A BuzzFeed article from
last year offered up "16 Reasons Why Dylan O'Brien Is the Dork of Your Dreams."
Among them: He's a red-carpet goofball; he quotes Hocus Pocus on Twitter; and his character on MTV's hit
remake series Teen Wolf, Stiles
Stilinski, is "the closest thing to [The O.C.'s] Seth Cohen, since…Seth
Cohen." And it's true that, as the best friend to the show's titular angsty
canine, the 23-year-old O'Brien brings Adam Brody levels of offbeat charm and
comic relief to a high school world run amok with bloodthirsty creatures. (So
much so that the role helped him beat out talents like Ansel Elgort and Miles
Teller for the breakthrough actor trophy at this year's Young Hollywood Awards.)
But the New York City native isn't all slapstick and one-liners. "I'm very shy,"
O'Brien says. "I wish more people believed me when I say that. Stiles is a
version of me that rarely exists in the real world. He's so confident and
extroverted, and I'm much more restrained and internal."
But don't think that
inhibition makes him any less of an on-screen force. In the Hollywood adaptation
of James Dashner's hit YA sci-fi book series, The Maze Runner, as Thomas—the latest
captive who wakes up, memory erased, trapped by a massive mysterious maze from
which "runners" in a group of teen boys have been trying to escape for three
years—it's O'Brien's reticence that brings to life our next great
dystopian-fiction hero. "I sort of got Thomas right off the bat," O'Brien says.
"He's the quintessential ordinary human being who is tossed into extraordinary
circumstances. And he pulls this thing out of himself that's been there all
along. It's a bravery born from and in spite of fear—and that's a really
Dylan O'Brien was already
fairly famous for his role in the MTV series Teen Wolf, a show that's more popular
than you might think. But when he was cast in this fall's film adaptation of the
Y.A. bestseller The Maze Runner,
the 23-year-old actor had to know things would change, that the movie would
be big—and that his celebrity
would explode alongside it.
In just the two weeks
following its September 19 release, the film's already grossed $149 million worldwide. Here, its star chats
with ELLE about Chipotle, Patricia Clarkson, and his growing
read an article online recently that said you were overlooked for an Emmy for
your last season playing Stiles Stilinski on 'Teen Wolf'…
What? Gosh, that is so
this stage in your career, do you think about that kind of stuff? Awards and
It’s impossible for me to
think about that. I’m not an arrogant human being, so I could never justify it.
It’s just not how my brain works. Right now it’s just about the experiences.
Last season, I was just really focused on going in and taking on being the bad
guy. It made me really nervous.
Yeah, I mean, it’s not like
I went to acting school and you play Evil Guy one day and Romantic Guy the next.
These are all things I’m trying for the first time, because my only experience
has been this show.
being very honest about your vulnerabilities here…
That’s always been the case
with me. You know, in regard to performing, it couldn’t be funnier that I ended
up being an actor, because I’m really shy. Unless I’m really comfortable with a
don't think a lot of people would assume that.
Everyone says that to me.
They’re always like, “yeah, right,” and it just cracks me up. I wish more
believed me when I say it. But Stiles is just so confident and extroverted. I’m
much more internal. So I guess to hear someone say that I deserve an Emmy—it
just makes me feel proud of what I do with him.
let’s segue into 'The Maze Runner,' another movie where you clearly aren’t
playing comedy. You weren’t playing a villain, but did your experience on 'Teen
Wolf' help you find your way into this dramatic character?
Well, it wasn’t as
nerve-wracking, but I also felt like I understood this character more. I felt
like I got Thomas from a 101 standpoint. He’s a character I’ve rooted for since
I was a kid. He starts out as this terrified, back-of-the pack kid, but then he
finds this heroic nature in him because he’s so curious. He asks the questions
that no one else asks, and it pulls this thing out of him that's been there all
you actually have to do a lot of running?
Well, everyone had this
hilarious week of boot camp—you know, chopping wood and building stuff. I
actually didn’t learn any of that stuff, because Thomas wouldn’t have known how
to do it. And I didn’t do a lot of running either! It was important that I look
out of breath on screen, because I was greeny. Thomas wouldn’t have done much
running before getting into The Glade.
was it working with Patricia Clarkson?
I only had a few days with
her, but she’s actually so hilarious. Obviously I love and respect her as an
actor, but our relationship was less advice giving and more her grabbing my
chest and, you know, purring in my ear.
probably used to that kind of attention at this point in your
Honestly, man, I’m not
somebody who wants the celebrity. I could really care less about that stuff. I
know everyone says it, but I get overwhelmed by it all sometimes. I do love my
fans, and I am so grateful for them, but sometimes I just want to walk into
Chipotle and get a fucking burrito, man!
I never really understood
why actors get paid so much money. But now I feel like it’s because they have to
sacrifice their lives sometimes, you know? Some people may want that, but I said
it: I’m shy and reserved, and there is nothing about me that wants to throw
myself out to the world like that. I don’t resent those people or anything, but
it’s hard to feel like you’re a person. You go around everywhere and people
treat you like a doll.
what’s your strategy to deal with it all?
You’ve got to pull back a
little. If you keep fighting it, it’ll just make you go crazy. Like, if you just
keep saying to yourself, “No, I’m going to Chipotle and no one is going to fuck
with me,” you’ll end up in a mental ward. Because someone is probably going to
fuck with you when you walk into that Chipotle.