Guns blaz­ing As­sas­sin’

After ‘Maze Run­ner’ ac­ci­dent, Dy­lan O’Brien comes back shoot­ing with CIA spy tale ‘Amer­i­can

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SUNDAY LIVING - By Bob Strauss South­ern Cal­i­for­nia News Group Con­tact Bob Strauss at rstrauss@scng.com or @bs­critic on Twit­ter.

Dy­lan O’Brien is back in ac­tion — and how — with “Amer­i­can As­sas­sin.”

Soon after (al­most) re­cov­er­ing from se­ri­ous fa­cial in­juries on the set of the yet-to-be re­leased, third “Maze Run­ner” movie, O’Brien dove into this ul­tra­vi­o­lent adap­ta­tion of one of the late Vince Flynn’s popular es­pi­onage nov­els. The movie is the ori­gin story of op­er­a­tive Mitch Rapp, drawn from the 10th book in the fran­chise Flynn be­gan just be­fore the turn of the cen­tury.

On screen, we see how O’Brien’s Rapp trans­formed him­self from a happy Amer­i­can guy into a cun­ningly venge­ful su­per­sol­dier fol­low­ing a trau­matic ter­ror­ist at­tack. Las­soed by the CIA be­fore he can do too much dam­age to their mu­tual enemy, Rapp is fur­ther trained — and hope­fully civ­i­lized into a more use­ful tool — by hard­case Com­pany vet­eran Stan Hur­ley (Michael Keaton). Then it’s off to Europe to try to stop a ghastly nu­clear black­mail scheme.

O’Brien got quite a bit of train­ing him­self from “Amer­i­can As­sas­sin” stunt/fight vet­er­ans such as Roger Yuan (“Sky­fall,” “Ja­son Bourne”), Joost Janssen (“Iron Man,” “13 Hours”), Buster Reeves (“The Ac­coun­tant,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Game of Thrones”) and their teams, as well as exNavy SEAL and CIA per­son­nel.

“I can only dole out credit to th­ese guys, re­ally, for my whole per­for­mance,” says O’Brien, look­ing re­laxed and healthy in a green T-shirt and gray pants. “That was 90 per­cent of it.”

He per­formed a sim­i­lar amount of the crazy ac­tion Rapp is in­volved in on screen.

“Doesn’t that look like me? Damn it!” O’Brien, 26, laughs when asked how much of that is re­ally him. “No, yeah, all of the fight chore­og­ra­phy was me. Ob­vi­ously cer­tain things, like go­ing through a glass ta­ble, they didn’t want me to do. But I did as much of it as I could, and we were al­ways prac­tic­ing the fights so far in ad­vance, I’d spend two or three weeks on each of them. You re­ally get it down to a rhythm and it’s such a dance with an­other per­son, so when it gets to shoot­ing day you can just go at it. It was one of my fa­vorite parts of the ex­pe­ri­ence, for sure.”

There was still a lit­tle get­ting beat up, and O’Brien ad­mits that an evening or two after film­ing was spent like Char­l­ize Theron in one of those “Atomic Blonde” ice baths. Over­all, though, care was taken to make the fights as safe as pos­si­ble and not ex­haust the still­re­cov­er­ing young ac­tor.

“We shot this about 6 1/2 months after the ac­ci­dent,” says O’Brien, who was hit by an­other “Maze” ve­hi­cle when a mal­func­tion­ing har­ness pulled him off the one he’d been rid­ing on. “So we had to be care­ful with cer­tain things on ‘Amer­i­can As­sas­sin.’ It wasn’t ideal for my doc­tor, but he gave me the go-ahead with, ob­vi­ously, cer­tain re­stric­tions, things to just bear in mind with me and the fragility of the side of my face.

“So chore­og­ra­phy kind of worked around it. That was also a big rea­son why we re­ally wanted to know all the moves well into the days of shoot­ing it. We went about it in the right way, and I was re­cov­ered enough by that point to be able to han­dle it all, and still in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with my doc­tor at home.”

Be­fore sign­ing on to “Amer­i­can As­sas­sin,” O’Brien was un­fa­mil­iar with the Rapp books, which have been con­tin­ued by author Kyle Mills since Flynn suc­cumbed to prostate can­cer in 2013. The ac­tor quickly dis­cov­ered that there was far more to the char­ac­ter than bit­ter anger and for­mi­da­ble fight­ing skills.

“The way I look at this guy is he’s some­one who went through some­thing tremen­dously dev­as­tat­ing and tragic, and it has th­ese ef­fects on him,” O’Brien says of qual­i­ties ex­plored in the film by di­rec­tor Michael Cuesta, a vet­eran of the char­ac­ter-based spy se­ries “Home­land.”

“He’s still very much deal­ing with that pain in­side of him, and I looked at it as him not know­ing how to deal with it. He thinks chan­nel­ing this anger into this train­ing and mis­sion that he sets him­self on will heal all that, but part of his arc is re­al­iz­ing that that’s al­ways go­ing to be with him. He’s go­ing to have to learn how to live with it, and how to not just turn into a vi­cious killer. I think, at some point, he sees that he can be an as­set and not a mur­derer.”

The son of a cam­era op­er­a­tor, O’Brien moved from New Jersey to Her­mosa Beach at age 12, where he still hangs out with nu­mer­ous friends and adores the El Gringo restau­rant. A grad­u­ate of Mira Costa High, O’Brien be­gan mak­ing his own goofy YouTube videos as a teen. Those led to the pro­fes­sional leap to a reg­u­lar role on the “Teen Wolf” TV se­ries; O’Brien’s even man­aged to squeeze in a few episodes for the MTV show’s cur­rent, fi­nal sea­son.

“Maze Run­ner: The Death Cure” even­tu­ally got fin­ished as well, and is sched­uled for a Jan­uary 2018 re­lease. Planned as the fi­nal film adap­ta­tion of James Dash­ner’s dystopian young-adult nov­els, O’Brien de­scribes the movie as an “emo­tional, in­tense last chap­ter.”

As that fran­chise’s end ap­proaches for the re­silient ac­tor, an­other’s prom­ise looms.

“Yeah, we’ll see,” O’Brien says about fu­ture “Amer­i­can As­sas­sins.” “Knock on ta­ble,” he adds, do­ing just that.

PHOTO BY CHRIS­TIAN BLACK

From left, Shiva Ne­gar, Michael Keaton, Neg Adam­son and Dy­lan O’Brien in “Amer­i­can As­sas­sin” to be re­leased by CBS Films and Lion­s­gate.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CBS FILMS; IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY KAY SCANLON/SCNG

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