O’Brien is low-key and lethal in thriller ‘Amer­i­can As­sas­sin’

On-set in­jury left him with a lot of anger to chan­nel

The Signal - - LIFE - Bryan Alexan­der @BryAlexand USA TO­DAY

LOS AN­GE­LES Dy­lan O’Brien knew there would be on­line tur­bu­lence when he was cast as black-ops killer Mitch Rapp in

Amer­i­can As­sas­sin.

O’Brien, 26, un­der­stands that fans of Vince Flynn’s best-sell­ing nov­els might not vi­su­al­ize

the star of MTV’s Teen Wolf as the guy to take on the lethal hit­man, a part that Thor’s Chris Hemsworth turned down for sched­ul­ing rea­sons.

“Maybe peo­ple didn’t as­sume I could step into this role and be be­liev­able,” O’Brien says. “All’s fair in film­mak­ing, but no one knows you like your­self.”

He knew he could defy those ex­pec­ta­tions, un­leash­ing an an­gry young killer-in-train­ing in

the edgy ori­gin story Amer­i­can

As­sas­sin (in the­aters Fri­day), a por­trayal fu­eled by O’Brien’s emo­tional re­turn from an in­jury last year on the set of Maze Run­ner: The Death Cure that

nearly ended his ca­reer.

He was cast in As­sas­sin while holed up in his L.A. home, feel­ing an­gry and de­pressed as he re­cov­ered from a se­ri­ous head in­jury suf­fered when he was thrown from the har­ness of a mov­ing ve­hi­cle dur­ing a stunt.

“There’s the phys­i­cal re­cov­ery. And you’re go­ing through a post-trau­matic psy­cho­log­i­cal re­cov­ery as well,” O’Brien says. “Your mind is so con­sumed with doubt, you’re just beaten down. And you feel guilt in a re­ally weird way.”

Not only was Maze Run­ner film­ing post­poned be­cause of the ac­ci­dent (the movie will be out in Jan­uary), he had doubts whether he could take on any parts, much less an ac­tion role.

“You’re ir­ri­ta­ble and iso­lated and you’re an­gry. So an­gry,” O’Brien says. “Be­cause that can give you some power back.”

He re­al­ized he could fuel those feel­ings into the char­ac­ter, who loses his fi­ancée in a ter­ror­ist at­tack, a trauma that con­sumes Rapp with a de­sire for re­venge as he trains with a black-ops spe­cial­ist (Michael Keaton).

“It would have been a crime to not use th­ese feel­ings, which in­form the char­ac­ter in a real, gen­uine way,” O’Brien says.

Di­rec­tor Michael Cuesta (TV’s Home­land) loved the idea of chan­nel­ing O’Brien’s dis­com­fort for the de­cep­tively lethal killer.

“Mitch is not this guy with huge arms and testos­terone-filled body. He’s like you or me, blend­ing in. That’s im­por­tant,” says Cuesta, who let O’Brien keep the beard he grew dur­ing his re­cov­ery for early scenes. “There’s some­thing go­ing on un­der­neath with Dy­lan. That’s why the cam­era loves him.”

Kyle Mills, who took over writ­ing Amer­i­can As­sas­sin books af­ter Flynn died in 2013, says the late au­thor would “love” the O’Brien cast­ing. He notes that any on­line snip­ing stopped af­ter O’Brien’s first As­sas­sin trailer.

“Dy­lan is the per­fect phys­i­cal type and has the look, the swag­ger,” Mills says. “He has the in­ten­sity that makes Mitch who he is.” With 16 books in the se­ries, As­sas­sin has fran­chise pos­si­bil­i­ties, de­pend­ing on the film’s per­for­mance. It’s ex­pected to fin­ish a strong sec­ond at the box of­fice, be­hind Stephen King pow­er­house It.

“I’m cool either way. I con­nected with this char­ac­ter, and this ex­pe­ri­ence will al­ways be re­ally im­por­tant,” O’Brien says.

“Leav­ing it at this will be won­der­ful. To con­tinue on, that would be amaz­ing, too.”



Dy­lan O’Brien had to hold off train­ing for Mitch Rapp but got into top shape for As­sas­sin, even keep­ing his re­cov­ery beard.

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