IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Dan Stevens Talks 'The Guest,' 'A Walk Among the Tombstones' and 'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb'

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 23:08 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Dan Stevens Talks 'The Guest,' 'A Walk Among the Tombstones' and 'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb'

Former Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens has not one but two major movies opening this week!

The first is the new thriller The Guest from You’re Next writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard. The film, which opens in theaters on September 17th, follows a soldier named David (Stevens) that introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence. The Guest also stars Sheila Kelley (Matchstick Men), Leland Orser (Morning), and Lance Reddick (Oldboy). 

The second is the new crime drama A Walk Among the Tombstones, which opens in theaters on September 19th. The movie revolves around private investigator Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson), who is hired by a drug kingpin (Stevens) named Kenny Kristo to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. A Walk Among the Tombstones was written and directed by Scott Frank (The Lookout). As if that is not enough, Stevens will be seen later this year playing the iconic role of Sir Lancelot in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dan Stevens about his work on The Guest, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. The talented English actor discussed The Guest, first reading the screenplay, its cinematic inspirations, his character, the filmmakers, Leland Orser, A Walk Among the Tombstones, director Scott Frank, Liam Neeson, having two films open in the same week, appearing in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tom, playing Sir Lancelot, and working with the sensational cast. 

Here is what Dan Stevens had to say about The Guest, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb:

IAR: To begin with, you have two different films opening days apart from each other, The Guest and A Walk Among the Tombstones. How does it feel to have two big movies opening in the same week?

Dan Stevens: It’s quite extraordinary. It’s how things fall sometimes and I’ve got a busy few months coming up with a few different things coming out. I’m delighted you’ve seen both. That’s cool.

With The Guest, I think your character is really a star making type of role. Did you have a sense of that when you first read the script?

Stevens: That wasn’t foremost in my mind. But he’s definitely one of a kind. He’s an amalgam of those great leading roles from the ‘80s and ‘90s that were in John Carpenter movies, the roles that Kurt Russell played that had such a fun element to them, as well as being a bad ass. They had a real wit to them. I guess it's one of the things that people forget about Kurt Russell, which is that he's a very funny guy. I liked that element of the script. It really made me laugh out loud from start to finish. When I sat down with Adam (Wingard) it was very quickly apparent that we shared the same twisted sense of humor and wanted to make something really entertaining. 

You just mentioned Kurt Russell’s characters in John Carpenter’s The Thing, Escape from New York, and Big Trouble in Little China. Is that where you took inspiration from for your role in The Guest, and did you draw on any other cinematic references for your performance?

Stevens: A little bit. As an actor, all sorts of different things influence me. Sometimes directors just kind of infuse a certain way of going about things. One of my favorite films growing up was If…, a great British film and one of Malcolm McDowell's first roles. It had a really great sense of violence about it, but also very playful and witty. So I guess there's a little bit of that in The Guest. But also the Terminator movies, the Halloween movies, they're all kind of in there as well. It’s just a real celebration of those very entertaining films.    

Can you talk about David’s motivations for befriending this family and doing what he does?

Stevens: He's been the subject of a particular kind of military programming, which leads to a certain kind of behavior that might be different from the way you or I would go about helping the family. But it's worth pointing out that he is there to help. When he arrives at that house he's there to fulfill a certain set of missions that he's set for himself. He made a promise to his friend Caleb, the family’s son who died and that's exactly what he does. He works very much on a mission-to-mission basis and so his approach is a little unorthodox, but initially he is well intentioned. 

The military programming that your character has been through, it reminded me a bit of The Bourne Identity. Was that movie an influence on this film as well, and did you discuss that at all with the director or writer?

Stevens: Yeah, I guess that’s one of many actions thrillers that influenced the cinematic vocabulary of the film. I wouldn’t say it’s specifically Jason Bourne or any of those films. But any movie where a guy takes up a gun and has to carry out a mission, in the back of our minds I suppose Bourne is there. 

What was is it like working with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett? 

Stevens: They have a very special working relationship. There’s great shorthand there and also a great shared sense of humor. It’s very reassuring to step into a film that is led by a partnership like that. It was great and I really hope to work with them again. 

Last year I spoke to actor Leland Orser and he was just about to start filming this movie. What was your experience like acting opposite him?

Stevens: He’s hilarious. He was so fun and he is a true pro. He brought an amazing sense of humor to that role. I loved every scene with him. 

A Walk Among the Tombstones is a throwback to classic crime films of the ‘70s like The French Connection. Is that what excited you about the project?

Stevens: Absolutely. Scott Frank is obviously a very talented writer and the screenplay was so engaging. It really had that sense of 70’s noir, and hard-boiled thrillers. You know like Klute, Dirty Harry, and The Conversation. It is more of an old school vibe, but it’s the kind of film we don’t see a lot of. It’s all just a certain kind of suspense that really is brought out throughout the film.  

How did writer/director Scott Frank find you to cast you for the film?

Stevens: He came and saw me when I was doing Broadway. He was looking for someone a little unexpected to play the role of Kenny Kristo, this drug trafficker in his movie. He literally sat me down and said, “I’ve never seen you do anything like this before. I’d love to see you try.” For an actor, especially an actor who’s looking to do different things, that was just music to my ears. Playing Kenny and getting to step into that darker world really made the way for me to do The Guest. I have a lot to thank Scott for I guess.

Can you talk about acting with Liam Neeson? Were you intimidated at all to do scenes with him?

Stevens: Yeah. Especially working in that world, in that genre, of which he is now known for. He has a great spirit. This is very dark subject matter and very dark material. But he takes the word very seriously, and he doesn’t make himself too seriously. It makes the set a very enjoyable place to be. 

Finally, what was it like playing Sir Lancelot in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb?

Stevens: That was amazing. I really got to return to some much broader comedy. I hadn’t done anything like that since my student days really. I got to break out a character that I had in the back of my mind, a kind of person I found very funny. To put that in a giant suit and fly that around the British museum with a broadsword was enormous fun.          

Are most of your scenes with Ben Stiller or did you get to work with the rest of the cast as well?

Stevens: I work with a lot of the cast. It’s full of my comedic heroes form growing up like Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, and Ricky Gervais. They’re all in there. It’s just an amazing lineup. It was a very magical time for sure. 

The Guest opens in theaters on September 17th.

To watch our exclusive video interview with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, please click here

A Walk Among the Tombstones opens in theaters on September 19th. 

To read our IAR interview with Liam Neeson about A Walk Among the Tombstones, please click here

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb opens in theaters on December 19th.

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