Unless you caught him in painterly romance Summer In February or Wiki-tosh The Fifth Estate, Dan Stevens entered 2014 still best known as Downton Abbey's Matthew Crawley and for once ruining Christmas by crashing into a tree. No longer. This year's projects won't be getting a Christmas special - as much as we'd like to see The Guest climbing down the chimney - because in 12 short months Stevens is born again as a movie star. Aside from that star-making turn in Adam Wingard's delirious action-thriller, he's shown his range as a conflicted villain in A Walk Among The Tombstones and a scene-stealing Sir Lancelot in Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb, in the process becoming Empire's unofficial spirit animal. We spoke to Stevens to hear about his year first-hand.
"Breakout star? Breaking out in what? Can you get a cream for that? It’s awesome, I’m extremely honoured. I set out after leaving Downton to forge a different path and try a few different things, and to have been embraced in the range of different genres I have been, and to have sat down and talked with all these different directors from Adam Wingard to Ido Fluk with The Ticket, which is such a different, intensely dramatic film. And that in turn is incredibly different to Night At The Museum: to walk on a set with those sort of comedy giants and be able to play around with them... it’s been extremely exciting!
It’s been a really busy year and I’m just having a lot of fun exploring different things.
I always enjoy stretching myself and reaching for things. There are always projects that are a little bit out of reach that you have to compete for, and the good stuff is always going to attract a number of people who are going to be fighting over it, and that involves screen tests and all the rest. But the inbox is fuller than it used to be. Often I’m connecting with stuff I loved as a kid. The thing about The Guest and Night At The Museum is they’re the kind of things I loved growing up. When you set out as an actor, you start doing the kind of work that people give you, and that’s great in itself, to be employed at all. But I certainly had an appetite to explore a wider range, and remind myself of things I loved like John Carpenter movies and big, broad family comedies.
It’s been a really busy year and I’m just having a lot of fun exploring different things. From [A Walk Among The] Tombstones, which was very serious, to The Guest where we’re having a lot more fun, and then to Night At The Museum which, for Lancelot at least, is an all-out action comedy. It was really nice to take some of the action lessons I’d learned on The Guest and put them in a much broader comedy setting. That was so much fun. I’m looking forward to seeing that in a couple of weeks. I’ve got a couple of things in the works that I can’t really talk about yet, but hopefully I’ll continue the trend of there not really being a trend!"