CS Interview: Dan Stevens on Dave Franco’s passion project The Rental
ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with Legion and Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens to discuss his role in the upcoming psychological horror-thriller The Rental, co-written and directed by Dave Franco (Neighbors) in his directorial debut, which is now in select theaters and on VOD! Click here to rent the chilling new film!
The film is certainly not Stevens’ first time venturing into the horror and thriller genres, with previous works including Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s acclaimed The Guest and Gareth Evan’s well-received Apostle, but in signing on for The Rental, he found his biggest interest was Franco’s “passion and his drive.”
“He was bringing together a really cool team, and obviously, a big fan of Alison Brie and also Sheila Vand from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, I was really excited to get to work with her,” Stevens noted. “I’m always intrigued by first-time directors, especially actors turned directors, and very supportive of them. So yeah, I was just really, really excited to see what he was like as a director, and I was super impressed with the results as well. He was very, very passionate about this and I love a good genre movie and a nice horror thriller. And I was surprised that he was picking this as his genre for his first film. But also, really excited to jump in.”
The 37-year-old actor recalled he was first introduced to the Jump Street and Now You See Me franchise star through a mutual friend and didn’t know the other cast members prior to signing on and though they didn’t have a lot of time to get things done, he found a lot of enjoyment building the rapport with the rest of his cast.
“With any film, especially with that scale, you’ve just got to jump in and you just very quickly become family, and especially in such a remote location,” Stevens explained. “We were in this beautiful locale, and a pretty small crew. A lot of the crew were either from Portland or local. A few of us up from LA or New York, but mostly Oregonian crew, quite small, in the middle of nowhere, and barely any cellphone reception at that house. And so, you just kind of hunker down and get cozy. It was absolutely beautiful, being up there. And one of the things I loved about moving to this country, and I’ve lived here for over eight years now, on jobs like this, you get to see a totally different side of the country and just how sort of varied and beautiful the landscape is here. And I’d always heard about the Oregon coastline. And so, it was great. On my days off, just doing some really epic hiking and exploring and the beaches and rock pools and cliffs and forests around where we were shooting. I absolutely adored it.”
Having been filmed a full year before the pandemic quarantine underway across the world, in which people find themselves isolated, Stevens found its connection to the current state of the world was “very, very far from our mind” during production, but rather felt there was a different and still timely social aspect being explored in the story.
“I guess one of the scenes, and the sort of underlying ideas behind it was really this idea of like trust of human beings, really,” Stevens described. “Dave sort of exploring the paranoia that could be associated with where we are now, where we, just through an app, we just click on a thing and suddenly we have the keys to somebody else’s house and we can stay there and do whatever we like and often behave in ways that we might not behave in our own house. That, combined with obviously a growing paranoia about surveillance culture and the fact that we all now just have little cameras carried around with us at every corner of our house, and how that could be abused. I think that’s one of the great things about the playfulness of a horror genre like this is that you take those ideas and you run down the scary field with them and see where that takes you.”
This exploration of trust extends even outside of the screens audiences will be watching the film on as not only does the film hold a number of twists and surprises, but also is sure to shock by just who is and isn’t safe from the opening shots to its chilling end credits crawl, and Stevens found a lot of enjoyment from this rug pull.
“Dave was very, very keen for the first half of the film to be almost defensively pretty straight, almost playing like a sort of very kind of run of the mill sort of relationship drama, two brothers,” Stevens recalled. “And I was particularly interested in that angle, and talking to Dave about that and just exploring that as actors and what I enjoyed from a performance point of view is that actually the insanity that we’re experiencing as a viewer, there’s only a fraction of the film where that is really happening to Charlie or to us. And obviously Sheila Vand got the sort of raw deal at the very end, having to sort of limp through the woods for many long night shoots.”
In looking at taking on his role and diving into his character, Stevens found one of his biggest creative challenges to be giving himself over, as a performer, to “Dave’s outlook” and “his way of seeing and really kind of submitting to that,” though also noting that didn’t prove to be much of a challenge to him.
“It was pretty plain sailing and he has a great way of working with Ali, his wife, which could’ve gotten in the way, but it was, I think very successful,” Stevens opined. “Jeremy Allen White is a fantastic actor and I was very lucky to have him play my brother. He is super, super easygoing and has very natural instincts, very, very sharp. And Sheila Vand, who is just a delight. And like I said, I’m a huge fan of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and was very excited to get to work with her. So it was a pretty easy team to jump in on this with, really. And I guess, you know, the main challenge was just that sense of isolation and just letting out in the middle of nowhere and driving through the woods in the middle of the night to get to work.”
A month ahead of its July release, IFC Films brought the film to ArcLight Cinemas for a special preview screening at select drive-ins and will keep it in drive-ins beginning this Friday and Stevens described the experience as “so cool,” namely as it was his first time heading to the retro theater experience.
“First of all, I didn’t think anybody was going to show up because I thought people would be reluctant to get out of the house, I was so wrong,” Stevens recalled. “People are so ready to get out of the house and just go do something, you know, collective. Also, just the sound quality coming through the car radio, the picture quality, it was actually not as bad as Dave was — he was very concerned that we were going to get a sort of a low res version of the movie. Actually, I think it came across really, really well. It plays very well in that kind of environment. But yeah, there’s something about the collective experience with a movie like that and hearing people kind of shrieking and laughing and clapping from their cars across the lot, you know, at various points in the film. It was so cool. And I was really happy that I went along.””
Co-written by Franco and Joe Swanberg (You’re Next), the film follows two couples as they embark on a weekend getaway to a seemingly perfect house they’ve booked online, but what begins as a celebratory weekend for the four close friends turns into something far more sinister as secrets they’ve kept from each other are exposed and they realize they may not be alone.
In addition to Brie and Stevens, the cast of the film features Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Snowpiercer) and Toby Huss (Halloween). Franco is best known for his acting work on the big screen, starring in such hits as Neighbors, the Jump Street and Now You See Me franchises and indie darlings The Disaster Artist, The Little Hours and If Beale Street Could Talk.
“I’ve admired the IFC brand and their films for as long as I can remember,” Franco said. “I couldn’t be more excited about partnering with them for my directorial debut. They have such a strong track record when it comes to elevated genre films, which makes them the perfect home for The Rental.”
The Rental is produced and financed by Black Bear Pictures with Franco, Elizabeth Haggard, Teddy Schwarzman, Ben Stillman, Swanberg and Christopher Storer serving as producers and Michael Heimler and Sean Durkin attached as executive producers. IFC Films is now available in select drive-ins, theaters and on demand!
(Photo Credit: Amy Sussman/Getty Images)