The star of The Maze Runner tries to convince us he just rolls out of bed and reveals how an MTV haircut almost lost him his starring role
"I slept for like two weeks after (filming) the movie," says Dylan O'Brien. He's talking about the 14 hours of flat-out sprinting he had to do for his new film The Maze Runner. Kind of puts the insanity workout to shame. "I don’t think I’ll ever recover from it," he laughs. The film is an adaptation of James Dashner's YA book The Maze Runner, which follows a group of boys who are trapped in the middle of a maze. Every night, the gates to the maze open and the 'runners' map out all possible routes of escape. Everything is kosher until one day a girl arrives to shake things up and the promise of regular, monthly provisions they receive is yanked out from under them. It's like LOST meets Lord of the Flies.
O'Brien – best known as funny man Stiles in MTV's Teen Wolf – is lucky he got all that running in. It's practice he'll need to help him get away from all the rabid fans nipping at his heels. Perhaps it's coincidental, but a throng of teenage fangirls mills about in front of the hotel where we meet. He's hot property now that the film has grossed over $32 mill in its opening weekend in the US. A sequel is already in the works. When he was off-duty as a runner, he and some other cast members would go H.A.M. with their Airsoft guns and rip roar on a backwaters Louisiana gator tour. Here, he speaks about his very rational fear of snakes, his little league E! True Hollywood story, and the MTV haircut that almost cost him the job.
What was your reaction when you heard there’d be snake wranglers on set to keep the killer reptiles in check?
Dylan O’Brien: I had a bit of anxiety about it, but only before the first night of shooting. I was going to bed thinking that I was going to get bit by a snake in the morning and I’d have to get rushed to the hospital (laughs). It was such a funny set man because you have five snake wranglers walking around every day with buckets. Just like— (mimics snake noise). They’d always come over to me and open the buckets and there’s just a pile of them in there – rattlesnakes!
Dylan O’Brien: They were kind of long, they’re not massive really. They’re quite petite, skinny little rattlesnakes but those rattlers at the end, freaky!
Are you scared of snakes?
Dylan O’Brien: Yeah!
That’s a pretty rational fear. I walked into a spider web yesterday and then I felt a spider crawling all over me so I ran home and ripped off all my clothes.
Dylan O’Brien: Again, rational though. If it’s a black widow or a brown recluse, that’s rational.
When you and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) arrive in the film, it’s quite unexpected. Have you ever had an unexpected arrival?
Dylan O’Brien: My favourite sport is baseball and one of my favourite baseball memories is, my dad always worked weeks so he could never come to my games during the week. He could only make it on the weekends. It was my last year of little league before I was going to the big diamond. I was a small kid and fast and I was good at baseball. I always dreamed of hitting a home run and getting to jog around the bases.
Where I played at, all the fields in New Jersey, there were no fences so you could never hit a home run. Then when I moved to California, it was my last year on the little league diamonds so basically my last chance. I was like, 'I’m never going to hit the big one…' I wanted to hit a home run all season and this one game I had during the week, I had two in one game. I called my dad to tell him about it. He wasn’t there and it was so sad. I wanted my dad to see so badly. He was like, 'I’ll see the next one!' Then I’m in the next season at the play offs, I haven’t hit another one. My dad still hasn’t seen me hit a home run so it’s a weekday, playoff game and it’s literally the last inning and I come up with two odds. I’m in the on deck circle looking up at the stands cause my dad was trying to make it if he got off early enough and he’s not there, it’s just my mum and my sister. So I go up to bat and it’s 2 to 1 and I hit a home run and tie the game. Then literally as I was running third and coming home, my dad was in the stands and he literally said he got there right before I cracked it and he saw it. It was the coolest moment of my life. It’s still one of my favourite moments.
It sounds like a movie.
Dylan O’Brien: I know right! It’s one of those rare memories that just works out like that. It was such a cool situation. My team was literally carrying me from home base. We’d just tied the game in the last inning. I got so happy.
“I find out over a year later I didn’t get a callback because of my hair and Wes (Ball) just instantly saw my tape and was like, 'Too flashy, not gonna work, don’t like the hair.' Isn’t that funny?” – Dylan O'Brien
I was wondering if you could tell me a dramatic version of your MTV haircut story.
Dylan O’Brien: (laughs) I can drama it up a little bit. (Puts on movie trailer voice) There was an audition.. I find it funny just because I’m always a little bit sloppy. I’ll never go out of my way to do my hair unless I have to and I’m working. So I generally show up to auditions, and what I’ll usually get is, 'He wasn’t handsome enough' because I’m just showing up looking like trash – rolling out of bed and going straight to auditions. So the day that I went for this audition, I came from set on Teen Wolf so I had hair and make up done. I go and I find out over a year later I didn’t get a callback because of my hair and Wes (Ball) just instantly saw my tape and was like, 'Too flashy, not gonna work, don’t like the hair.' He told me that because I didn’t even get a callback for two months and then I just happened to get another shot at it eventually when they still hadn’t cast Thomas. He was like, 'I think I remember it was your hair. I learned a big lesson on that because I judged you by your hair.' Isn’t that funny?
That’s ridiculous! Prejudiced. Did you go on any cool, wild nights out in Louisiana?
Dylan O’Brien: Yeah, New Orleans nights were great. Our whole cast loves to dance so we’d go out and have really awesome dance nights in New Orleans. We would have Airsoft pellet gun wars literally all night in the hotel hallways. It was so fun. We’d stay up till 5am on weekends sometimes. We’d have teams: me, Thomas (Brodie-Sangster), Kaya (Scodelario) and Alex (Flores) and a few of the cast members went on a gator tour one Sunday evening. That was insane. We saw a 13ft alligator. We had this great boat driver who was so backcountry Louisiana, knows every inch of that swamp. It was really cool.
Was it a sausage fest at times?
Dylan O’Brien: Constantly! We never called it that but it was always us and Kaya (Scodelario). There were plenty of nights where Kaya was amongst us as the lone non-sausage (laughs). I remember Kaya being so funny during the Airsoft wars; she’d just scream and give away her location. She kept going into the room and cracking the door and firing at us. She was quite good at it, actually.
The Maze Runner is out in cinemas 10 October