When Ponyboi shooting gaffer Don Sean shared photos from the movie’s set on Instagram featuring Dylan O’Brien in 2022, the images quickly went viral. Fans shared their reactions on social media to the actor’s transformation for the film, which included a close fade, slits on his eyebrows, multiple chains, and facial hair shaved into a chin strap. It was a stark departure from his signature shaggy hair and beard.
While speaking with The Hollywood Reporter at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday, O’Brien and his co-star River Gallo (who also wrote the film) detailed how the look came together.
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O’Brien noted that coming up with the character’s hair and costuming was a collaborative effort between himself, Gallo and director Esteban Arango. While Gallo wanted the actor to go for a look inspired by Jersey Shore star Pauly D to fit the film’s Jersey setting, O’Brien envisioned his character to have cropped hair.
“We had this barber do this really cool cut on me that just sort of combined all,” explained the actor. He then turned to Gallo and recalled, “Remember that day in the trailer? We were doing like the goatee and you were like, ‘Leave the chin strap.’ I was like, ‘Sure.’ And then you fought for the chinstrap and kept it, thankfully, because I love it.”
Another one of Gallo’s ideas for O’Brien’s appearance stuck. “River literally texted me about a tattoo idea that early on when I first came on board and I was like, ‘I love it,’ and I’ll leave it as a surprise,” said the Teen Wolf alum.
Once the look was figured out, O’Brien was able to fully grasp who his character was.
“It just kind of came together and really informed me. I mean, those things just helped so much, especially with something that was a departure for me, for sure and it’s not who I am by any means,” he explained. “I definitely felt like I knew exactly… I knew this guy. I knew kids like this. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. But all those things just really evolve as you start the process comes together and the tattoos come in and the hair and the clothes, my fit. I could never have stepped into the role in the way that I ended up doing without all those pieces in the process.”
Watch the full interview in the video above.
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