dan stevensOn October 10th, one of our very favorite movies of the year expands nationwide, to about 500 screens, after building considerable word-of-mouth and sterling reviews. That movie is "The Guest." And instead of being a stuffy art house movie, which follows a similar rollout (and achieves comparable buzz), "The Guest" is a down-and-dirty genre movie and probably the most fun 100 minutes you'll have in a theater all year.

The movie, from the creators of "You're Next" (writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard), stars Dan Stevens from "Downton Abbey" as David, a war veteran who returns to the home of his fallen brother-in-arms. Presenting himself to the family, he says that he is there to just keep an eye on them and maybe stay until he gets back on his feet. But it turns out that David's intentions are much more malevolent, and what starts out as a tableau of suburban American bliss soon descends into chaos and bloodshed. Oh, and it's really, really funny, and feels like the battered VHS copy of some forgotten eighties gem (complete with a lovingly synthetic score).

We got to sit down and chat with Stevens, who really is as delightful as you'd imagine him to be, and we chatted about what his initial thoughts were while reading this bonkers script, what his chief sources of inspiration were, shares a funny story about Method Man (yes, from Wu Tang Clan) and lets us in on what it was like joining the other antiquities in the upcoming "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb."

Moviefone: What did you think when you first read this script?

Dan Stevens: I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was insanely funny. I laughed from beginning to end. It was just a thrill. And it was so playful and it reminded me of so many movies that I loved growing up -- in one script.

So it read consistently with how the movie turned out?

Yeah, it did, and I'm really delighted with how it ended up and to see it being received in the spirit in which it was made, which was very fun and very celebratory of a certain kind of cinema that we were fed on in the eighties and nineties. Especially growing up in Britain at that time, we were steeped in American action movies and horror movies. That was our lifeblood. And as soon as I had established with Adam that we both loved the movie "Big Trouble in Little China," I knew that we were off to a great start.

Did they try to explain what they were trying to do with the script or you just got it?

I just kind of got it. And I didn't realize that I was one of the few who had. I think that Adam had met with a few guys and they had taken it a bit too seriously. And certainly some people who read it, some of my representatives, didn't get it. They said, "Why do you want to do this? It's so nasty and horrible." They hadn't appreciated that there was room for humor in a film like this. But I think people are laughing at different things now. Horror has evolved in the way that comedy has, I think. And Adam and Simon are keenly aware of that shift. We do dance between that, too. It's not that it's an out-and-out hilarious comedy but nor do we want it to be out-and-out nasty and creepy and weird. We wanted to play with that shift.

There's a little bit of "The Terminator" in your performance...

There's a lot of "The Terminator" in there.

What other things did you reference for your performance?

"The Terminator" was a big one. I had obviously seen them and knew they were a big influence on the film. Adam made me go away and watch "Terminator" and "Terminator 2" back-to-back, which I confess I'd never done previously, I'd seen them individually but as a back-to-back feature it's a really extraordinary experience that I would recommend highly. The "Halloween" movies were a huge influence, as was anything by John Carpenter... obviously the soundtrack was hugely influenced by him. I think a big influence on me was a British movie called "If..." It has this kind of beautiful anarchy to it that I found so delightful. I saw that film when I was probably too young but it really left a mark on me. And even "Kill Bill," with its use of soundtrack, with insane visuals and a certain kind of movie cool that was engendered with that film that we really wanted to celebrate.

"The Guest" is so far removed from your character on "Downton Abbey." Was that a conscious decision to break away from that?

Yes, it was. I was looking to do different things but I couldn't tell you what form they would take. I knew I had an appetite for something. It's funny when things come along. Like I said, I read "The Guest," thought it was hilarious, and knew in my heart of hearts that if I sat down with this director we would make a connection. And I was right. I sat with Adam and we just talked sh*t for hours. At the end it was like, "Oh yeah 'The Guest.'" But we were talking about movies we love, what we'd seen recently, and weird shit we read in the news. We just were in the same headspace. It was clear we would have a lot of fun making stuff together. But it was clear that we shared the same cinematic vocabulary. He grew up in Alabama, I grew up in Britain, but we watched all of these movies and we're almost the same age. We basically had been to see the same movies, week after week, from about 1994 to 1999 -- we'd rented the same videos. So that was cool to find that connection.

The end of the movie certainly leaves things open for the possibility of further adventures with David. Have you guys talked about that at all?

I'd certainly work with Adam and Simon again. I think what you're referring to is more of a nod to the structure of the "Halloween" movies than it is a teeing up of anything in the future. Sure, the possibility is out there and god knows what he'd get up to next. But yeah, we're having a little bit of fun.

Another movie you're in right now is "Walk Among the Tombstones." Where did that come from?

[Writer/director] Scott Frank had seen me in "The Heiress" on Broadway and he had responded to a certain kind of ambiguity I was going for in that role. And he wanted someone a little unexpected to play this Brooklyn drug trafficker -- someone who, by their very casting, would tease the audience's expectations. He delights in seeing actors try things they'd never tried before. I really liked "The Lookout" and I loved what he was doing with Matthew Goode in that movie. I remember thinking, "What a cool role to take on," especially someone who had taken on a lot of similar roles to me back in England. I know Matthew a little bit and we delight in the sense that an American director would be like, "Play a weird bad-ass." That vote of confidence is so enormously empowering. That's where that character came from – to get to go into a much darker world and to go with someone like Liam, who is kind of the king of that genre.

Liam Neeson is obviously the greatest. That's not really a question.

Yeah, I'm not going to lie, it's a little intimidating meeting him on that first day, like, "What is this guy going to be like?" And he is a big man but he's very calm and brings a fantastic attitude to the work and keeps things light enough off set. That's not to say he turns into Jim Carrey, but he's a sweet guy who is serious about the work but doesn't take himself too seriously and I really respect and admire that.

You were recently in "The Cobbler" with Adam Sandler, that just premiered in Toronto. Do you have any funny stories from the set?

My one abiding memory from that set was with Method Man, actually. The amount of love for that man that was coming out of these residential towers we were shooting around on the Lower East Side... Once word got out that we were filming below, within twenty minutes people were playing his music out their windows. But I was very excited to meet him. And he came onto the make-up truck one day, and I was a big fan and hadn't met him yet and was worried what I was going to say to Method Man. And before I could open my mouth, he comes up to me and goes, "Dan Stevens. 'Downton Abbey' -- that's the f*cking sh*t, man."

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you're in "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb." How was working on a giant studio thing like that?

It was fantastic. That was a whole other world. It was mind-blowing how many of my comedic heroes were in that film. It was lovely to see how there's an attempt made on a movie of that scale to preserve something at the core of that set is creative and very positive and reserved as a safe space to be very silly and funny. But just to play around, when things do get to that scale, there's a feel amongst filmmakers that that sense will be lost. But there was a real effort on set to preserve that – to keep things fresh and playful. It's a delightful franchise and I really love the first two movies so to get a chance to step into that with a very silly character that I guess I've had in my back pocket, it was great. I was so heartened by how Lancelot was welcomed into that mad world.

Did you get to work with Robin Williams? What was that like and what was your reaction when you heard the news?

I'm still reeling to be honest. And I guess I'm not quite ready to talk about it. But it was a very, very special time.