Dan Stevens: We need more irreverent adaptations of classic texts

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·2-min read

Dan Stevens has called for more “irreverent” adaptations of classic plays and novels.

The Downton Abbey star, who is currently starring in new adaptation of Noel Coward’s 1941 play Blithe Spirit, said film and TV versions do not need to feel like “marble busts.”

He told the PA news agency: “What I would like to see is some more irreverent adaptations of classic text, really.

“You know, I can’t really abide it when people are too reverent with a text and it all gets a bit heavy and weighty and we all have to sit around and admire the person who wrote this.

“I’d much rather sit there and enjoy it – whatever it is, and then afterwards recognise it was written whenever.

“I think just to enjoy it in the moment and still get those laughs out of something, whether it was with Coward or anything. If a story is good, if the characters are fun, there’s no reason we can’t keep revisiting it in different ways.”

He added: ” I think there is a tendency(for reverence) because it’s understandable. And I think partly the way that some of that stuff is taught, so that the way that we are just taught to revere Dickens in a way.

“And if you look at it, these are really fun, alive characters that he’s created, there’s no reason we can’t come in and be human in there. We don’t all have to stand around as if we’re watching an adaptation of a marble bust or something.

“Coward was very much writing for that in the midst of a pretty bleak time, was writing for mass entertainment and I think it’s what we need, isn’t it?”

Stevens stars opposite Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann and Dame Judi Dench in the film, about about a best-selling crime novelist struggling with writer’s block who visits a medium to look for inspiration and ends up reviving his dead wife.

The film devolves into high jinx when the ghost of his wife tries to win him back and drive a wedge between him and new wife, and Stevens said: “There is some brilliant physical comedy there – and as with a lot of physical comedy, it gets quite close to action at times, you know, when you’re padded up underneath your costume diving onto concrete just for a sort of prank fall.

“Charging around a lawn with a croquet mallet is a bit like a British action film in a way. I handle a croquet mallet like the best of them, really.”

He joked: “Better than Statham. He’s hopeless with the croquet mallet. Hopeless.”

Blithe Spirit, a Sky Original film, is out now on Sky Cinema.