The New Empire’ Allowed Dan Stevens To Monkey Around

Dan Stevens couldn’t say no to Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. Part of the reason was that he loved the character he got to play; the other part was that the role was literally written for him.

“Adam Wingard, the director, and I have been good friends since we made The Guest. We’ve been talking about many things over the years but not nearly on this scale,” the British actor explained. “Usually, they were weirder, indie-sized things that have yet to come to fruition, but then Adam started getting into these big blockbuster movies. I loved what he did with the last one, but with this, I think it’s fair to say that he and Simon Barrett, who also wrote The Guest with Adam, created and wrote Trapper with me in mind, hoping that I would be lured in. Honestly, it wasn’t hard for them to lure me.”

In this sequel to Godzilla vs. Kong, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire sees Stevens play Trapper, a monster vet that Rebecca Hall’s Dr. Ilene Andrews drafts into action. The epic adventure reunites the film’s titular Titans as they fight the giant ape Skar King, a tyrant threatening Hollow Earth and the surface if allowed to cross through. Bryan Tyree Henry rounds out the intrepid trio. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire lands in theaters on Friday, March 29, 2024.

Unlike frenemies Godzilla and Kong, Stevens and Hall have been firm friends for decades, which is one reason he thinks they work so well on screen.

“I loved working with Adam again, but Rebecca is involved here, and I’ve known her since we were about 18 or 19. We were at college together,” he enthused. “Brian Tyree Henry is someone I’ve been friends with for many years, but we’ve never worked together. I adore him, and I think he’s a fantastic actor. To get to come and essentially play with a group of friends in such a fun world was pretty automatic for me to say yes.”

“Rebecca and I were roommates after college, but at university, I think the only thing we did together was a production of Macbeth, where we were Mr. and Mrs. M. One of my first professional theatre gigs was working for her father, Sir Peter Hall, on a production of As You Like It. We also did a movie called Permission a few years later when we were both living in New York. We go way back, so it was lovely to step into this with such an old mate and have another mate direct it. We had a huge amount of fun on and off screen, which I hope comes through the lens.”

While Stevens wouldn’t call himself an aficionado of Godzilla or Kong lore, he has been drawn to it since childhood.

“There was that big Godzilla movie in 1998 with the Puff Daddy track. It was prime teen time for me, and I remember seeing that in theaters,” the actor recalled. “There was also the Peter Jackson King Kong movie a few years later, so the two definitely loomed pretty large in my adolescence. Also, being aware of movie history and Godzilla being very much part of that fabric, particularly the B movie world. If you look at any books relating to the history of sci-fi, whether it was Mechagodzilla or whatever, I was always aware of that.”

“With so much Godzilla content out there right now, it’s a great time to talk about it. The mythology endures, and it endures for a reason. It has something that speaks to our age, whatever that age is. Ever since it was created, it seems to resonate in the world.”

Stevens wanted to work with Wingard again since they made The Guest a decade ago, and he recalled how his filmmaking friend sold the concept to him.

“He described the scene where Trapper goes and commandeers the HEAV, which stands for Hollow Earth Aerial Vehicle, and flies it into a flock of creatures that are humming with dangerous electricity that fly through and become sort of instrumental in the climax of the movie. He basically narrated that scene to me, and it sounded very cool,” he said. “Then I read the script and to introduce a character by having him drop 60 feet off a crane into Kong’s mouth to help take a tooth out, I thought. ‘That is a cool way to introduce a character.’ I wouldn’t say the whole thing is me, but there’s something in Trapper that I enjoyed bringing out in a world like this. You’ve got a character who’s optimistic, pretty happy-go-lucky, unfazed, seen it all, and he’s been around the block, and he’s not going to be too freaked out by anything. That’s always a nice character to have in the mix in a team-up movie like this. The whole thing was a privilege to step into a character like this that felt so easy and comfortable and do that with such great people.”

Stevens knew exactly what real-world and pop culture references and influences he wanted to use to bring Trapper to life.

“A man-child was a big touchstone,” he laughed.” There’s a sprinkling of Ace Ventura in there, and a bit of Dr. Doolittle and Bear Grylls is probably in there, too. There are a lot of fun characters in the mix. I liked the idea of this very optimistic Brit because we’re not always known for our optimism. Trapper is a reasonably international character. He probably left the UK when he was quite young. We definitely had a scene where he told a story about his time in Africa, which didn’t make the movie’s final cut, but it gave us some context. He’s been to the jungles and the desert; he’s an adventurer and has that element of being pretty chipper in the face of enormous peril.”

The actor, also known for Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast, and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, thinks Trapper has more escapades to enjoy. Like Hall, he’d love another appearance in the Monsterverse franchise, whose first four films grossed $1.96 billion worldwide.

“The adventures of Trapper would be wild, whether it’s a prequel or a sequel,” Stevens enthused. “I would love to see more of Trapper, and I’m very touched that you said that. He’s a character I enjoyed, and I think you could send Trapper almost anywhere, and it would end up being fun, funny, and weird. There’s plenty of story there.”

The actor reveled in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire‘s visual and sonic designs, where Wingard, a director not shy to rave about his love of the 80s, leaned into the era and what it offered creatively.

“There was definitely artwork he’d created going in that they had in what they called the War Room. Wall-to-wall, there were designs of all the creatures and the worlds we would see. A lot of the time, that’s green or blue screen effects that we’re not really seeing, although some of the sets were real, and sometimes we were going into the jungle,” Stevens recalled. “That’s a hallmark of Adam Wingard, the Vaporwave synth soundtrack, the blues, purples, and pinks in the lighting. There are so many great 80s movies infused in there, as well as anything from John Carpenter and maybe some John Woo. You’re in good hands when you’re with Adam because it will be steeped in great and authentic movie references, have a great soundtrack, and look cool. That allows you to relax into whatever you’re doing and throw yourself in. The outcome is just a wild ride.”

The actor isn’t just grateful to be reunited with friends and creatives he adores and admires; he’s also happy that it falls during the tenth-anniversary celebration of the first film he and Wingard made together.

“I didn’t realize it was ten years, but I knew it was coming on for that. They did a fun thing last April as kind of an April Fool’s gag but also kind of not? They released a soundtrack to The Guest 2, which absolutely slaps. Adam is a huge fan of many of the bands invited to contribute to the first film’s great soundtrack, so he invited his favorite synth acts to contribute a track to a fake sequel,” Stevens explained. “They issued an LP of it, and I think Adam and Simon had worked on an outline of what this movie might be. They issued that to these various artists who had composed some great music. It really is a good standalone album.”

He concluded, “The Guest is still finding an audience, and that’s delightful. You can’t expect that from everything you do, but it’s special when one endures like that. I’m particularly fond of it. It came along at a particular time when I had an appetite to do something very different from what I’d done previously. It ticked a lot of boxes and challenged me in several ways. It stays out there as a great calling card for the kind of weird things that I like to do. I don’t know if there will be a sequel to The Guest specifically. I know they’ve got various plans, whether it was a mini-series or a movie, but I certainly hope to work with both Adam and Simon again in some capacity, so never say never.”

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