, with plans to resume filming two months later. It took six.
“I really struggled,” he says of the months of physical and mental healing that followed. “Up until this accident, I never stopped working. It’s really weird that so much of my identity is my career and then this thing happened to me that I was convinced I couldn’t do anymore. I just thought, ‘I can’t imagine ever being on another set.’”
O’Brien eventually finished the film, but spent much of the next five years out of the spotlight, focusing on a more personal pursuit: “I re-imagined myself.”
Now, O’Brien is also ready to re-introduce himself to his fans. During the pandemic, they made headlines for his appearances in a spate of unexpected projects. He played a fictionalized version of himself Curb your enthusiasm and recreated a scene from The social network as part of actress Sarah Ramos’ viral Quarantscenes series. “We were trying to figure out what [scene] to do,” says Ramos, who met O’Brien when they went on a friend’s date The story of the maidis Max Minghella. “We briefly mentioned The social network, and he made his impression [of Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo] and I said, ‘OK, we’re obviously doing this because you were so good.'” Garfield himself has since said O’Brien “murdered it,” and while he’s the one who draws the most attention, Ramos can understand why. “I think so [Hollywood] looked at it quantitatively rather than qualitatively,” she says. “He’s kind of misunderstood and underestimated, but he’s so talented.”
That talent caught the attention of another high-profile fan, Taylor Swift, who re-released her first five records after selling her masters to Scooter Braun in 2019 Red (Taylor’s version), she decided to write and direct a short film to accompany the 10-minute version of her arguably heartbreaking ballad in a discography full of heartthrobs: All Too Well. Although she and O’Brien had never met, Swift believed he was the only actor who could bring pathos to the music video’s de facto villain.
“Dylan was my first choice for the short ‘All Too Well’ because it has the versatility I was looking for,” Swift writes via email. “I had seen his work and heard nothing but wonderful things about him as a person. Ultimately, I want to work with people who love what they do and are passionate about what they do, because that’s how I approach design. Swift sent O’Brien a quick text message asking him to — he spends over five minutes scrolling through her text thread to show me; there is a a lot of of messages in his wake – and O’Brien agreed without hesitation. “I felt like they would be great at ad libbing and adding nuance to his character, adding tenfold to the story,” Swift writes. “He absolutely blew me away and I’m really happy that I also made such a great friend through this experience.”
For O’Brien, the most surprising part of the experience working with Swift was the canon perfectionist’s ability to control. “For someone so meticulous, she’s so trusting. Sometimes we did a take, it was the opposite of neurotic,” he says of the shoot, which took place over two days in New York. Swift also allowed O’Brien and co-star Sadie Sink to contribute to the creative process, leading to one of the film’s most harrowing moments when the music stops and the two fight after a tense dinner party. “Everything was planned as music. But then when we played that scene [with dialogue]. [Taylor] immediately marched over and just said, ‘That’s it. I’ll play that in the video. ‘ The confidence, just recognizing and absorbing that in the moment, which is what we brought to it [shows how] She is so healthy with relationships and her instincts. ”
Like Swift, O’Brien has been working since he was a teenager, and after a decade of hard work, he’s learning to trust his own instincts and push for what he wants. He names his role in The outfit “The kind [part] I never understand that,” though in all of his upcoming films he’s leaning into the meatier, feature-length roles he’s craved since his teenage wolf days. He currently has three projects in post-production: A political comedy written by Ike Barinholtz; a crime thriller produced by M. Night Shyamalan; and Not okay, a varied, scheming tale of an influencer who fakes a trip to Paris to gain followers. The latter will see him again alongside Deutch, this time as a bleached blonde and tattooed hype-beast bae. It’s a departure for O’Brien, who quotes Simon Rex in it Red Rocket as his dream role, but isn’t that the point?
“I’ve always felt like I was a character actor at heart,” he says, suddenly not so reticent. “So it’s fun [do it] for the first time in my career.”
Photographer: Jingyu Lin
stylist: Sarah Schussheim