Though he had just been accepted at one of the best acting schools in the country, Dane DeHaan insists he had modest aspirations upon enrolling in 2004 at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.
“My goal was to hopefully have a career in regional theater at some point – to not have to wait tables,” recalls DeHaan, a native of the Allentown, Pa., area.
Ten years later, unless his fortunes change dramatically, the only way you’ll see him as a waiter is if he plays one in a Hollywood film.
In fact, American audiences are about to see DeHaan, 28, in his biggest movie yet: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which opens Friday, cost more than $200 million to produce, and is already a monster hit in Europe and Asia (where it’s been out for two weeks).
DeHaan stars as Peter Parker’s childhood friend Harry Osborn, opposite Andrew Garfield (Parker/Spider-Man), Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx.
Osborn, of course – and this is a spoiler only for those who don’t know the comic book, or who haven’t seen last decade’s “Spider-Man” trilogy starring Tobey Maguire – eventually becomes the Green Goblin, Spidey’s most well-known nemesis.
For DeHaan, it’s his second major turn as a complicated man-child turned superpowered villain since 2012, when he earned notice for portraying a bullied high school student who goes mad in the sci-fi thriller “Chronicle.”
“One of the things that’s fun about acting is you get permission to misbehave, to sometimes literally be the bad guy,” DeHaan says. “And I grew up playing superheroes and playing pretend. That’s how I got started acting. So when all of a sudden I’m all dressed up as the Green Goblin and my job for the day is to try to kill Spider-Man, I mean, that’s like a dream come true.”
The young actor had to lobby hard for the critical role in director Marc Webb’s film, and the odds of landing it were slim. But DeHaan has a solid track record when it comes to long shots.
After three years at Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania, he was one of just three students accepted to UNCSA’s drama program for high school seniors in 2003.
Then, to get into the college’s acting school – which has produced Mary-Louise Parker, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Chris Parnell, and Anthony Mackie (last seen in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) – DeHaan had to audition along with more than 1,000 others; he was one of 25 selected for the Class of 2008.
While in Winston-Salem, he met and studied with his future wife, Anna Wood of Mount Airy, who also has found success and will star in the forthcoming CBS crime drama “Reckless.” (The couple lives in Brooklyn, but usually spends Christmas in Mount Airy.)
DeHaan calls his alma mater “a magical place,” and says “I would stay there forever if I could.”
His schedule is a bit too busy for that right now, though. Earlier this month, he wrapped “Life,” a drama in which he portrays James Dean that was shot in Toronto. Then he met up with the “Spider-Man” cast in London to do press and talk up the Green Goblin. Next, he’ll shoot a period drama co-starring Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”).
And when he has time, he’ll pinch himself.
“If someone asked me five years ago, ‘Where will you be five years from now?’ I would have sold myself way short,” DeHaan says. “So I try to just live day by day, and luckily, as the days go by the opportunities are getting bigger and greater, and the people I’m getting to work with continue to blow my mind. I just don’t want that to stop. I’m having the time of my life.”
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