Ross Lynch is going from Disney to Dahmer. He’s playing a teenaged Jeffrey in My Friend Dahmer, a prequel to the madness that would drive Dahmer to kill (and rape and consume) 17 people over 15 years. Heady stuff for Lynch, who wasn’t born yet when Dahmer was killed in prison in 1994 while serving multiple life imprisonment sentences. And the role is perhaps even shocking to his fans, who’ve been following his career through Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally, and as 20% of R5, the rock band he fronts with his four siblings.
“I like the idea of shocking people and playing something that was so far from what people were used to seeing me in,” Lynch explains on making this his leading actor debut, “Even when I was on Disney Channel, I had that in the back of my head, and I put it out in the universe that I wanted to do an indie film next. I wanted to do something that was darker and with just a little bit more … something with more substance. A lot of this film is what is not being said.”
As My Friend Dahmer opens in limited release this Friday, we spoke with Lynch to get his Five Favorite Films, and followed up with more on expanding a career into film after conquering radio and TV.
It was made in 1968, and it’s kind of old school. I actually ended up watching it for school, but I was home schooled, so I watched it in my house. For whatever reason, when I saw that film, dude, I loved it. I [was] addicted to it. Kind of ended up falling in love with Olivia Hussey. I became a fan girl, I’m not even kidding you. I thought about it nonstop for a long, long time.
My second favorite film right now… This is also a film that hit me pretty hard. The Theory of Everything. I like what it says about life. It made me appreciative of life, about everything. Ultimately, I think those are some of my favorite movies, where you leave the theater, you sit up and you want to be a better person, or you want to enjoy life more.
I’m still debating whether or not I want this on my list, but did you ever see About Time, with Domhnall Gleeson? Same kind of thing. An uplifting film. Makes you appreciate the time you got.
You can’t really go wrong with Boogie Nights. [I first saw this] maybe 16, 17, maybe a little younger. I have a lot of older siblings, so I saw really inappropriate stuff when I was pretty young.
I remember the impact Boogie Nights made when it came out. It’s still carrying on.
Yeah, especially with young filmmakers. That film is very, very often referenced. A lot of it because of the technical aspects, along with, obviously, the acting. The whole vibe of it. ’70s Hollywood is epic.
A recent film. But man, I had to pick a Quentin Tarantino film. I’m a really big fan. He’s super unique. I appreciate the people who have a thing that’s completely different than whatever anyone else is doing.
Was it a fight to pick the Tarantino movie you wanted on your list?
I definitely thought about Pulp Fiction for a second. You know what I think it was? I was a little too young to really grasp everything about Pulp Fiction on the first watch. When I saw Django Unchained, I was really immersed in the world and everything that was happening. Based on my personal experience with the film, it’s Django Unchained. But, as far as the better movie, you probably should say Pulp Fiction.
Alex Vo for Rotten Tomatoes: Is there anyone you’re looking at as you make these big steps in your career?
Ross Lynch: I look up to people like Jamie Foxx, the people who do everything. He’s got an Oscar, he’s not an average actor, he’s always playing these awesome roles, like Django Unchained. Or Baby Driver, where he’s this random gangster dude.
Ultimately, I just want to be an artist, really. I want to do films that are interesting and that people probably wouldn’t expect me to do, like My Friend Dahmer. I also want to make music that is maybe a little further left field than the norm of pop radio. Obviously, I still have ambition in mind. I still want to get on the top 40, and all those things like that. I’m always wanting to just be creative.
I also really look up to people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, the innovators of today that push the envelope. Maybe in the future, I’ll do something like that, too.
My Friend Dahmer is in theaters this Friday.