After ten years of playing professional basketball, Lexington-born Dane DiLiegro has become a star in another arena: Hollywood.
DiLiegro, 33, has embarked on a second career as a “creature actor,” a select group of artists who bring aliens, monsters and other assorted beasts to life on the big screen.
After scoring roles in “The Walking Dead,” “American Horror Stories,” and in a music video for rapper Doja Cat, DiLiegro landed the coveted role of the Predator in “Prey,” the latest installment in the long-running film franchise that debuted on Hulu. August 5.
It was a quick ascent for six-foot DiLiegro, who never took theater classes while attending Lexington High, instead focusing on hoops. Although he was part of the rotation of LHS’s varsity team, he was never the team’s main option. It wasn’t until he went to work an extra year in prep school that he was awarded a basketball scholarship to the University of New Hampshire. DiLiegro, a four-year starter for the Wildcats, turned his success into a career abroad, mainly in Italy.
Back in Massachusetts, between basketball seasons in 2019, DiLiegro was contacted by Boston Casting about a stand-in role in Ryan Reynolds’ action comedy “Free Guy,” filmed in the Boston area.
The stunt coordinator on the film said DiLiegro might want to consider acting creatures, though DiLiegro said his pitch was less than convincing.
“He said, ‘It’s uncomfortable. It’s hot. It’s claustrophobic. You can’t go to the bathroom,'” DiLiegro said. “It’s tough. You must have high stamina. But you get to play in big movies.”
Yet DiLiegro was immediately interested. Within two weeks, he booked a role in the Netflix series ‘Sweet Home’ and left for Korea to film his role as ‘Muscle Monster’.
“I thought, ‘I’ll try this for three months and then probably go back to basketball,'” said DiLiegro. “And then the pandemic hit.”
Since international travel was impossible, DiLiegro instead went to Los Angeles, where he has officially joined the ranks of what DiLiegro estimates are “about six” fellow creature actors who regularly work in Hollywood today.
In “Prey,” DiLiegro puts his 6-foot-9, 245-pound frame to good use, hunting a pack of Natives one by one in precolonial America.
Set in the Comanche Nation in 1719, Prey follows Naru, a fierce young woman who wants to prove to her tribe that they are a worthy fighter. She soon realizes that the prey she is stalking is not from this planet, and the hunter becomes the hunted.
As a professional athlete, DiLiegro has always been in great shape. But the training regimen for “Prey” was, according to DiLiegro’s own account, “transformative.”
“Prey” director Dan Trachtenberg wanted DiLiegro’s Predator to be both “dynamic” and “wild”, causing the actor to lose 25 pounds before filming.
“I took two months of parkour training to learn how to run and jump over trees,” DiLiegro said. “And I’ve done an insane amount of martial arts training, fighting with sticks. My trainer in Los Angeles is essentially a ninja killer in real life, and he got me through the wringer.
Compared to the three to four hours DiLiegro had to spend in the makeup chair for “American Horror Stories,” the prep time to get into the Predator costume was a solid 11 minutes. But once he got into the suit, things got tough.
“We were going to shoot a scene where I was running, and I’m wearing a 75-pound suit and a 15-pound head,” DiLiegro said. “You’re just carrying so much weight and it’s so hot inside. Looking back I can say it was fun, and a big challenge. But when you’re in it, man, it’s hard.”
“Prey” wrapped up filming in 2021, and DiLiegro has kept busy ever since. He will be featured in the HBO Max series “Coyotl,” the Disney+ fantasy series “The Quest,” and the movie “Monsters of California,” directed by Tom DeLonge of Blink-182. He also recently completed a project for Marvel and began work on a LucasFilm project, details of which are currently unknown.
It was a blessing for DiLiegro to be able to settle so quickly in the world of creatures that act so quickly. But the actor hopes that one day he can give a performance in which he is not covered in layers of make-up or tons of prosthetics.
“The dream is to do a project where you can see my face,” DiLiegro said. “I want people to get to know the man under the rubber.
“I like acting with creatures, but I don’t know if I can play monsters forever,” he continued. “It burdens the body. As a dentist, you don’t have to do seven hours of makeup, you don’t have to wear a 75-pound suit. I’m not complaining about that, but it would be nice to put on makeup for 15 minutes and wear a T-shirt.”
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