Making the jump from the small screen to the big screen tends to be something that only a few select actors can achieve over their careers. If you look at some of the names on a list of actors who successfully transitions from television to big screen; actors like George Clooney (E.R.), Will Smith (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), John Travolta (Welcome Back, Kotter), Robin WIlliams (Mork & Mindy, Happy Days), Adam Sandler (Cosby Show, SNL) -- it can leave you wondering, how can anyone join this list of actors?
There's no doubt that joining this collection of actors is difficult, nay I say near impossible in today's culture of boom and then bust actors, but I hold a great deal of hope for one actor is particular to join the A-Listers that have had success in the transition. That actor is: Dylan O'Brien.
Dylan started his acting career on Youtube. Yes, you read that correctly; he started on Youtube. No, he wasn't an overnight internet sensation, but he put himself out there and it allowed him the exposure to reach MTV and get cast as Stiles Stilinski in Teen Wolf in 2011 - which in the matter of 3 years allowed him to take a lead role in one of my favorite dystopian book-to-film's that have been released recently: Maze Runner.
I've followed his career for a while after his casting in Teen Wolf, and I thought he would be a great candidate for breakout actor, and my opinion hasn't changed. I see Dylan becoming a definitive A-List actor to successfully bridge the TV to Film gap and here are 3 reasons why he will do it, and why he can have success like other actors may not.
Fandom. Fandom. Fandom.
We all know how important a fanbase is. It's the reason that we all write and read here on Moviepilot. We are all fans of something, Whether it's a genre, a series, a character, whatever it is - our fanaticism causes us to cling to it. The term fandom is a fairly new term, although its been around for years:
Fandom: (a portmanteau consisting of fan [fanatic] plus the suffix -dom, as in kingdom) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.
Fans are a definitive part of an actors success. Without fans, it's kind of difficult to make it in the business as the A-Lister. Without fans, you get perma-cast as "college student #3".
Dylan O'Brien has a bevy of fans at his beck and call. Over a million twitter followers tends to boost your popularity up quite a few notches. He's the 6th most reblogged actor on tumblr behind Superwholock (Matt Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jared Padlecki, Jensen Ackles & Misha Barton). That's fairly impressive considering he's only been acting for about 4 years mainstream.
Having a fanbase gets you noticed really quickly, just look at how Kevin Smith reacted to seeing him on Teen Wolf at the recommendation of his daughter. Smith held a short interview on his podcast with Dylan, and it was basically an hour and a half of this:
I don't know about you, but that's seems like pretty high praise to me, coming from a fairly prominent actor/producer/writer. Kevin Smith obviously saw something special in Dylan, as have other producers/casting directors. Since Teen Wolf, Dylan earned a spot on the comedy The Intership with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Although the film was critically panned, it was a great beginning to Dylan's film career.
His fans have a great deal of influence on his future, and as far as I can see that's a bright future. He has a huge fanbase that wants to see more and more of him, and that's what will keep him on the rise.
Branching Out and Being Flexible
This is one of those skills that few television actors who attempt the transition can master. Once you have some acting experience and you have your exposure then you start being brought into more casting opportunities for films and this is where the flexibility becomes a necessity.
If you look at some of the big television names that didn't successfully transition, you can put some of the difficulty on not branching out. They were type-cast and it didn't work out in their favor: David Caruso, Kiefer Sutherland, David Schwimmer, Jimmy Smits and Ted Danson to name a few who couldn't successfully transition to the big screen.
Dylan has officially branched out from his type-cast of his character in Teen Wolf. In The Internship he portrayed a sarcastic introverted tech-savvy kid who through the film grows to appreciate things outside of his comfort zone.
Follow that up with his lead in the Maze Runner as the vulnerable, uncertain protagonist who comes into his own as a leader. And you start to see the puzzle pieces connecting into the bigger picture of what is in store for Dylan.
Going from comedic relief to a reluctant heroic leader isn't something that you normally come across with an actor just starting out in his acting career. Yet, there's definitely something to it with Dylan. Director Wes Ball recounts it this way:
"Dylan was actually ... I saw him early on, very early on and I overlooked him. It was a big learning experience there, because I overlooked him because of his hair. He had Teen Wolf hair and I couldn't see past that and so we were looking for our Thomas and it's a tough role to make, because he comes in as a boy and he leaves as a man, so it can't be like this badass action star that comes into this movie. It's about vulnerability up front and then he comes out of it and comes into his own and then the next movies are about the leader that emerges from the group. So finally Fox says 'We just did this movie, The Internship. There's this kid that's in this thing. He's like 20 years old. We think he's kind of got something.' So I watched his tape and was like 'Wait a minute, I've seen this kid before.' I looked him up online and there was one picture of him with a totally shaved head and it's this sweet vulnerable looking kid and I was like 'Whoa, interesting.' I said, 'Wait a minute, he's just so familiar' and I looked back at my old audition tapes, which we had thousands of, and there's Dylan. That guy I said 'No, definitely not him.' So we brought him back in and we started to talk with him and I'm like 'he's the coolest dude ever.'" (source: Collider)
And there it is. Because he had branched out, he was able to hit it big and land what is set to be a pivotal role in his career.
Don't take yourself too serious. Seriously!
The pitfall that every actor can fall into is taking themselves too serious. Don't get me wrong, acting is a big deal. You're either great, good or mediocre - but if you take acting too seriously, it can turn around to burn you.
Landing the lead in Maze Runner could easily have gone to his head, but Dylan takes every opportunity as it arrives. He's still planning on reprising his role as Stiles in Teen Wolf as long as he can, the Maze Runner sequel is due this fall, he has an true story based drama with Mark Wahlberg due out this year, Deepwater Horizon.
Through all of this, Dylan remains leveled and continues to look for the next opportunity without losing sight of where he is currently.
Dylan has this quirky nature that's almost effervescent and I think that helps him stay so level-headed about his rising star status. That's whats so refreshing about Dylan, he isn't trying to be something that he's not. He just loves what he does and people notice that - It takes me back to the Kevin Smith quote earlier:
"...Some people have to work at it, some people make it their whole life's work to pull off what you're able to accomplish just naturally."
He's able to pull it off naturally, he's just naturally good at being what he is - a rising star to watch.