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How Dylan O'Brien pranked his way through Love and Monsters - Exclusive

Anyone who's seen Dylan O'Brien's varied catalog of work knows that the dynamic actor can go from a dramatic sobbing scene to dancing with a wolf hat within five minutes. But one thing's certain: whether he's adding in his own take to pop culture projects like Teen Wolf or The Maze Runner or concocting adorkable comedic body language and dialogue to indie projects like The High Road, O'Brien has proven himself as a unique voice in Hollywood with the ability to add charm and quirky humor to any role (except when he's possessed by an ancient demon fox). 

During and between takes, O'Brien lets the good times roll, and it's refreshing to see. His new film, Love and Monsters, chronicles what happens when a goofy teenager loses everything to a monster apocalypse — and the risks he'll take to rekindle his first love years later. Finding a puppy companion named Boy along his journey certainly doesn't hurt, either. Despite what would usually be a grim story, O'Brien infuses light, hope, and a dash of self-deprecation into his character, Joel Dawson — making Love and Monsters one of the most surprisingly funny and sweet films of 2020. 

O'Brien even found time to goof off with his co-stars between the stellar drama — whether they liked it or not. During a virtual sit-down with LooperLove and Monsters director Michael Matthews revealed some of O'Brien's funniest moments, both behind-the-scenes and on camera. Seriously, can we have the blooper reel immediately?

Finding the right take

Matthews knew almost immediately that O'Brien was the right choice to fill Joel's very muddy shoes. When asked what it was like working with the actor, Matthews says, "It was awesome. We really get along well, and I consider him a pretty close friend now." He goes on to clarify, "I didn't know him well at all before going in, so I sort of met him for the project... And he was the guy from the start that was right for it."

Pointing out O'Brien's keen sense of comedic timing, Matthews notes, "He's just got really incredible instincts for things in the moment, both [in] a movie genre point of view of what's cool in the moment and what really works, but also just [in a] character point of view in terms of humor, little things, [and] the way he reacts to stuff — all that. It's just really entertaining to watch while you're making the film."

O'Brien constantly works on perfecting his craft, seeking the right facial expressions, tones, and body language for any given scene. Instead of rinsing and repeating what he's already done in one take, the actor likes to switch things up to get variations for the final cut. "He would always do different things pretty much every take — giving it a different angle and trying to find something [new]," Matthews explains. "I think that was what was really cool about it, was just trying to find things. You know, you're not showing up to just execute this exact thing."

Don't forget to thank your monsters

"Obviously, the script is a script, and you're making that movie, but it wasn't like it's just a given exactly how something should be," Matthews says of working with Dylan O'Brien on Love and Monsters. "There was always an openness to how to make the most of a moment or how to bring it to life in a different way. And so it was really awesome, it was great to work with him."

When you watch Love and Monsters, look out for the "boulder snail" scene, as Matthews declares it his favorite. "There was just something about it where on the page I sort of had an idea of what I thought [it would be], and then just watching Dylan do it in the moment. It's just funny and kind of absurd," he laughs. "And he just did it really well. And at the end there, those were improvisations where they were going, 'Thank you, boulder snail,' and he's like, 'Thank you.' And he can't really talk, but he's kind of stuck in this moment. He's like overwhelmed. I thought that was really funny. I enjoyed that day. It was cool."

Let's be real: everyone's favorite moment in the film is probably something O'Brien and the cast improvised on the spot. Those little quirks make the movie a fun and charming watch despite the otherwise heavy content. Laugh-crying is almost a given during Love and Monsters.

Becoming an on-set family (with pranks)

During the Love and Monsters New York Comic Con panel, O'Brien and Ariana Greenblatt (the young actress who co-stars as Minnow) teased some serious on-set shenanigans. Between O'Brien trying to spook Greenblatt with monstrous stories of Australia's notorious drop bears and making goofy faces at her during dramatic scenes, his older brother persona only served to help their on-screen dynamic. On the topic of pranks and jokes, Matthews admits that "it was pretty much ongoing."

"Dylan was filling the older brother role, really pushing it quite far. And so she was trying to taunt him all the time with things, and he was just being really mean to her in a funny way — like an older brother kind of way." Matthews continues, "Or she would do a really amazing take, and then he'd go like, 'Come on, get it together,' whatever it might be. Or during a scene when it's on his close-up, and she says something, and then he's like, 'It's my shot now, this one's about me, it's not about you, so just do your lines.'" You know, typical sibling rivalry. 

"They just had this really funny thing, and she would just say the same things to him when she was in close-ups, and he wasn't on the camera. So they just had a really fun time. And I think it helped with the relationship on-screen," Matthews adds. "Because she's quite mean to him and quite precocious and pushy, and I think him doing that also helped her feel comfortable being like that with him, and being kind of bossy and mean — because he let her be really comfortable like that off-set and they have a good vibe. It was great."

And now for what fans really want to know: did they actually see any drop bears, or was it just the running set joke? Matthews is all too happy to answer with a laugh. "No, we did. The koalas we did see. But the drop bear story was news to me on that panel. I wasn't part of that one. It was funny. But we did see quite a few koalas were around." There you have it. 

Grab some popcorn and your favorite Good Boy, because Love and Monsters is available to stream on VOD and in select theaters.