Dan Stevens Wants More of His New Empire Character

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Dan Stevens Wants More of His New Empire Character


Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire star Dan Stevens truly has a spring in his step right now. 

Over the next 37 days, the English actor has three unique genre films hitting theaters, beginning with Friday’s Godzilla x Kong, which marks his long-awaited reunion with his The Guest director, Adam Wingard. A decade ago, Wingard cast Stevens as David Collins, an unhinged super soldier who ultimately terrorizes the family of a fallen friend and fellow soldier, and the project served as the London native’s breakout feature film role. The Guest continues to increase its cult status with each passing year, and Stevens and Wingard, as well as writer Simon Barrett, have fielded countless requests for a sequel ever since.

Godzilla x Kong may be a 10-year reunion for Stevens, Wingard and Barrett, but it also serves as an anniversary of sorts between him and co-star Rebecca Hall. 20 years ago, Stevens kicked off his professional acting career alongside Hall in her father Sir Peter Hall’s production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The two friends and former roommates had previously starred together in a Marlowe Society production of Macbeth during their shared tenure at University of Cambridge. They also headlined Brian Crano’s 2017 romantic dramedy, Permission.

As a follow-up to Wingard and Hall’s 2021 film, Godzilla vs. Kong, the filmmaker and co-writer Barrett conceived a Godzilla x Kong role with Stevens in mind. And as soon as Hall read the script, she, too, suggested her old friend for the role of the charming titan veterinarian, Trapper, without knowing that Wingard and Barrett had already envisioned Stevens in the part.

“When Rebecca read it, she immediately was like, ‘Well, Dan obviously has to play this,’” Stevens tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So that was a lovely endorsement. She recognized me in the role before I’d even seen the script myself.”

On April 19, Stevens returns to the big screen in short order with Radio Silence’s Abigail, as the actor deepens his ties to the V/H/S horror anthology franchise. Radio Silence, along with Wingard and Barrett, both contributed found-footage shorts to the 2012 anthology film that kicked off the long-running series. Overall, Stevens really responds to Radio Silence’s brand of horror.

“I hesitate to use the term horror-comedy because it doesn’t sound quite right, but it’s horror that’s taken to such a batshit extreme that it becomes hilarious and enjoyable,” Stevens says. “I haven’t seen Abigail completely yet, but the few scenes that I have seen are just hysterical.”

On May 3, Stevens returns to cinemas yet again with Tilman Singer’s genre-bending Cuckoo, and the young German director’s 2018 supernatural horror film, Luz, which also served as his film school thesis, impressed Stevens to such a degree that he happily accepted another “delicious” antagonist role.

Currently, Stevens is unsure if a sequel to The Guest will ever come to pass, but he hopes, at the very least, that his collaboration with Wingard and Barrett continues. 

“I don’t know is the real answer. There are so many other projects that we are talking about collaborating on as well, and The Guest II might be among them, but I could neither confirm nor deny at this stage,” Stevens says. “David was a great, great character, and I was very, very lucky to get to work on that. But Trapper is an equally great character that might have some more mileage in him, and I’d love to see further life in him, so we’ll see.”

Below, during a recent conversation with THR, Stevens also discusses his “bromance” with Godzilla x Kong co-star Brian Tyree Henry, before reflecting on his time working with his late Guest co-star Lance Reddick.

So when you and Rebecca Hall were performing Shakespeare together in college, clearly you both knew that it was all leading to Hollow Earth, right? 

(Laughs.) It’s certainly been a journey. We were at college together over 20 years ago now, and we were cast as Mr. and Mrs. M in a production of Macbeth. So that’s how we met, and we quickly became friends. After college, we performed in a production of As You Like It, directed by Rebecca’s father, Sir Peter Hall. And then shortly after that, we became roommates, and we’ve stayed friends ever since. We’ve done a movie together since then called Permission (2017), and [Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire] is now the second movie we’ve done together. So I was really excited when Adam chose her for his last installment, Godzilla vs. Kong, and it was a very easy yes when he asked me to join this one.

REBECCA HALL as Dr. Ilene Andrews and DAN STEVENS in GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE

Dan McFadden/Warner Bros.

In Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, Dr. Ilene Andrews and Trapper went to college together, so it appears that the writers, one of whom was your The Guest writer Simon Barrett, adopted a bit of your real-life story. Is that the case? 

There’s a little bit of that sprinkled in. We wanted to give a sense of history between them. But what I enjoyed about this was that we use the eye-rolling fondness that Ilene has for Trapper to take a left turn. So the real relationship that develops in this particular movie is the bromance between Trapper and Brian Tyree Henry’s Bernie, who was also in the previous installment. So it’s a little unexpected, but we definitely borrowed on some of the real-life chemistry between myself and Rebecca.

Did you and Adam deliver your casting news to Rebecca with any showmanship? Did you make a thing out of it?

(Laughs.) I don’t think so because she saw the script before I did. Simon Barrett and Adam had already written the role of Trapper very much with me in mind, and when Rebecca read it [without knowing the inspiration behind the role], she immediately was like, “Well, Dan obviously has to play this.” So that was a lovely endorsement. She recognized me in the role before I’d even seen the script myself.

Director ADAM WINGARD, DAN STEVENS AND REBECCA HALL on the set of GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE

Dan McFadden/Warner Bros.

Now, Trapper seems like any number of Kurt Russell characters combined with Paul Hogan’s Crocodile Dundee and Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona. Am I on the right track at all? Did you get that specific?

You’re definitely on the right track, but I wouldn’t say we got super specific. As with The Guest, there’s a lot of those influences in there as well. Adam’s stuff often has that ‘80s throwback feel, and as children of the ‘80s, there is a real nostalgia for films like that. So, for a character like Trapper to get thrown into the mix, he provides a bit of unfazed levity and a little humor in the midst of chaos and peril.

You’ve had some fun character introductions in the past, but being air-dropped onto Kong so that Trapper can pull out his achy tooth and replace it with something high tech, that intro probably takes the cake, right? 

(Laughs.) It’s pretty cool. It’s definitely one of the finest character introductions I’ve had, and that was one of the ways in which Adam pitched the role to me. He pitched me that scene and also that scene towards the end where he’s flying a spacecraft in a flock of Hollow Earth creatures at a particularly pivotal moment. So he pitched those scenes to me in such a way that made it undeniably cool and fun, and that’s what the role turned out to be.

You and Millie Bobby Brown both sported similar bracelet accessories in Adam’s MonsterVerse movies, and Adam himself often wears an assortment of bracelets. Did you base that costume choice off of him?

(Laughs.) There’s so much influence of Adam in all of these roles, really. He’s steeped in that nostalgic cool, and yeah, he often dresses characters in ways that he’s always found to be cool. So we had great fun dressing Trapper to really look and feel like an ‘80s action figure.

There’s a moment of wonderment in front of a crystal pyramid of sorts, and then Brian Tyree Henry’s Bernie grabs Trapper’s bicep in amusing fashion. Did Brian catch you off guard with that bit of business? Or were you expecting it?

(Laughs.) I think Brian and I were always trying to catch each other off guard. We had such fun working together, and I’ve known him for a few years now. We’re very fond of each other, but we’ve never had the chance to work together before this. So we were really ready and really up for having fun with this dynamic of two seemingly opposed characters finding common ground and really bringing out that bromance. So it was a treat to play with someone like Brian, who’s a very funny, playful, alive performer.

You also got to have the signature moment of almost every Godzilla movie where someone looks up and says “Godzilla” in dramatic fashion. Were you well aware of the responsibility that you had at the time? 

(Laughs.) Yeah, I was just following in so many great footsteps. Even Rebecca has said that she takes perverse pleasure in staring at a tennis ball on a stick and delivering something incredibly serious that may or may not end up in the trailer. So that prospect is never too far away on a movie like this.

(L-r) DAN STEVENS as Trapper, REBECCA HALL as Dr. Ilene Andrews and KAYLEE HOTTLE as Jia in “GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE”

Daniel McFadden

The strobe effect as the characters voyage into Hollow Earth is a very cool moment in both of Adam’s MonsterVerse films. What was happening on the day? 

As with a lot of Adam Wingard movies, the lighting often takes a kind of psychedelic, bisexual tone. We sat in a real craft that’s on a pneumatic rig. There’s a 180-screen projection around us, showing us where we’re flying, and there’s all sorts of incredible lighting effects being projected onto us. Of course, it’s enhanced in post, but we were really being shaken about and Adam encouraged us to pull all sorts of crazy faces. The idea of traveling to Hollow Earth is like going to a parallel universe through this psychedelic portal, and we wanted to make that as extreme and as fun looking as possible.

Well, it wouldn’t be a proper Dan Stevens interview if I didn’t kvetch about the lack of a Guest sequel. Are you guys still resisting our desperate pleas? 

Well, in some ways, we tried to appease the fans by releasing a soundtrack to The Guest II, before a movie is even in existence. It’s a really awesome album that’s out there and available. [Writer’s Note: One of the cues is featured in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, as Trapper, Ilene and Jia walk in slow motion before boarding the craft to Hollow Earth.]

But I don’t know is the real answer. That really is a question that’s much more for Adam and Simon than for myself. I would always leap at the chance to work with either of them. There are so many other projects that we are talking about collaborating on as well, and The Guest II might be among them, but I could neither confirm nor deny at this stage.

It’s just frustrating because it should have been your version of the John Wick, Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher franchises. 

(Laughs.)

David could have basically been an unhinged Jack Reacher who drifts from town to town, finding temporary homes with the families of fallen soldiers and exploiting them in disturbing fashion like he did in the 2014 movie.

That’s definitely something to pitch to Adam. David was a great, great character, and I was very, very lucky to get to work on that with Adam. But Trapper is an equally great character that might have some more mileage in him, and I’d love to see further life in him, so we’ll see. At the very least, I hope I get to work with Adam and Simon again on something.

Dan Stevens as David Collins in The Guest

Courtesy of Sundance

The late great Lance Reddick was in both The Guest and Godzilla vs. Kong, and he told me a great story about how at the first festival screening of The Guest, he became aggravated when the crowd kept laughing in certain moments. He then admitted that he misread the script and thought he’d shot a dramatic action thriller. Were you plugged into the dark comedy of it all from the start?

I think I might have been a little more aware of it than Lance was. One of the beautiful things about Lance’s performance in The Guest — and as with a lot of films of that kind  — is that you want somebody in that incredibly serious role to take it very seriously. When a character like David is [Carver’s] antagonist, he’s really fucking with [Carver’s] plan and their whole program. He’s the spanner in the works, the fly in their ointment. 

And so I just remember that Lance had such class and such elegance about him. The way that he played that role had such gravity, and the seriousness was so cool. And there is a kind of impish quality to a film like The Guest, but particularly for the role of David. He’s fucking with [Carver and his team] and he knows exactly how he’s going to outsmart them, and that’s part of the fun of that film. 

So I think [the comedy] was always in the back pocket for Adam and I, but we certainly weren’t looking to send up Lance or anything like that. It’s just that the very existence of David within that world was darkly funny to both of us. He’s this super soldier who takes on these micro missions to supposedly help people out, but it essentially just involves killing a bunch of people. So I’ve always found that film to be darkly funny, and I laughed my head off when I first read it.

I haven’t seen Abigail or Cuckoo yet, but what particular itches did those two roles scratch?

With Cuckoo, it was getting to work with this young German director Tilman Singer, who is a really exciting, interesting, new voice in cinema. His previous movie Luz, which I think was his graduation film that was made for 50,000 euros, has this incredible kind of Cronenberg, Lynch feel to it, and it was very clearly made by the hands of a very assured and inventive filmmaker. And so I was really, really excited to jump into Cuckoo, and I think we’ve made something really weird, interesting and different there. It’s another delicious antagonist role. 

And with Abigail, those Radio Silence boys are so much fun. I’m slowly ticking off all of the guys from the V/H/S anthology. I’ve worked with Nacho Vigalondo, Gareth Evans, Adam [Wingard] and now the Radio Silence boys. There’s only a few more to go, and they seem to specialize in a particular horror that I’ve always enjoyed. I hesitate to use the term horror-comedy because it doesn’t sound quite right, but it’s horror that’s taken to such a batshit extreme that it becomes hilarious and enjoyable. That’s exactly the kind of film I love seeing with an audience that just decides to go with it and have a really wild time. I haven’t seen Abigail completely yet, but the few scenes that I have seen are just hysterical. It was a ton of fun with a fun group of people.

I was a big fan of Apostle, and I remember you saying that you and Gareth Evans had another ambitious project in mind someday. Have the two of you revisited that at all lately?

There’s a couple of things that Gareth has got on the board. Much like Adam, he’s another one with projects of every scale and scope on the back burner. So he’s a very talented filmmaker, and I love being in the hands of these real cinephiles who spent far too much of their adolescence in video stores, just consuming absolutely everything. So I’d very much like to work with Gareth again on something.

Lastly, Netflix’s miniseries Zero Day sounds like it has some weight behind it. What can you say at this point?

It’s an incredible ensemble to be a part of: Robert De Niro, Angela Bassett, Jesse Plemons, Connie Britton. It’s a really amazing lineup, and it’s a really cool cyber political thriller. It was a very fun role to dip in and out of, and I’ve got some pretty fun scenes with De Niro, which is really a dream come true.

***
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire opens in theaters on March 29.



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