While America breathlessly awaits the arrival of Disney’s live-action version of its classic animated movie, Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson has been given most of the attention thus far. From her singing talent to the wearing of the big, beautiful yellow dress, everyone wants to know what it was like to play Belle. Up until now, Watson’s co-star, Dan Stevens, who plays the Beast, has been somewhat overlooked.
With today’s movie technology and CGI effects, it’s understandable to think that the Beast’s whole appearance would be in full CGI and that the actor may have only lent his voice. After all, almost everything in Disney’s The Jungle Book was that way and much of Alice Through the Looking Glass movie was done that way as well. But the former Downton Abbey and future Legion star recently told IGN that that was not the case for Beauty and the Beast, at least not for his role.
Acting as the Beast would be difficult enough, but Stevens had to do it wearing a mask and walking around on 10-inch-high stilts.
“Physically, the Beast is the most challenging role I’ve taken on,” Stevens said. “The condition I had to have my body in to puppeteer that suit on stilts was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, seriously. The kind of engagement — and actually a lot of dance involved in that role, albeit on stilts; it was a very, very intense dance training process — has gotten me more physically engaged with all of my performances in everything else since.”
Beauty and the Beast doesn’t come to theaters until March 17, but you can see Dan much sooner on TV. Beginning on February 8, Stevens stars in Marvel Comic’s X-Men-related show Legion, which also required skills and talents that Stevens wasn’t prepared for. It too required dance training.
“It’s quite a physical role in that way. There was a certain kind of physical engagement. There’s a musical number or two that required some special, special skills — I don’t want to give too much away. Scripts would suddenly pop up and it’s like, ‘Oh, he plays the banjo.’ It’s like, do we have a banjo? Someone give me a banjo.”
In Legion, Stevens plays David Haller, a man diagnosed as schizophrenic who has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years, but the show teases that he might be more than human. Since this is a show based around the X-Men universe, we already know that he’s a mutant of sorts, but the show is leaving the rest of his character a mystery.
After settling in current hospital home, David meets a new patient, Syd (Rachel Keller), and after a strange occurrence with her, he is faced with the notion that his visions and voices in his head actually might be real.
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What’s it like to play David Haller and how did Dan get into the role?
“It was a number of different ways I suppose. He’s a quite bizarre character to get your head around,” he told Access Hollywood. “You know, I looked at the comics, I looked at some of the symptoms that he was exhibiting, talked to some psychiatrists, psychologists, even some suffers of paranoia schizophrenia particularly…yeah, it’s been incredible. Some incredible stories came out of that.”
Legion also stars Aubrey Plaza, Jean Smart, Katie Aselton, Hamish Linklater, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, and Bill Irwin. The show premieres on Wednesday, February 8 at 10 p.m. on FX.
[Featured Image by Walt Disney Pictures and Chris Large/FX]