Dane DeHaan on crafting his Lisey's Story villain, brutal scenes, and that 'fake mangled body'
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the finale of Lisey's Story.
After enduring a season of brutal and menacing encounters with Jim Dooley on Lisey's Story, Lisey and her sisters finally got their revenge.
In the show's final two episodes, Lisey (Julianne Moore), Amanda (Joan Allen), and Darla (Jennifer Jason Leigh) teamed up to take down the villain (played by Dane DeHaan), with Lisey managing to get him to the alternate world of Boo'ya Moon, where he met his untimely end at the hands of that world's gargantuan monster, the long boy.
Ahead of the finale, which is now streaming on Apple TV+, DeHaan spoke to EW about his experience crafting the character of Dooley for the Stephen King adaptation, what it was like filming those horrifying scenes, and what he thought of seeing his "mangled, mutilated body" in his final appearance on the show.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: A lot of your character's mannerisms — the yo-yo, the constant eating, the monotone voice — aren't in the book. What was your inspiration for those things?
DANE DEHAAN: It was a true collaboration I'd say between the [series] director, Pablo Larraín, and myself. The way the character was originally written, I think it was more written for the time that it was written for, and we wanted to find something that would be kind of more appropriately off-putting for a modern audience. So I think it was through the lens of the director, Pablo, in his interesting take on American culture, looking from the outside in, and then also it was just really a full-on exploration of having these few jumping-off points, with the eating and the yo-yo and all that, and just seeing kind of where it took us. Stephen [King, who adapted all eight episodes from his novel] was really generous in kind of giving us a lot of creative space to explore. They built the entire set of my apartment, and I don't think there were originally any scenes that took place on that set, but we had a good two days to just kind of explore around there, see what happened. Through all these things that we had been talking about and exploring, it was really a very kind of outside-in way of working, which is different than I'm used to doing, but I think [it was] a really rewarding process.
They added several scenes for your character that weren't even in the book.
That's right. So basically, through all this exploration, and through the talks that Pablo and I would have, Pablo would go back and talk to Stephen about what we were doing and ideas we had. And then Stephen would write new scenes for me. Like the scene in the library, the video that I make in my apartment, and everything I say, those are all Stephen's words, but they were written while we were filming, and I would oftentimes receive the pages like a day or two before we shot.
Was Dooley's use of the yo-yo Pablo's idea?
Yeah, I think it was Pablo's idea. And luckily I am kind of a victim of the yo-yo craze of the '90s. So it was still in me to do a few tricks, you know?
One of the most horrifying moments in both the book and the show is when Dooley first attacks Lisey. In the book, it's with a can opener. In the show, though, it's with a pizza cutter. Do you know why that change was made?
I don't know specifically why it changed. I know there was the shot of me outside eating the pizza and there was the shot of me cutting the pizza with the pizza cutter as kind of like a foreshadowing moment. I would guess it was maybe just that shot of me cutting the pizza is such a strangely horrific shot, but it's just me cutting pizza. I think one of the beauties of the scene of me and Julianne that you're talking about with the pizza cutter is you never see what I'm doing to her. It's not gory from an aspect of you see me cutting her with the pizza cutter — you only see what I'm doing, but you don't see the result of it. And having seen me cut the pizza previously, and just putting it in the mind, I think was a genius idea by Pablo, truly making something even more scary by leaving it up to the imagination. I think it also ultimately works into the themes and tone of the show.
What was it like shooting that scene with Julianne?
It was amazing. Julianne is such a kind, giving person. I think the tone that she sets on set, which is truly one of love and appreciation for everything that's going on and around her, she really creates this nurturing environment, which I think is the healthiest way to do a scene like that — when you already have a mutual respect and understanding of the person you're going into the scene with. And so when the cameras are rolling, it allows you to go into these dark places, but as soon as they call cut, often Julianne's the first one to smile and start laughing and bring us all back to kind of the reality of outside of the scene. And I think that was really one of the great things about making the show, is that we truly were able to go to these dark places, but when the cameras weren't rolling it was a much, much more loving environment than you may expect.
Another scene that sticks out is the last time we see you, and your character's body is in pieces all over Lisey's lawn. How was that created?
That was like a full-body cast, where I went to a place that makes those kinds of things, the same kind of process if you were doing like extreme prosthetics, where they cover me in this goop. I have to stay perfectly still for an hour or something while I can't see anything, and I'm just breathing out of tiny holes from my nose. And luckily I'm not claustrophobic, and I've done it many, many times, because I've been through a lot of prosthetics in my life. But that's how it's made. It's basically made from a mold that they make of my face and body. The people that make those things are pretty incredible.
What was your reaction when you saw the finished product?
I thought it was pretty amazing. I've seen myself in enough strange situations in movies and stuff that I can just kind of appreciate the artistry of it. I think a lot of people were really blown away by it. I got a lot of text messages from Pablo and the various people on set of my mangled, mutilated body. A weird moment in time. But again, it's a true art form. The people that do that are incredible, and they did such a good job making my fake mangled body.
What would you say was the trickiest part about playing Dooley?
I think it was just being open to the moment and to kind of Pablo's nonlinear way of working specifically with my character, and really showing up to the day and not knowing what to expect. Because so much of what we did, as I talked about before, was an exploration and it was just kind of letting the character come to life as the cameras were rolling. So I think just being open to that, and putting my trust in Pablo, it was just something I wasn't used to. So ultimately, that was probably the most difficult part of it.
You've played a lot of villains. How do you feel about that? Do you ever get a script and go, "Come on, guys, I promise I can play nice"?
Well, first of all, of course I've played a lot of bad guys, but I don't think I've ever played a character like Dooley, you know? I think the way he moves, the way he talks, he's a character unto himself, and he does bad things, but I really can't begin to categorize him in a group of other characters I've played other than like the quote-unquote bad guy. He's so different. I really feel that way about a lot of the characters I've played, that a lot of them are very different. Do I sometimes get scripts where I'm just like doing terrible things, and that makes me not want to be involved in the project? Well, sure, of course. [Laughs] It's easy for people to see me in those roles, and they're not what I always want to be doing and they're not what I have always done, but a lot of times the villains or the bad guys are also the most interesting characters. So as long as I'm working with elevated material with great actors and a great director on a project like Lisey's Story — you know, I think Dooley is easily one of the most interesting characters on the show, and I'm so thankful I was able to play him.