These days, Luke Evans keeps finding himself playing guys who get a bad rap. Whether it be a misunderstood prince named Dracula, just an overly passionate bloke called Gaston, or now Scott, the sweetly concerned husband in The Girl on the Train, one could say we’re not charitable enough to the men (and monsters) he’s embodied.
Evans certainly has that perspective for his The Girl on the Train avatar, a major suspect in a missing person’s case at the center of the new thriller. In the film, Evans’ Scott seems horrified enough when his wife Megan (Haley Bennett) goes missing. Additionally, the police immediately suspect him of foul play while a woman claiming to be besties with his wife, Rachel (Emily Blunt), shows up on his door to reveal that Megan was having an affair. At some point, Scott is going to need a break… if he doesn’t break out his rage on others first.
When I sat down with Evans, we discussed seeing things from Scott’s vantage point and how as an actor he has to play his character differently when audiences immediately suspect him of the most heinous crimes. We also chatted about his role as Gaston in 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, and just whether we should expect a Bambi cameo. Evans also talked about how he is ready to sink his teeth into Dracula again if the discussions about the Universal Monsters shared universe go well.
When you were reading this script, what first stood out to you about a character like Scott?
This man who’s been living in turmoil, really. The second his wife goes missing, he’s racking his brains as to why, who’s to blame, is he to blame? And then these constant revelations that unfold about her, about her life before him, during the time they were together, and all these terrible, terrible things.
And if that’s not enough, he has this woman come into his life who pretends to be best friends with his [missing] wife. I mean, the guy’s just constantly being lied to, and I just thought, “What an interesting journey.” And how do you deal with that? How do you deal with all those lies, and how does it manifest itself?
I actually think the way he deals with it is incredibly real. I think it’s probably how I would handle it.
He’s not an indecisive person, but in a story like this, that could be refreshing.
Had you read the book before production or before you got the script?
No, I got the script first, and then I went on and read the book after that. I was very aware of the book; everybody I knew had read it, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it myself. But I’ve now read it, and I thought it was a very loyal adaptation in many ways. Hard book to adapt to a film, I feel. So I thought they did a really good job.
What were some of things you talked with Tate Taylor about translating this character before production?
I guess it’s about showing all the different elements of his personality, but showing them in the right moments to benefit the thriller in the story, because he’s not a bad guy, but he does have a few colors to his personality, which could direct you toward thinking he was the bad guy and then a suspect. But it was also about showing and representing the relationship with his wife, and not just as a sort of—it wasn’t all miserable. There were other elements to it. But yeah, many of the challenges were for Tate to cut it together, and make sure it was all fed to the audience in the right order.
That’s interesting, because so much of this movie is about trust or lack thereof. Were you able to work with Haley [Bennett] before production or during it to help develop the rapport for what is, let’s say, the opposite of marital bliss?
Yeah. [Laughs] Yeah, we had long chats with Tate, but a lot of it sort of came organically from the scenes. We actually don’t have a word said to each other on the screen, so it’s actually all visual and aesthetic. It’s only when she starts to talk to a therapist, and I start to talk to Rachel that you actually start to hear more about their relationship and how it was.
I think that creates an interesting contrast between Haley’s character and Rachel. Because while [Rachel] is lying to him as well, she’s also much more truthful about what his life and marriage is. Did that paradox inform your interpretation of the character at all?
A little bit, yeah, I guess so. For me, it was honestly just trying to play the truth of the character, because the film is so based in just common human behavior, and human emotions, you know? They’re all very present in this film: from jealousy to rage to deceit to infidelity to grief, guilt, lies, mistrust. All of those things. I just wanted to—I didn’t really think too much about that, but more just telling the story and keeping it as based in what I think I would’ve done in that situation.
How was it working with Emily in those scenes?
Amazing, she’s incredible. She’s an amazing actress. You know, it’s a very hard role to play, because she’s not really 100 percent, she never has pure clarity. She doesn’t have that pure clarity at any point, because she’s either intoxicated or she’s enduring a terrible hangover, as on top of dealing with this intense conversation. So it was interesting to play off of her in that situation. And then there’s really the great scene where I basically ask all the questions that the audience has been waiting to ask her, which was great, really enjoyable, although quite a hard scene to shoot.
What’s interesting is also in a movie like this everyone’s a suspect. So as soon as you come onscreen, audiences are kind of giving you the side-eye. As a performer, do you overcome those prejudices or do you embrace the ambiguity for a story like this?
One has to embrace the ambiguity. I think the whole point of that storytelling and how it works like that is because of the ambiguity of Scott and Rachel, and everybody is… I realize it’s part of the storytelling that you allow the audience to think Scott might be the bad guy.
So you’re playing it a little differently than if the audience knew right away who was responsible?
If this was your one chance though to defend Scott’s character for audiences who are about to see the movie, what would you say they should know about him before going in?
He’s a married man; he’s loyal; he has a temper, but he also has a very complicated wife. She has a lot of skeletons in her closet and a lot of issues from her past that she hasn’t really dealt with. And he struggles to understand her, really. And I think that’s what causes the major issues. It’s not him, it’s more her, but he’s a good guy. I think he’s a good guy. [Laughs] Some people didn’t think so kindly of him.
Another character who I feel you might have to make those preemptive defenses for is Gaston. Could you talk a little bit about playing him?
Yeah, well he always wears everything on his sleeve, from his heart to his arrogance to his egocentric behavior. I find it super-enjoyable to play someone like him. I had forgotten how much of an arc that character has in the story of Beauty and the Beast, because he’s sort of the lovable rogue, slightly self-absorbed. Very self-absorbed. Has never been told no by anybody or anything, and you watch this persona, which is sort of solidified in strong charisma start to crack, and it starts to fade into what—essentially he becomes the sort of monster in the film.
He does. How is the singing on-set going?
It’s a wonderful scene. It’s brilliant in the film. We went to town on that scene. I’m a singer, so I really enjoyed that moment. It was the best bit.
Any references to Bambi on the set there?
No? I don’t think so.
An animator at Disney said years ago that they thought while making the movie that Gaston killed Bambi’s mother.
[Laughs] That might be perfect! That’s very funny. I never heard that, but that’s great. I wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe Bambi’s mother or father’s horns are up on the wall somewhere in that tavern?
Exactly. Speaking of other projects, I know the Universal Monsters movie universe is still in its genesis, pieces are moving, and the first one hasn’t even come out yet. But do you think there’s still a good chance we’ll see you donning the fangs again in that world?
I think there’s a chance, yeah. There’s definitely dialogue about it. But right now it’s about working out the genesis, and how that develops and unfolds. It’s quite a complex universe they’re trying to create, and how it all intertwines is probably—they’ve been doing it for a while, so I guess they must be close to it.
The last one ended in the present, which is where the Universal Monsters universe would be set. Have you thought about much where you’d like to see Dracula go in that kind of setting?
I have many ideas. The world is his oyster in a way, because he’s immortal. I also like to think about where he’s been from that moment in the film when it jumps to the present day. What’s happened during that 400 years? From that window of 400 years. Who has he met? Where has he been? What has he accomplished and what is he running from?
I’d assume he’d end up in London at some point.
I think so, yeah. It’s the center of the universe. [Laughs]
Well, thanks very much for doing this.
The Girl on the Train opens Friday, Oct. 7.