Dan Stevens waltzes with his face for Beast
Dan Stevens had to film scenes twice to capture his facial performance for Beauty And The Beast
British actor Dan Stevens took a huge gamble when he left the period TV series Downton Abbey in 2012 at the height of its - and his - popularity to make a career in movies.
In his first big role since then, the father of three plays the Beast in Disney's live-action remake of beloved animated film, Beauty And The Beast.
For Stevens, 34, a more nuanced Beast was the goal - "less animalistic and more a human trapped inside this creature".
The Beast is a fully digital character created through physical performance and facial capture technology.
Scenes with the cast members were filmed on practical sets with Stevens wearing a prosthetic muscle suit and walking on stilts.
At the Montage Beverly Hills hotel, Stevens showed up at our interview sporting a beard for his next movie Apostle, to be shot in Wales next month.
He is also back on the small screen in the Marvel universe in his new TV show Legion, in which he plays the titular tortured superhero David Haller.
How hard was the performance capture part?
It was all me puppeteering this muscle suit on stilts, about 18kg, 25cm off the ground. That was used for the physical capture of the Beast, the orientation and the physicality. Facial capture was done separately using new technology. They took this digital mesh we created, morphed it into the Beast and mapped it onto the body.
It’s not going to be a dumb guy, let’s face it. Dan Stevens (above) on playing the Beast (main photo)
Essentially, we were playing the scene twice. I would be on set with Emma (Watson) playing the scene in the suit, and she would come and sit on the other side of this cage while they captured my facial performance.
It was especially challenging as you have to think back to scenes already filmed and move your face, not your body, whether you had dialogue or not.
Whether I was eating, roaring, sleeping, waltzing, it was all done again with the face and then sort of fused together.
There was one instance where I had to do the entire ballroom waltz with just my face, which was quite interesting.
Your Beast has a lot of humour to him.
Right. I was looking for that kind of wit and dry humour and also creating a Beast that Belle could feasibly fall in love with.
It's not going to be a dumb guy, let's face it. I was lucky enough to get to work with a great friend of mine, writer Ed Wethered, and we wrote some jokes and gags for the Beast.
Were you trying to reinvent yourself after Downton Abbey, as Watson was trying to do after Harry Potter?
I don't think we were trying to prove anything. We really wanted to explore the balance of masculine and feminine energies in all of us and to look at gender roles. I think it was that collaboration that sparked us off. That was definitely where we connected.
Are you a good dancer?
Oh, I'm a very good dancer. I love to dance, especially if I've been choreographed. I think it's nice to have some moves and then bring your own interpretations to those. I'm usually the last person on a dance floor at a wedding.
Tell us more about the waltz.
It was fantastic. That was really how Emma and I first got to know each other. I had met Emma briefly at a play in New York once, but before the dance rehearsals, we hadn't really got to know each other.
When you're this close to someone's face and learning a complicated waltz with the full knowledge that this was an iconic waltz, and then to graduate to 10-inch stilts and do it all again, that was an amazing journey for the two of us.
It's a great ice-breaker, being thrust into a dance rehearsal with your co-star and a great way to get to know them.