September 11, 2014
Dan Stevens, star of “The Guest,” and Ron Salfen, on behalf of the Presbyterian Outlook
Presbyterian Outlook: How did you feel about playing the creepy guy?
Dan Stevens (chuckles): Well, he’s not just a creepy guy. That’s one of the biggest things to sort of feel about this role is that we wanted to play with the audience a bit, and I certainly grew up loving those kind of movies, that tease an audience and kind of take you for a ride a bit. And from the opening scenes, you feel like you’re in good hands and you’re just going to be taken where these crazy filmmakers want to take you. So we wanted this charm for the character, that gets him in the door, that ingratiates himself to a number of the family members. But also have a creepy element to him where the audience would keep asking the question of how they feel about him. The hero/villain thing goes out the window, really. And ultimately, it’s just about whether the character is entertaining, and how far can we stretch those sympathies for a character that’s seemingly doing some quite nasty things?
Presbyterian Outlook: Yeah, when you were doing those nasty things to people, did you ever think, “Oh my gosh, are you OK?”
Dan Stevens: There were a couple of times, yeah, without giving too much away, but we kept it pretty good-humored.
Presbyterian Outlook: How did you prepare for doing the American accent?
Dan Stevens: I’ve always enjoyed doing accents and I consider it a great privilege to come to another country and be perceived as a native. I have a good friend who’s from Kentucky and I got him to read the Gettysburg Address to me, and I was paying close attention to the consonants and elocution and things like that, so it’s loosely based on him. (The character) David says he’s from Louisville, Kentucky, and we want to believe as much as comes out of his mouth as possible. I also ran it through a slightly military dialect: anybody we know who’s been in the military, even in England — your native accent is modified, to an extent. And that’s very interesting, as well; it slightly blurs the background of this character, which we sort of wanted – to give him a slightly mysterious past, you know.
Presbyterian Outlook: How did you prepare yourself to play such a violent guy like this?
Dan Stevens: Well, we wanted to root him in a couple of different realities: one, he’s a very good soldier, and that’s why he was picked for the program in the first place, very expedient. And also he’s a charming man, a nice guy, but the program has eliminated certain human elements that we would recognize, which makes him a little off and that’s where some of the fun of this film comes from, I think.
Presbyterian Outlook: Did you have weapons training, fighting training? What was that like?
Dan Stevens: Very much so, yeah. The physical preparation was a big part of this for me. It was a big transformation, which is something I’ve been kind of interested to explore. The psychology that’s required – particularly the discipline for the martial arts thing – it was about two hours in the gym every day and two additional hours martial arts training and then we’d go to the gun range at lunchtime and everything in between. So there were a lot of new challenges for me in this. But the martial arts discipline was key, in terms of dialing in a certain kind of stillness; a certain kind of calm, and a certain way of thought, which certain soldiers definitely have. It even makes you stand differently! Then there was the nutrition, the bodybuilding techniques, all of it was like a full-time job in itself.
Presbyterian Outlook: Thanks for your time.
Dan Stevens: Very nice to meet you.
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.