For many actors, sitting in a makeup chair for hours can be tedious. Not Dane DeHaan of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” He’s like one of those rare cats that likes a bath.
“I get really into it – I love it,” he said of wearing prosthetics, in this case to play the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man 2,” which opens Friday. “It’s interesting because so many actors are always trying to look so different, and do such different things, but they don’t really tap into the (makeup and costume) part of it that can truly make you look like a different person.”
DeHaan, 28, was willing to go green and don a 50-pound suit to play the villainous alter ego of Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) childhood friend.
After completing the daily, four-hour transformative process, “you get to stare in the mirror and you are like ‘I am the Green Goblin, and I get to spend all day trying to kill Spider-Man,’” DeHaan said. “I would wait four hours for that any day.”
“Spider-Man 2” marks DeHaan’s first foray into comic-book films, but not prosthetics. His breakout films, the 2012 high school sci-fi fantasy “Chronicle” and 2013 multigenerational family drama “The Place Beyond the Pines,” both messed with DeHaan’s angelic face. In “Chronicle,” explosions altered his looks. In “Pines,” in which he played a criminal’s confused, searching son, it was fists.
DeHaan said he does not look for extreme roles, just interesting ones. The makeup jobs manifest from there.
“When I read a script and say, ‘There’s no way I can do that,’ it’s probably the (role) I will want to do,” said DeHaan, graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. “That probably correlates to the fact I play a lot of characters who go through a lot – even as far as turning into monsters.”
Expectations for “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” sequel to the 2012 movie that rebooted the “Spider-Man” franchise and earned more than $750 million worldwide, are considerably higher than for previous DeHaan films. As in, as high as the Manhattan skyscrapers from which Spidey swings.
DeHaan’s profile – up to now that of a mostly independent-film actor who plays tortured exceptionally well – also is likely to soar.
Speaking by phone from the Brooklyn apartment he shares with his actress wife, Anna Wood, DeHaan acknowledges that “my life is about to change in a big way” with “Spider-Man 2’s” release.
Yet he also still sees the pure fun of appearing in a comic-book film, viewing it as a (very expensive) extension of playtime activities from his Allentown, Pa., boyhood.
“I always wanted to be an actor, and I started wanting to be an actor by playing pretend in my house and dressing up like superheroes,” DeHaan said. “Now I get to do it on a bigger scale, and take it a lot more seriously, in a way that fulfills the ‘serious actor’ part of me.”
DeHaan also liked the nuances within Harry, who turns villain as part of a bid to stop a disease inherited from his dying father, Norman (Chris Cooper). Norman Osborn owns Oscorp, the corporation that once employed Peter’s father and manufactures trouble for the Parkers more than any other product.
“He is forced to make all these decisions about how to save his own life,” DeHaan said of Harry. “He doesn’t just resort to the most extreme option first. It is quite an arc that Harry goes through. It is not just an evil journey.”
DeHaan has seen the aughts “Spider-Man” films in which James Franco played Harry. But not since they came out, “and certainly not for this,” he said, referring to the new “Spider-Man 2.” “I wanted my own take on the role.”
DeHaan also has followed Franco in playing James Dean. Franco starred as Dean in a 2001 TV movie and DeHaan plays him in the forthcoming “Life,” opposite Robert Pattinson, who plays Life magazine photographer Dennis Stock.
Of course the delicately handsome DeHaan is playing Dean. All sensitive young actors since Dean inevitably are compared with him, from Franco to Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Gosling.
DeHaan looks most like DiCaprio, but his screen presence hews closer to Gosling’s in that both can seem like threats to others as well as themselves.
In last year’s “Kill Your Darlings,” DeHaan charmed and mesmerized as Beat Generation figure and convicted killer Lucien Carr, a college friend of Allen Ginsberg’s (Daniel Radcliffe).
In the movie, Ginsberg harbors an intense crush on Carr, who DeHaan plays as a dangerous combination of young, reckless and profoundly sad. You worry for little Harry Potter.
“DeHaan’s performance is the reason to see this film,” Betsy Sharkey wrote in her “Darlings” review in the Los Angeles Times. “The actor brings such a complex mix of bravado and vulnerability to Lucien, you feel an absence any time he leaves the screen.”
Spending time with Garfield, Radcliffe and “Twilight” star Pattinson – contemporaries age-wise but old hands at fame – presented DeHaan with examples of how to handle the media and fan scrutiny he might face after “Spider-Man 2’s” release. Seeing Radcliffe handle himself with what DeHaan called “grace and graciousness” was particularly instructive.
“Dan is amazing at dealing with it,” he said. “People come up to him like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so good to see you,’ and he is just like really happy that someone’s there and telling him they really like him.”
Observing famous co-stars provided lessons otherwise hard to come by.
“There are questions you have that you can’t Google,” DeHaan said. “You can’t really Google, ‘Hey, I am at dinner, and there’s 20 people waiting outside the restaurant for me. What do I do?’"
His marriage to Wood, who appeared in “Chronicle,” has been “a big grounding force in my life” as his film roles have grown more prominent. “The fact that I have somebody in my life (there) before this all got crazy, who knows who I really am it keeps me sane,” DeHaan said.
But if his career goes the way he wants, he need not worry about anyone recognizing him on the street. First there’s his affection for prosthetics.
He also admires how actors disappear into roles without them. Like Guy Pearce, with whom DeHaan appeared in the 2012 period crime drama “Lawless.”
“He showed up on set with his eyebrows shaved, and this part shaved down his hair,” DeHaan said. “That guy is such a chameleon. I feel like every time I see him in a movie, it takes me maybe the entire movie to realize it’s him.
“That is really exciting to me.”