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'American Assassin' got Dylan O’Brien through his PTSD

Actor was severely injured on the set of Maze Runner 3 just months before production.
Dylan O'Brien as Mitch Rapp
[Photo: Lionsgate Films]

Dylan O’Brien probably shouldn’t have made “American Assassin”. Just six months before the start date for the film the then 24-year-old was severely injured in an on-set accident for “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” which required him to have extensive surgery.

The full extent of O’Brien’s injuries has never been revealed. But it’s clear from his comments that they made a severe impact on him both mentally and physically as he prepared for his role as the Mitch Rapp, a vengeful vigilante that is trained by the CIA to fight terrorists. So much so that O’Brien recently admitted to me that he repeatedly believed he would never make it through production on “American Assassin.”

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done,” O’Brien recalled when I asked him about his mind-set going into “American Assassin”. “I was coming off the hardest thing I had ever gone through, and the scariest thing I had ever experienced. And then to be honest I was coming off months of mental anxiety from the accident. Things were out of my control due to my brain reacting in the way a brain reacts to trauma.”

O’Brien insisted that there were numerous points when he had weekly and bi-weekly panic attacks and he would feel “completely overwhelmed about everything” that he had to handle during the shoot. “It felt too soon, I was still going through too much personally, and at the same time I was having to turn up to the gym everyday, and there were multiple times where I had attacks about doing this. And I just totally wanted to run off the ledge”

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Despite the daily pain and trauma of returning to a movie set, O’Brien is clearly proud he overcame this huge obstacle. “I just couldn’t be happier that I pushed through, and made this happen for myself. Because it ended up being something I’m really proud of, and something that was really hopeful and instrumental in getting me back on my feet as an actor and as a person. It will always mean a lot to me.”

When speaking to O’Brien you get the sense of a man that hasn’t just confronted his demons but is stronger for doing so. Even when discussing something as simple as the reason why he signed up for the film O’Brien is much more open and carefree about both the business and his artistic reasons for doing so than most of his peers.

“For me, it’s always such a balance. You’re operating in this business landscape, but the reason you get into this stuff is you’re an artist and you still want to be fulfilled. I felt like this had huge potential for something that could be beneficial to my career but also something that I could really dig myself into.” After everything he’s gone through O’Brien didn’t just want to sign up for more of the same, and with “American Assassin” he saw something that avoided “making the same regurgitated film and that’s a habit that this industry has a habit of doing.” 

At the same time, O’Brien was still careful, and made sure before he signed up that “American Assassin” wasn’t just, “Woo-hoo America,” and dealt with the subject matter in a “smart way.

“I wanted to make sure it was fused with honesty and authenticity, and didn’t have an agenda. I think ultimately what I really like with the film, and the message it puts across when it comes to terrorism, is that it can come from absolutely anywhere. And ultimately that’s what we’re dealing with in the world right now.”

After everything that O’Brien has gone through he's primed and ready to deal with anything else the world throws at him. You'll get to see him in action when “American Assassin” is released on September 15.