Dylan O’Brien was in the midst of his daytime talk show shtick on “Kelly and Michael” last month, and things were going pretty well.
It was time for the key moment: A little behind-the-scenes story about the movie the 24-year-old actor was there to promote, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.”
Co-host Michael Strahan made it easy, asking O’Brien to tell his fans why so many cast members suddenly became ill during filming.
They were working in the mountains of Albuquerque, on an ancient Native American burial ground that was rarely used as the scene of Hollywood films, O’Brien said.
“They said basically, ‘Don’t take anything and respect the grounds,’ ” O’Brien said. “They were very strict about littering — and don’t take any artifacts, rocks, skulls anything like that.”
Deadpan, he added: “And everyone just takes stuff, obviously.”
LOL. Chuckles. Funny, right?
The theft was blamed for a spate of mysterious illnesses among cast members: Fevers, appendix problems, a broken ankle. It’s a story that “Maze Runner” director Wes Ball and other cast members have told before.
The set was “haunted,” they said.
“Okay,” Kelly Ripa said. “Didn’t you guys see that episode of ‘The Brady Bunch?’ Did ‘The Brady Bunch’ teach you nothing?”
O’Brien cracked up and the studio audience followed suit.
“That is so funny!” he said. “They had to send me home two nights in a row early because I had a fever.”
It took a while — weeks, actually — but people are finally taking notice of O’Brien’s casual admission that, despite being warned against it, he and other cast members took artifacts from a Native American burial site.
Now, more than 34,000 petitioners have called for an apology.
“The Native Americans from that area, the Pueblo people, have spoken out, angered and disrespected,” the petition says. “While O’Brien plays it for laughs, talking about bringing a Native American curse on the cast, his flip treatment of the crew’s actions is outrageous.”
The petition continues: “O’Brien, the film’s director and other crew members involved need to apologize to Pueblo tribal leaders for their behavior and return any artifacts they removed from the site.”
The petition was started by one of O’Brien’s many fans, a teen who was appalled by the blatant disrespect toward Native Americans.
“I wanted to cut him slack because I am such a fan of his, but ignoring a problem like this just feeds into the racism that Native Americans already deal with,” Maeve Cunningham told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “I wanted something done about it. I thought, ‘Why not start a petition?’”
[Pope Francis to declare Spanish priest a saint, but some Native Americans beg to differ]
The fact that actors got sick after taking artifacts from the Diamond Tail Ranch in New Mexico probably had nothing to do with a curse. And that very suggestion, said Cunningham, is “just more mocking of Native American culture.”
If anything, said Maxine McBrinn, curator of archaeology at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in New Mexico, they were victims of their guilty conscience.
“I do not think that there are curses, but I do think there are guilty consciences,” McBrinn told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “People who do that often know they have done something wrong, and our conscience is designed to keep us from doing bad things.”
“I suspect that if you know you have done something wrong and haven’t moved to make it right, then you probably are not in the best possible shape you can be in,” she added.