Dane DeHaan Says Gore Verbinski Made Him Squeal Like a Pig During ‘A Cure for Wellness’
After his roles in Chronicle and A Place Beyond the Pines, Dane DeHaan is now transitioning into leading roles in big budget sci-fi movies. In Gore Verbinski‘s A Cure for Wellness, DeHaan plays Mr. Lockhart, an arrogant stock broker who visits a demented spa in the Swiss Alps. After a brutal car accident, Lockhart is stuck at the eerie aquatic facility with a broken leg, and with the help of Mia Goth‘s Hannah, he begins to uncover the dark secrets of the institute’s past.
I caught up with DeHaan in New York earlier this week to talk about his role in what’s no doubt the wackiest sci-fi movie out of Hollywood in years. The actor told me about floating in an isolation tank (with a cast on his leg), working with The Ring director, and one nightmarish scene involving dental work that made him squeal “like a pig.” DeHaan also told me about his upcoming role in Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and how it compares to The Fifth Element.
This movie genuinely freaked me out.
Great, glad to hear it.
It’s a pretty wacky movie for a big budget studio film. What was your first reaction to reading a script this crazy?
I was excited. First I met with Gore and he told me about wanting to make a thriller that was inspired by the thrillers of the ‘70s, and those are my favorite kinds of scary movies. He showed me some visuals and sent me home with a script. I can see that inspiration, but like you said, I also saw that it was something kind of modern and crazy and surprising. It was certainly nothing like I had done before, and really that has been made by a studio in a long time. That was just exciting to be able to be a part of something like that.
What were the movies from the ’70s that Gore mentioned?
Well, The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby. Gore had me watch The Tenant, The Omen, Rear Window. Not even that all those movies are from the ’70s, but they’re that era of psychological thrillers where you really earned the scare.
Lockhart is kind of an antihero. When we first meet him he’s a pretty unlikable stockbroker. How did you channel that while also playing him as the hero by the end?
I think that’s why he’s the perfect protagonist for this story because he has “the sickness.” He works in this Wall Street firm, it’s a really cutthroat environment. He rises to the top of it, and it’s not like he’s helping humanity. He’s kind of just after money and power and personal gain. I think he gives a lot up in his personal life because of that. He thinks he’s winning at life, he thinks he’s a well man, but he’s not. That’s “the sickness” and why, when he gets diagnosed by Volmer, subconsciously he knows that he needs to be cured from something.
There’s a point in the movie when he begins to subscribe to the institute’s philosophy.
Do you think their ideology won him over, or was he able to recognize that he does have “the sickness”?
I mean, I don’t think that’s just it, no. I think “the cure” – it’s a multi-step process that has a lot of effects on its patients. So I think it’s not just him, it’s not these things that are happening to him just having a positive effect on his life. I think there’s an amount of psychological effect, that subconscious effect that it’s having on the people that are taking “the cure.” I mean, he certainly doesn’t like what’s happening to him.
The thing that’s scariest about the movie is Gore’s visual style and how he creates such an intense, suffocating atmosphere. Was all of that on the page? Or did you watch him spontaneously come up with those shots and angles on set?
Well, it wasn’t spontaneous. I don’t know that it was on the page in terms of in the script, but Gore does go about things in a really slow, methodical way. We had five months to make this movie and for a movie without a lot of special effects and not a ton of money, that’s a long time to make a film. All of that time really went into Gore getting his shots. He really does pull off really complicated visually stunning shots. I think you can see it when you watch the movie, but yeah, he has a very clear vision.
As an actor what is he like to work with?
He’s good. Every day was a collaboration with him. I’m in almost every frame of the movie. It was tricky performance to kind of craft and one we were always talking about. It can be very moment to moment. I think we wanted to keep the pot boiling but we didn’t want it to boil over. We shot very much out of sequence, which was more of a challenge in this than in other films because the film just follows me every step of my journey almost in real time. We were always talking and always collaborating. I was always very aware of the shot he was trying to get and just trying to bring his vision to life.
What was the environment like on set? I’d imagine walking around with fake bodies floating in tanks must have been kind of eerie.
The sets were eerie for sure. One thing that was cool about the movie is how much was practical. The production design was really great. Whether it’s the locations or the sets, or whatever, the world Gore created was just dirty enough to make your skin crawl. That was there on set, you could feel that.
It was interesting to see a protagonist on crutches for almost the entirety of movie. Was that difficult to not be able to walk for so much of the movie?
Yeah, but also difficult in a good way. Just another obstacle. I think the more obstacles that a character has then ultimately the easier it is to create a compelling performance. If I have to run upstairs, it’s just going to be more compelling to see me do it on crutches. I feel like they almost became a character unto themselves. They informed me a lot about rhythm and sound and all that stuff. So although it was an obstacle I think it was a helpful obstacle in terms of the performance.
What was it like to shoot in the sensory deprivation tank?
That was intense. That sequence took two weeks to shoot. I was wearing a harness that was bolted to these metal cables that were bolted into the side of the tank, so my body was kept horizontal and underwater. I was breaking through an oxygen tube and nothing covering my eyes or nose. I only could communicate with hand gestures and Gore was talking to me through an underwater speaker. I wasn’t really dry for those two weeks it was super intense for sure.
There’s eels in the tank, too. Were those CG?
Yeah those were fake. I think I’d still be in the tank if they were real eels.
The scariest scene for me was the dentist scene. What was that like to film that?
That was a little more fast and furious to shoot. We filmed that over a day or two. So as physically demanding as the sensory deprivation tank was, the dentist scene probably f---ed with my mind the most. I was really strapped in that chair and there was really a drill coming at my face. It was a rubber drill, but still, the sound it makes and it got really close. I didn’t know how I was going to react to that. I just ended up squealing like a pig [laughs] and I think Gore just went with that. That was a pretty crazy scene to shoot.
The the last shot of the movie has a bit of a surprising twist. Do you have an interpretation of what it means?
Maybe I do, but not really. In a way, because that was at the end of the movie, I feel like that was the one thing I didn’t need an answer for, as an actor. I think it’s a really fun ending and I think one thing that’s cool about the movie is there’s kind of a surprise around every turn up until the very end. I think almost the ambiguity of it is cool because it allows the film to linger even more than it would before. And it makes people think about it. I think it’s very much up for interpretation.
Do you think this will be the kind of movie that’ll gain a cult following and have people theorizing over it?
Could be. I hope so. You never know what’s gonna happen.
You’re also in Valerian, which I’m really stoked for. What was it like working with Luc Besson on such a big sci-fi film?
It was amazing. That was the most fun I’ve ever had making a movie. I just hope it’s the most fun people will ever have watching it.
How does it compare to The Fifth Element?
I think stylistically it’s the same, but bigger and grander. I think Luc would have made Valerian if he could have when he made The Fifth Element. He just didn’t have the special effects to be able to pull it off. This is the movie he wanted to make his whole life.
Rihanna is also in the movie. What was it like to work with her?
It was great. I’m sure I’ll answer a lot of Valerian questions when Valerian comes out. But right now I’m just excited about A Cure For Wellness.
Do you have anything else coming up after that?
That’s it for now. I’m just gonna see where these two movies take me and I’m gonna be a father for the first time soon.
Thanks. So I’m focusing on that and that’s kind of it.
A Cure for Wellness is now playing.