Interview: Maika Monroe and Dan Stevens talk The Guest
It is pretty early on in The Guest that you suspect something is more than just a bit off; with the main character, and the movie itself. Clearly the titular figure who is welcomed into a home isn’t all that he seems. So you watch his moves, worry about the family, and then you realize that this film is singularly, decidedly, effectively outrageous.
“It was a different type of movie, I don’t think either of us have done any like this,” said actress Maika Monroe, referring to her costar Dan Stevens.
“I didn’t even know this kind of film existed,” interjected Stevens, laughing. He plays David, a soldier returning home from war to talk to the family of his deceased comrade and best friend. He brings warm tidings from the fallen patriot, but he brings something else too.
“I wanted to believe David when he said he was there to honour Caleb and help the family,” explained Stevens, who joined Monroe to promote the film for its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Once we established that, it gave us more freedom and license to play. We wanted first to root it all.”
David is welcomed into the Peterson home, and soon becomes a mentor to the youngest son, drinking buddy with the dad, and partygoer with Anna, played by Monroe. His seemingly positive influence though gives way to his selfish ulterior motives, putting in jeopardy everyone around him.
“I like that sense, in any narrative, where it feels like something is in the control of the flow of information, either from the writer or the character,” continued Stevens. “David is a man with a lot of secrets, he’s very efficient, very controlling. It’s always good to sit on a piece as a character.”
Stevens remembers being particularly excited to sink into such a mysterious role, especially working under the guidance of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, the team behind the popular horror You’re Next.
“I had complete trust. Adam is a very accomplished filmmaker; he’s practiced his craft in a number of ways. Guys with a horror background are quite interesting. If you can make a successful one, there is a good chance you will have a similar control over other emotions. They have an ability to affect audiences,” said Stevens.
Monroe too was eager to be a part of a suspenseful, genre-bending thriller. It was only four weeks after shooting The Guest that Monroe filmed an intense shoot of It Follows, a horror film that also debuted at TIFF.
“Anything can come your way,” said Monroe, noting that the back-to-back horrors just happened by chance. “I loved doing these; I grew up with horror movies. My dad showed me at a young age,” explained Monroe, saying she was ten-years-old when introduced to Kubrick. Monroe recalled feeling a mix of nerves and excitement, but like Stevens, completely trusted those in control, especially after seeing You’re Next.
Alongside plenty of humour, suspense, mystery, and blood, there was also lots of action, and Stevens recalled a jarring moment during the shoot.
“In a sequence with a machine gun, I’m running in a corridor.” In the film, bullets whiz by his head; on set, explosives were going off from behind the wall. “When I finished the take, there was this piece of wood sticking out from my ear, but I guess that could have been a lot worse.”
While an uncomfortable moment for Stevens in what is an unprecedented film for him and Monroe, it doesn’t come close to the chaos that reigns over all those who meet Dan. He definitely has some secrets.