Dan Stevens:

Life ended trag­i­cally for Down­ton Abbey’s Matthew Craw­ley, but for the ac­tor who played him it has gone from strength to strength. Jenny Cooney Car­rillo looks at how Dan Stevens has evolved from Bri­tish toff to Hol­ly­wood tough guy and now a fairy­tale beas

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - Contents -

life af­ter Down­ton’s Matthew Craw­ley

Dan Stevens knows that some fans still haven’t got over his exit from Down­ton Abbey four years ago, when his beloved char­ac­ter Matthew Craw­ley shock­ingly died in a car ac­ci­dent af­ter vis­it­ing his wife and new­born son at the hos­pi­tal.

“I was apol­o­gis­ing to peo­ple for months,” the 34-year-old clas­si­cally trained English star ad­mits good­hu­mouredly as he re­calls the an­gry re­ac­tion of fans who felt blind­sided when Matthew was killed dur­ing the fi­nal mo­ments of the 2012 Down­ton Abbey Christ­mas spe­cial.

“First, af­ter Christ­mas in the UK, and then when it aired in Amer­ica three months later. There was a dou­ble whammy of grief I had to deal with from peo­ple ap­proach­ing me ev­ery­where I went. But I’ve cer­tainly en­joyed hav­ing other things along­side that great show to talk about now, so peo­ple can fi­nally see what I’ve been up to and un­der­stand why I left.”

Leav­ing one of the most pop­u­lar shows of all time at its peak was a huge gam­ble for the softly spo­ken Cam­bridge-ed­u­cated son of teach­ers. It could have be­come an­other cau­tion­ary act­ing tale, like ac­tor

David Caruso leav­ing af­ter one sea­son of NYPD, then fail­ing to make it as a movie star. But Dan hasn’t looked back since mov­ing his jazz singer wife, Susie Ha­riet, and their two young chil­dren to New York to pur­sue a Hol­ly­wood ca­reer. His first postDown­ton role saw him as a bulked-up Amer­i­can army vet­eran in the film

The Guest and then he faced off against Liam Nee­son as a drug traf­ficker in the film Walk Among the Tomb­stones.

Now he is back on TV for the first time since Down­ton Abbey, in Le­gion, a big-bud­get new se­ries based on Marvel Comics char­ac­ters, and this month he takes on the lead role in the lat­est Dis­ney block­buster, Beauty and the Beast.

The live ac­tion re­make of Beauty and the Beast was a chal­lenge for the ac­tor – not least be­cause his char­ac­ter has a singing part.

He says his South African born wife, a jazz singer turned singing coach – who at 41 is seven years his se­nior – helped him pre­pare for the role.

“She coached me for the au­di­tion. It was re­ally ex­cit­ing [to

sing] but not some­thing I’ve done a huge amount of,” says Dan, whose other big chal­lenge on set was cop­ing with the weight and size of his cos­tume.

“I was wear­ing a gi­ant mus­cle suit and on stilts. Emma [Wat­son, who plays co-star Belle] was there in her beau­ti­ful dress and I was sweat­ing away in this ly­cra thing, just look­ing re­ally weird. I had this For­mula 1 rac­ing driver’s vest un­der­neath the mus­cle suit so when I over­heated, they could plug me in like a fridge. It would cool me from the in­side out.”

Beast and Le­gion are both a far cry from play­ing Down­ton’s upright young aris­to­crat who treated ev­ery­one equally de­spite their class strata, a role that fol­lowed on from ap­pear­ances in TV pe­riod dra­mas Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity and The Turn of the Screw.

Fans who can’t quite put their fin­ger on why the man who wooed and won Lady Mary (Michelle Dock­ery) looks so dif­fer­ent in his new role as the skinny, brown-haired Le­gion mu­tant may be sur­prised to hear his hair was dyed blond dur­ing his time on Down­ton Abbey. “I also put on a bit of weight for Down­ton be­cause it just seemed right for the pe­riod and I’ve lost it all now and got my­self in shape for this role,” he adds. Dan says he hasn’t dyed his hair since Down­ton and re­veals that choice was not his. “If you re­mem­ber in the be­gin­ning of Down­ton, Matthew didn’t come in un­til the end of the first episode, af­ter he gets the let­ter from Lord Grantham. I’d been cast in the role but they’d been shoot­ing for two-and-a-half weeks be­fore I came in and dur­ing that time the pro­duc­ers had re­alised that al­most all the male cast mem­bers had dark hair,” he re­calls. “So I had a call from [cre­ator] Ju­lian Fel­lowes at the last mo­ment say­ing, ‘We’ve got too many brown­haired boys, would you mind be­ing blond?’ and I said, ‘Okay, fine.’ I was think­ing it was just one sea­son of a show and I was just pleased they’d asked me to dye it in­stead of re­cast­ing, but then it ended up be­ing three years!”

While Dan is get­ting the best re­views of his ca­reer in Le­gion, which screens here on Sky’s SoHo chan­nel, he cheer­fully ad­mits his role in Beauty and the Beast is much more im­pres­sive to his home au­di­ence of daugh­ter Wil­low, eight, and son Aubrey, five. In the live-ac­tion re­make, he sings and dances the fa­mous songs from the orig­i­nal an­i­mated clas­sic as he plays the ar­ro­gant young prince who’s be­ing LEFT: Dan as Matthew Craw­ley with his wife Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dock­ery. The ac­tor had to dye his hair blond for the role. pun­ished by be­ing trans­formed into the Beast. “This movie is a par­tic­u­lar favourite in our house,” he beams. “My daugh­ter loves Belle and I brought her on the set on the day we did the ball se­quence at the be­gin­ning of the film, when the prince is danc­ing with 60 princesses in big meringue dresses and beau­ti­ful jewel-en­crusted wigs, and she al­most lost her mind with ex­cite­ment!”

He con­fides that Wil­low was less im­pressed with his trans­for­ma­tion into the Beast. “She said I looked like a hippo,” he says with cha­grin. “I’m in a gi­ant mus­cle suit cov­ered with grey ly­cra and I wear stilts that take me up about 10 inches taller than I am, to six feet 10 inches. I had to work hard to get my body in the right shape to walk on those stilts so it was quite a phys­i­cal chal­lenge too.” While play­ing the Beast was phys­i­cally de­mand­ing for the ac­tor, Le­gion was more of a men­tal chal­lenge.

Un­like most Marvel Comic­sin­spired en­ter­tain­ment, Le­gion is not a story of fight­ing ac­tion he­roes bat­tling evil vil­lains. The eight-part se­ries cre­ated by Noah Haw­ley – the man be­hind Emmy and Golden Globe win­ning crime se­ries Fargo – is a psy­cho­log­i­cal drama in which his char­ac­ter, David Haller, is in­tro­duced as a trou­bled young man liv­ing in an asy­lum and be­ing treated for di­ag­nosed para­noid schizophre­nia.

The char­ac­ter can be traced back to the X-Men world, as it turns out

David is the il­le­git­i­mate off­spring of Pro­fes­sor Xavier, played by both Pa­trick Ste­wart and James McAvoy in the hit movie fran­chise. “From quite a young age he’s been di­ag­nosed as be­ing para­noid schiz­o­phrenic,” Dan says, “but when our story be­gins, his world is in­vaded by a group of other peo­ple who tell him some­thing quite dif­fer­ent; that this is not a men­tal

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.