"I think it's fair to say it's the bloodiest film I've been in," Dan Stevens tells RadioTimes.com of his new horror flick Abigail, "and I've been in some quite bloody ones!"


The film, which is the latest effort from Ready or Not and Scream directing pair Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (known collectively as Radio Silence) sees Stevens star as a former cop who, along with a rag-tag band of criminals, kidnaps a 12-year-old girl in the hopes of extracting a significant ransom from her wealthy father.

Only, while holed up in an abandoned mansion, it quickly transpires that the gang are in over their heads.

Rather than being the vulnerable pre-teen they had expected, it becomes clear that Abigail – who is played with tremendous relish by young Matilda: The Musical star Alisha Weir – is in fact an insatiably hungry vampire. Naturally, it doesn't take long for the blood to flow.

"We exhausted Ireland of its supply of movie blood!" Stevens explains. "We had to get special shipments in from outside – there were literally thousands and thousands of gallons used.

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"Every time a vampire is defeated, they explode, and that involves these incredible kind of cannons that get absolutely stacked with this stuff and just explode all over the set," he adds.

"It's a huge event when one of these things goes off, and as the movie goes on, it sort of got more and more regular. It'd be, 'Oh so and so is blowing up today, we're gonna stand around and watch this.' It was great fun!"

The former Downton Abbey star is chatting exclusively to RadioTimes.com over Zoom, wearing a Nosferatu hoodie that betrays a long-lasting interest in the genre.

And although he says his favourite vampire films tend to be on the subtler side to Abigail – he mentions A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Let The Right One In – he is especially interested in new ways of approaching such a well-worn subject matter.

Alisha Weir as Abigail in Abigail. She is screaming.
Alisha Weir as Abigail in Abigail. Universal

"What excites me is how are people are going to approach it this time," he says. "Because that's the challenge: it's like, yeah, we've all seen a vampire movie, but you know, what are the teeth gonna look like? What can these vampires do? How do you kill these ones? And what's the effect if you get turned?

"So each time you get to kind of rewrite the rules. And also, you're in dialogue with other films of that genre, which I like, as well.

"That's sort of one of the fun things about horror in general, really, is that there are filmmakers almost talking to each other through their work, like, 'Oh, you did this with your vampire? Well we're doing this with ours.'"

When he was first handed the script, Stevens hadn't actually been aware that it was a vampire film at all – instead told simply that it was a heist film involving a kidnapping.

But upon reading it, he was instantly intrigued by the prospect, even if there was initially a little confusion as to why he was being considered for his role.

"It was originally written for quite a different casting," he says. "I think they had, like, a sort of 60-year-old Italian American in mind. So I was reading this going, 'What are they doing?' And then they said, 'Well, you know, we're thinking of changing it, we think you could do something with this.'"

The version of the character we see in the film is codenamed Frank, and fancies himself as the ringleader of the disparate group of kidnappers – who had been strangers prior to agreeing to the job.

As the film progresses, we gradually learn more about his background as a "corrupt cop" who made "a series of very, very bad choices" and is, in Stevens's own words "a real piece of s**t".

This lack of moral compass is made startlingly evident relatively early on in the runtime, when Frank points a gun directly to Abigail's head, before her true vampiric identity has even been disclosed. So, what was it like acting in such a violent scene with a young actress like Weir?

"It was fun, only because she's just brilliant," he responds. "She's completely unfazed [and] she can do it all – she's an incredible actress, a gymnast, a dancer, she did almost all her own stunts. And just with a smile the whole way through, she was just absolutely delighted to be in and amongst it all and was so up for it."

He goes on: "Frank is just an awful character, a really, really nasty man, and so it was not a very nice scene, but the memory of doing that was that it was very fun, because Alisha is so sweet and so funny. And we were all constantly floored by how brilliant she was."

Dan Stevens as Frank in Abigail holding a stake by his head
Dan Stevens as Frank in Abigail. Universal

Never was that brilliance more apparent than in the film's frenzied climactic scene. We won't spoil the exact nature of what happens here, but rest assured it includes lots more of that aforementioned blood and some complex fight choreography courtesy of 87Eleven – the company founded by John Wick directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.

"They really wanted to sort of amp up the level of that fight at the end," Stevens says. "It's a very, very fun final sequence, and all I can remember is just Alisha killing it each time. It was like, 'Could you just do a backflip and kick him in the head?' And she's like, 'Sure.' And she'd just do it 30 times in a row!"

Alongside Stevens and Weir, the film boasts an impressive ensemble cast that also features the likes of Melissa Barrera, Kathryn Newton, Giancarlo Esposito and a brief but memorable role for another former Downton cast member, Matthew Goode.

Stevens says he "loved" working with what he describes as an "unusual gang", and there is one co-star in particular that he is understandably keen to single out.

"It was a real treat to get to work with Angus Cloud," he says of the former Euphoria star, who tragically died from an accidental drug overdose last summer.

"He was a very, very sweet, lovely boy. And I've never met anyone like him. He really was like all of our little brother on set, and we were all completely heartbroken when we lost him, in the middle of production, essentially, in the middle of the strike.

"So, you know, that also kind of brings people very, very close together, when something like that happens."

The film is dedicated to Cloud's memory, something Stevens says is "only right".

"He's terrific in it," he adds. "And it's very... it's an oddly special film for that reason."

Angus Cloud wearing a tuxedo
Angus Cloud. Mike Marsland/Getty Images for Ralph Lauren Fragrances

Abigail arrives in UK cinemas not long after another big film in which Stevens had a major role: the latest entry in Legendary's MonsterVerse saga, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

That film reunited the actor with director Adam Wingard, with whom he had previously worked a decade ago on the thriller The Guest. And he said it was a great experience to be back in familiar company on such a different type of film.

"It was a lot of the same gang – we've got Simon Barrett, who co-wrote The Guest with Adam, [he] was one of the writers, and Tom Hammock, our art director from The Guest, was also designing it," he says.

"So it was a lot of the same team and a lot of the same kind of spirit, really – of indie filmmaking just on a much, much bigger scale."

He adds that although it was their first time working together in 10 years, he regularly hangs out with Wingard, and the pair are often spitball ideas for further collaborations.

"We're always talking about things that we want to do – very, very big ideas, and some very small, weird ones," he says. "And, you know, as with all of these things, it's just plates spinning."

Stevens will next be seen on the big screen in a film that very much fits into that small, weird category: the psychological horror Cuckoo. Written and directed by German filmmaker Tilman Singer and also starring Euphoria's Hunter Schafer, the movie received some strong notices when it played at February's Berlin Film Festival – and Stevens is very enthusiastic about its upcoming release.

"I was very, very excited to get to work with [Singer], he's done an incredible job," he says. "And also with Hunter Schafer in the lead, who is a very, very intriguing actress.

"I hadn't seen her in much beyond Euphoria – she hasn't done much beyond Euphoria, really, I think this was her first film. And yeah, it was a great experience and a very, very strange film."

He adds: "Unlike Abigail, where it's like, okay, you know what you're getting here, Cuckoo is a little bit more strange, a little bit more mysterious. Like, what is happening here?"

Stevens plays the role of a "strange German weirdo" who serves as the film's antagonist, something he found very rewarding.

"And audiences seem to be really responding to it," he says. "It's got a great look to it, fantastic soundtrack. And it's a great one to see in a crowd. I witnessed it last month at SXSW, where the audience sort of slowly just cottoned on as to what's happening, and then you're, like, off to the races, and in for another great ride, really."

Next up, Stevens will be returning to the small screen for the Netflix miniseries Zero Day, in which he forms one part of a hugely exciting ensemble led by none other than Robert DeNiro.

At this stage, he can't reveal too much about the series – which is currently filming, and which he expects to land on the streamer at some point next year – but he describes it as "a very cool kind of cyber political thriller" which sees De Niro "firing on all cylinders".

For now, though, the main focus is Abigail. "It's a bloody good time," he says. "And that's what we want when we go to the movies these days: bloody good fun!"

Abigail is released in UK cinemas on Friday 19th April 2024.


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