How Dan Stevens Faked “The Strangeness of Humanity” to Play a German Robot in “I Am Your Man”

A version of this story about Dan Stevens and “I’m Your Man” first appeared in the international issue of TheWrap Awards magazine.

Dan Stevens could be too much beautiful. At least, that’s what German director Maria Schrader hoped for when she showcased Stevens’ chiseled features and piercing blue eyes in “I’m Your Man,” a kind of romantic comedy that deals with the relationship between a cynical career woman (Maren Eggert) and an android who has been programmed to be her perfect man.

Her performance – which incidentally is delivered entirely in German – takes on the charm that was so evident in “Downton Abbey” and the post-transformation scenes in “Beauty and the Beast” and throws in just enough tics to let us see it. algorithm under the impeccable smile.

“You break it down and warp it, somehow,” said Stevens, who worked with Schrader to determine how much machine to display in each scene. “It seemed like a lot of fun to me that it was pre-programmed with chat lines and manners: this is how a man stands, this is how he moves his hands when he thinks … It wasn’t ‘How does a robot do this? ‘- it was’ How does a thing that tries to be human and fails slightly do that?’ “

Showing the entire film in a foreign language was fun for the actor who had learned German at school and on frequent trips to visit family friends, and spoke the language in his first film. , the 2009 Hildegard Knef biopic, “Hilde”.

“Somewhere in the halls of the German film industry, someone said to Maria, ‘I think Dan speaks German,'” he said. “She was looking for a foreign actor who could understand the fairly complex German required, but who also had a sense of otherness, a slightly foreign quality.” The script he received even said that the android spoke with a British accent, which made him the ideal actor: – The Briton ticks the box.

Where an actor might normally work to understand his character’s story, Stevens’ character Tom doesn’t really have one: he’s from the factory, where he’s been programmed to be the way he is. “Actually, Tom makes his own story for himself and (Eggert’s character) Alma, which was pretty funny. What’s interesting about Tom, as opposed to other famous AI creations, is that “he actively seeks to become more human, to evolve, to learn and to calibrate. He is not just a fixed entity.

(Bleecker Street)

“Much of the process wasn’t so much about the backstory, but rather Tom’s growing adaptation to Alma and what she would want or need in any given situation. In his own way, Tom really wants to be successful, which is nice to watch. Because he’s really a naive character.

Of course, he’s a naïve character who can call upon almost any human knowledge in seconds. “He knows everything but some of the finer subtleties of human nature,” he said. “You might know all of Wikipedia, but you might not know why someone yells at cars when they cross a crosswalk. There are all of these wonderful details about how weird mankind is and how weird we are as a people. “

Ultimately, he said, “I’m Your Man” just uses “the classic trope of any romantic comedy, with two people who shouldn’t be together.” With that in mind, he and Schrader watched old Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart comedies for inspiration, even borrowing Grant’s hair color for Tom. “These performances are very stylized in their own way,” he said. “And we thought, ‘Well, what if we put that aside? So we took elements and manners from those films, broke them down and distorted them. “

The performance puts Stevens alongside Tilda Swinton as a British actor starring in one of this year’s international Oscar race films. (Swinton is in the Colombian entry, “Memoria.”) The film also landed US distribution on Bleecker Street and is one of this year’s most viewed entries in the category.

“I was delighted with the tone of it,” Stevens said. “It was both very soft and funny and had that lightness to the touch,” he said. “There was room for physical comedy, but at the end of the day there were some really big questions that arose out of it. He had this very German sense of being deeply deep and philosophical, but also witty and playful.

He smiles. “I wouldn’t say German cinema is known for its comedy – but when it does it right, it’s really interesting.”

Learn more about the international number here.

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