Dan Stevens' Acting Journey from Downton Abbey to the Beauty and the Beast

Hello Dan Stevens, RIP Matthew Crawley. The actor finally lays Downton Abbey to rest, becoming a blockbusting beast & proving type-casting is D.O.A.

By Nikki Flux
Dan Stevens' Acting Journey from Downton Abbey to the Beauty and the Beast

The First Cut Is The Deepest: Actor Dan Stevens Bails

When Dan Stevens abruptly left Downton Abbey after completing his contracted three seasons in 2012, most of the industry in the UK had written him off. Fans were angry because his character's death occurred on Christmas Day and they'd grown accustomed to Dan Stevens on their TV sets at night. The cast knew and had time to prepare all season for actor Dan Stevens' departure. Everyone had moved on, begrudgingly or otherwise. And to be blunt, Downton Abbey creator and writer Julian Fellowes chose a non-refundable path: killing off the beloved Lady Mary's new husband, Michael Crawley, as a finale to season 3. Not even bribing the ferryman on the river Styx could revive his character; there was absolutely NO going back for the actor, who wanted to pursue a career in film.

My Kind Of Town - Actor Dan Stevens in NY

Usually for actors, leaving a successful show is career suicide; one becomes casting persona non grata and often the public has trouble accepting them as different characters. But for actor Dan Stevens, he had dreams of a career in film and set his sights on the United States. Moving across the pond to a land of agents, who barely acknowledged him as a leading man for period pieces, let alone allowing him to read for contemporary roles, was a risk. For friends, immediate family and the acting community on both sides of the pond, in the UK and New York, Dan Stevens appeared to be jumping off the deep end. Nonetheless, Dan Stevens took the leap, without a parachute, with his wife Susie Harriet and their three young children in tow. So, on a grand adventure with daddy they went; moving countries with eldest daughter Willow, 7, middle son Aubrey, 4, and youngest, Eden, 10 months, to Brooklyn, New York, in 2013.

[photo by @iheartmaarten]

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Beating The Odds: Broadway Calling To Actor Dan Stevens

The odds were stacked against Dan Stevens, to say the least. He was so heavily identified with the period piece "Downton Abbey" for playing the tragic war hero and lawyer Michael Crowley that the actor himself feared he would never break free from the yoke of type-casting. Most actors, if they are lucky, have a few roles that the public can identify them with and this often leads to career longevity, but only on the show the actor is usually on. Once an actor leaves a show, the fickle public forgets about him; a star one day and a has-been the next. Not so for Dan Stevens. He didn't know the turbid waters into which he was diving, but he did it anyway. To say the risk he took as both a man and actor was huge is an understatement. Stevens leaped from Downton Abbey and into the fray of the open market. He also uprooted his family to Brooklyn, New York in pursuit of the golden ring. That's a hard enough task for a younger actor, unfettered by a relationship or children, and Stevens had to deal with both. Family man Stevens, early 30s, did the task with a wife and three small children in tow. It was quite a chance to take. It paid off. Stevens immediately landed a 6 month stint on Broadway, no less, starring as the lead Morris Townsend in the revered stage play, "The Heiress" opposite Oscar-winner Jessica Chastain. It's a meaty role made famous in the film version of the play, starring the inimitable Montgomery Clift in 1949.

"A lot of people say to me, 'Oh, you’re playing the villain.' But I think in this production, he does generally love Catherine. He is also interested in her wealth and luxurious things and beautiful things, which he enjoys—and he doesn’t necessarily have a right to. But I think that’s quite an interesting angle to explore. 

I was very excited. Jessica has been in some incredible pictures; she’s a wonderful, wonderful film actress."

Dan Stevens on working on Broadway opposite Oscar-winner Jessica Chastain in "The Heiress."

Beauty & The Beast: THE Film Of 2017

One of THE most successful films of 2017 is a re-make of a beloved cartoon, starring Dan Stevens and Emma Watson. To keep the charm of the animation and transfer the story into a live-action film was a challenge to Disney, creator of the original cartoon, and the director, Bill Condon. Aside from the technicalities and everything both Dan Stevens and Emma Watson went through in order to bring the CGI/live action hybrid to life, the story also has a deeper meaning than the classic it's paying homage to. The goal of Disney and the cast was to add meat to the story of the original. At its heart, it's about loss and love in spite of it. A new hope. It's about two kindred spirits, who have each dealt with loss and have been shaped by it. The story is about courage and love winning, in spite of the odds and prejudice stacked against it. And lastly, the story is about the triumph of love over appearances. How often do we all judge a book by it's cover? To that end, audiences world-wide supported the movie in droves, ushering in a new era for film technology and CGI in the process. Bravo Disney.

"When she’s (Belle) leaning over his body at the end and says, 'please don’t leave me,' I think you feel that what the loss that she suffered that’s still so unresolved of her mother and his, the loss of his mother and the way that that left him kind of in the clutches of a terrible father that they both understand each other in a way that probably no one else around them would. Right? So that was the idea."

Director of Beauty And The Beast, Bill Condon, on the deep theme of the movie

Creating The Beast: Script To Live Action Film

The task of turning an animated classic into a live-action feature involved redacting dialogue and scenes, adding music from the Broadway production and basically, getting under the hood of an old car and replacing what no longer works. Production found the unilateral strengths of the original story and trimmed the fat, thus removing the clunkiness of what no longer worked and fleshing out richer character development and dialogue that would sit well with a newer audience. The brutal production process involved adapting the storytelling for modern audiences, in order to streamline the story with CGI and live actors. With a combination of technology and live action, a new paradigm for movie making was created and in the process, a new romance was born, with age-old characters for a new audience to fall in love with.

“Ultimately we went for a fusion of technologies. [It was] traditional motion capture and puppeteering of a big muscle suit on stilts. I was inside this 40–lb. thing covered in gray lycra and marker dots.”

Dan Stevens on the film "Beauty And The Beast."

Beauty and the Beast: How Dan Stevens learned to sing

What's In A Face? Movie Magic.

Dan Stevens and Emma Watson worked gruelling hours on "Beauty And The Beast." CGI has improved to the point where an actor's every facial expression and emotional nuance can be captured by UV technology and computer rendering. On the flip-side, it's a lonely experience for an actor to recreate a performance, alone in a recording booth. Both actors had to use their imagination, on and off the live set, without feedback from live actors, to create reactive moments in a largely CGI world. Emotional moments that Dan Stevens had to create opposite Belle, AKA Emma Watson, were done without the actress present and often occurred two weeks after filming the live take. No small feat for make-believe.

Actor Only? No. Dan Stevens Can SING!

When one thinks of Dan Stevens, stage, film and TV actor come to mind. Singer? Not really. Once Dan Stevens was tapped to star opposite Harry Potter's Hermione, aka Emma Watson, in the live action version of Disney's classic "Beauty And The Beast," he set about learning how to sing and build his range, ignoring the purists and the critics who believed it should have gone to a Broadway star or legitimate singer, like Josh Groban. In hindsight, it all seems so petty, but these "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," to quote the bard, maketh character and Dan Stevens grew as an actor in the process. Like Rex Harrison before him, Dan Stevens opted for a speak-singing version of the Beast, to make it his own. A deep timber, light on vibrato and full of pure resonance is what came forth in Dan Stevens' performance. Having had very little musical experience, it was a challenge, but not untenable. The hard work behind the scenes, when no-one was watching is what makes or breaks an actor. Sometimes, all you have to do is believe and preparation meets opportunity head on. The result was beyond anyone's expectation.

“I’ve been working quite closely with a brilliant woman from the Royal Academy of Music, [singing coach] Ann-Marie Speed, who’s just fantastic,”

A dedicated Dan Stevens on his role opposite Emma Watson in "Beauty And The Beast."

Actor Dan Stevens: Becoming The Beast

Aside from splitting time between the live set and recording booth, both Dan Stevens and Emma Watson often had to resort to using their imagination when performing with the animated cast members. In addition, Stevens had to don a cumbersome lycra sensor suit on stilts that ostensibly looked like the character "The Tick," but with less window dressing. Both actors deserve an academy award for staying in character during the awkward and sometimes ridiculous lengths they had to go to in order to make the romance real. It was indeed art imitating life, where appearances are overlooked in order to find love.

"It was a very physical undertaking, getting myself in the right sort of condition to puppeteer a 40 pound muscle suit on stilts. And then to do the facial capture separately. So, every couple of weeks I’d go into a booth and they’d spray my face with UV paint. I would go in and these UV lights and 27 little cameras would capture the facial performance of everything we had done in the previous two weeks. And they would map that onto the body that I puppeteered on the set and that, eventually, emerged as the Beast."

Actor Dan Stevens on playing the Beast opposite Emma Watson in 2017's Beauty And The Beast

Dan Stevens & Emma Watson Do Beastly Box Office

According to IMDB, Beauty And The Beast grossed $504 million at the domestic box office in the United States alone, putting it into the top 10 grossing movies of all time. In fact, the movie made $174.8 million on its first weekend when it opened March 17th, 2017. If you want to be mind-blown - actors Dan Stevens and Emma Watson (who is no stranger to a blockbuster - hello, Harry Potter) hit billion dollar baby status with the worldwide grosses of Beauty And The Beast. All told, the movie has made $1,263,521,126 worldwide.

Sunset And Alta Loma: Billboard Of Broken Dreams

You know that you've arrived in Los Angeles when you get a HUGE billboard on Sunset Boulevard and Alta Loma. It's prime real estate, right on the infamous Sunset Strip, across from the chi-chi, high-end gym, "Equinox" and quite frankly, it is the ONLY place to have a promo, as an actor, musician or model. It sits on the cusp of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood and is a traffic-stopper, to say the least. Being an Angeleno myself, I know to look there for the next big thing to watch at the movies, a product to buy, or the next "it" boy or girl to take note of. It's a silent monolith to youth in advertising. Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, Disney and Beauty And The Beast are prominently displayed, on a massive billboard, to remind passersby that there is still magic in making movies. What it represents is a PROMISE. It's transformative and inspiring and it takes us out of our sometimes humdrum existence into new worlds. THAT'S what film is all about: to elevate the masses to artistic heights and into a new reality.


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Re-Cap: Downton Abbey Stepping Stone To Film

As of 2017, Dan Stevens is a star on Broadway, film, and TV. One could say that his decision to jump ship from Downton Abbey in 2013 was preternatural. He certainly has proved all critics wrong and has enriched his artistic life tenfold.

“We were always optioned for three years and when that came up it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.”

Actor Dan Stevens on his departure from his alma mater, Downton Abbey

Broadway bound: Sayonara Lady Mary

To quote Shakespeare,"parting is such sweet sorrow." Dan Stevens was only contracted for 3 seasons to play the tragic war hero Matthew Crowley on Downton Abbey. According to Downton's creator and show-runner, Julian Fellowes, the only solution that made sense was to kill him off. And, like a true Cambridge-educated gentleman that he is, Dan Stevens has been apologizing for his departure ever since he left the series in 2012. Three seasons was the requisite amount for Dan Stevens, who'd had enough. Truth be told, as much as he loved the cast and crew of Downton Abbey, he felt stuck and trapped as an actor. He wanted to stretch into other territories - namely the United States, the land of opportunity.

"A big part of my reason for wanting to move on from Downton (Abbey) and from England was to explore some different genres and to take in some different influences, I think."

Dan Stevens on leaving Britain, Downton Abbey for the USA

Good night, sweet prince: The Death Of Crawley

In the UK, Downton Abbey aired its season finale on Christmas day. So, you can imagine how devastated a nation was over the sudden death of war hero, Spanish flu-surviving Michael Crawley. Lady Mary was finally happy, only to have that joy destroyed by the devastation of grief. The end of one era ushers in another and with it comes the spring of new possibilities. Yes, acting in Downton Abbey increased Dan Steven's net worth beyond imagining, but the artist inside the man cried out for being stretched beyond constraint and into the coveted ether of an artist. For the actor Stevens, it ushered in stage, film and the lead in a new TV series "Legion." The TV show is pushing the actor to new heights. What dreams may come for those who wait? Never was a truer word spoken and the truth is in the work that Dan Stevens has voraciously devoured and put out there for public consumption since his departure from Downton Abbey. Well played, sir.

“It is a very monopolising job. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.”

Dan Stevens on his gratitude for Downton Abbey - 3 seasons launched his career

Dan Stevens certainly shattered the myth of type-casting and continues to rise in net worth via every new opportunity that comes his way since branching out on his own.

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Failing Upwards: Beyond Downton, Beast, & Broadway

Having shown his mettle after leaving "Downton Abbey" in 2013, Stevens took on a variety of roles after the death of Matthew Crowley. With the success of "Beauty And The Beast" and now helming the FX TV series "Legion," now in its second season, Stevens has the last laugh. Not to mention all of his film roles, from Sir Lancelot in "Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb," to the lead as a psychopath in the feature film "The Guest" to finally landing on his feet as the lead character in DC's "Legion" on FX.

You've seen NightCrawler, now see KnightCaller... #双关语

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Net Worth

Actor Dan Stevens, currently playing David Haller in FX series "Legion" has a current net worth of about 6 million. At only 34, he has many years ahead of him to improve his net worth, but all told, he is in the top 2% of working actors in Hollywood. Between cars, homes and assets, his current net worth over 6 million is not too shabby. The bottom line: Dan Stevens is a working class leading man. He may not be Ryan Gosling but he has a net worth that can support his family for generations to come. Every interview Stevens has given shows less concern for net worth and more reverence for artistic merit and pursuits.

Actor Stevens: Cambridge Days, Macbeth To Broadway

In 2002, while still at Cambridge University, actor Dan Stevens played the lead in the stage adaptation of Shakespeare's classic play, Macbeth. It serves a place-marker for this talented artist to revisit when he is of age to actually play the ultimate tragic patriarch, Macbeth. To play Macbeth at the tender age of 19 must have been exacting on a young talent such as Stevens. The play is revered, especially at the Old Vic and as superstition says, one only calls it the "Scottish play," instead of Macbeth, lest the ghost of Shakespeare visits the production and wreaks havoc upon the cast. The superstition goes back to 1605, when Macbeth was first performed. Belief in the ethereal and supernatural was common in that era of black death and other common ailments were deemed to be the work of the devil. Hindsight shows the people of the era to be quite simple, but at the time, heresy and witchcraft were feared by commoners and royalty alike. To judge Macbeth and the superstitious actors performing it with modern eyes does very little to assuage the superstition surrounding Macbeth. It's pointless. Like the old adage "step on a crack, break your mother's back," Macbeth has the same creepy vibe around it. Don't get me wrong. Actors LOVE to play any role in Macbeth, and they just accept that it's called "the Scottish play." It's almost like discussing Macbeth in the open is like saying "Bloody Mary" three times. You just DON'T do it. The bottom line: the social mores of a time period is always represented in art. It's a living time-capsule of each era and film is the best example of this. Regardless, any actor who has performed Macbeth only refers to it as the "Scottish play." Enough said. I don't even like typing Macbeth, much less saying it aloud, or questioning the logic of the curse. It's a cursed play. The end.

Owning FX - Stevens IS Legion: Marvel's TV Star

A tailor-made role for a complex leading man is perfect for Dan Stevens. And, SPOILER ALERT: David is the son of Professor Charles Xavier - the leader of the famed X-Men franchise. What a perfect role for a handsome, complicated artist to land. Good choice, Dan Stevens.

What lies beneath? #LegionFX

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"He's a guy who's been told he's a paranoid schizophrenic his entire life and is certainly exhibiting a lot of these symptoms. There's lots of strange things happening to him," Stevens said. "He's diagnosed as one thing, institutionalized pretty much his whole adult life, then a group of people come in and tell him something radically different."

Dan Stevens, Actor, on his alter-ego "David Heller" in the FX series "Legion."

Everybody needs a little magic in their lives. #LegionFX

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The Artistic Highwire Act Of An Artist

Actor Dan Stevens is a leading man but has that Michael Madsen quality about him. He can play the romantic lead and go batshit crazy as well. The TV show 'Legion' is his "American Psycho". The schizophrenic role gives him range to display something more than a stodgy classic leading man in a Masterpiece Theatre, melodramatic period piece, like "Downton Abbey".

@variety @legion_fx [Photo by @fscottschafer, styling by @mjonf @armani]

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“It is a desire for freedom really,” he says. “I don’t see money or a particular status as an actor as a goal but I want to do the best work I can in as interesting a range of roles as I can."

Dan Stevens on his decision artistic bent and how he lives his life

Tonight's the night. Legion. FX. 10pm. Wish You Were Here... @legion_fx

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The Man Who Invented Christmas: Stevens' Next Big Thing

The biopic of Charles Dickens is brought to life with Dan Stevens playing the author under immense pressure to deliver his next book before a printing deadline. The entertaining story details the circumstances under which Dickens came to create the much-loved classic, "A Christmas Carol" and the ultimate anti-hero "Scrooge". It's a fascinating slice of life tale set in the 19th century, with the novella first being published in London, 1843. The movie is due for theatrical release in the United States, November 22nd, 2017.

Family Man Vs The Journeyman

Dan Stevens married Susie Hariet in 2009, had three kids and lived happily ever after. In order to do that, he needed a wife that understood the call of the wild. The artist inside who needed expression craved a muse. Someone who supported him, nourished him, and was the glue that binds the family together. That's what he found in South African jazz singer and mother of his children, Susie Hariet. She allowed Dan Stevens to break beyond the constraints of a leading actor.

"I’m lucky to be married to someone who entirely gets what I do," he said. "She is totally sympathetic to the actor’s life. Her own mother was an actress, so she sort of grew up with it."

Dan Stevens on wife Susie Hariet and how she grounds him

An appropriate epilogue to the story of Dan Stevens would be to say inside every man is a beast and a hero. To get inside the psyche of both is the job of an actor. For Stevens, his wife and their children are his touchstones; they tether him to the earth while he soars high, like Icarus before him, touching the sun. An artist, with his children and his muse living life to the fullest. Amen to that.

“Like a lot of the things I’ve been doing over the last few years, [it’s about] acquiring new skills, or challenging myself to do something I’ve never done before."

Dan Stevens on his career choices and what drives him