Dan Stevens & Malin Akerman on The Ticket, Beauty and the Beast, and Legion

Dan Stevens and Malin Akerman talk their new film, The Ticket, plus Beauty and the Beast, Legion, Billions, and more!

“I was blind but now I can see.”

That famous passage from the Bible may as well have been the basis for Ido Fluk’s (Never Too Late) English language debut The Ticket, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this past weekend

The film stars Dan Stevens (Downton AbbeyThe Guest) as James, a man who has spent his life without sight. James is married to his wife Sam (Malin Akerman) and they have a 13-year-old son together. One day, James wakes up with the ability to see.  The film shows how gaining sight changes James’ life both at home and at work, as he starts becoming more confident, but his family starts to break apart.

Den of Geek sat down with Stevens and Akerman to talk about The Ticket, and Stevens also spoke a little about his interesting roles in Disney’s 2017 release Beauty and the Beast and the planned X-Men TV spin-off, Legion

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Den of Geek: The movie has such an interesting premise that you wonder why no one has thought about it before, and it goes into interesting places about what would happen. So, what was it about the movie that interested you both into doing it?

Dan Stevens: I’m glad you picked on those things, because it just struck me as a most unusual tale. In a way, there are some very, very ancient themes running through it, but at the same time, it does seem to be this fresh take on the transformation story. A blind man regaining his sight is supposed to be in our cultural lexicon, that sort of wonderful miracle. I think Ido just took this in a slightly darker direction, and thought what if one of these transformations or answer to prayers set things off in a weird direction that wasn’t all rose-tinted and wonderful. I was inextricably drawn by that idea of looking at things in that way.

And then, in getting to talk to some blind people or partially-sighted people who’d had their sight recovered [while] in preparation for this film, you suddenly realize the extraordinary human spectrum within the blind community. I think it’s the human questions that attracted me.

Malin Akerman: It brings up really good questions in this film, and I loved the concept of the film. I loved reading the script, and I had your reaction. “How has no one thought of this?” and what a great concept. For me, it was really also the characters are really interesting, and there’s so much as an actor that you get to explore with these characters. Sam is a woman who is married to a blind man and then that gets taken away from her and she struggles with refinding herself and what her purpose is in this life where she’s not taking care of someone. There are a lot of things that were definitely triggers for me as far as my own life and bringing that into her, and vice versa. It was just beautiful and meeting Ido, he was the reason why I really wanted to do this. After I met him, I was like, “Yes, I want to work with this man.” He’s brilliant. He’s a true auteur, so it all came together.

Maybe it’s just that I think of things more comedically, but if I were him and I finally was able to see after being blind for so long, I probably would have looked at you and said, “Oh, good. I married someone hot,” because he had no idea what she looked like.

Stevens: Yeah, you have to get your head around that. It’s funny, the weird element of that story is not that Sam is not beautiful or plain or anything, it’s just that she’s not what he thought she was. It feels better than it looks. He runs through the movie in a lot of ways. [To Malin] Not that you don’t look lovely, but in James’ mind, she felt better than she looked.

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As soon as he saw her, he thought, “Shit, that’s not the woman I married,” or some weird little thing that ticks in him and he can’t get rid of it. To me, that was such a strange take on that. I wasn’t like, “Oh, darling, here you are. Finally, I see you.” It’s like, “I see you and wait a minute… no… different…” Brain meltdown. It would have ruined the movie. [Laughs]

It also deals with that very early on that it’s very much about appearance where she suddenly feels she needs to look nicer and he himself when he looks in the mirror starts changing himself.

Stevens: There’s little things I saw last night, seeing it on the big screen as well, where Sam experiments with using make-up for the first time because she hasn’t really bothered, like that blue eyeliner that you had in the restaurant, and it kind of looks okay but it doesn’t.

Akerman: It really doesn’t.

Stevens: It looks like someone who doesn’t wear make-up much, and it’s fine, but it’s such an interesting detail. Because now she’s trying a different shade of eyeliner…

Akerman: She’s trying a little bit.

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Stevens: And it doesn’t quite work but that’s the night we’re going to shoot. I think a lot of women have experienced that, right? And guys. You just make a different effort for different people.

Akerman: Absolutely, always, but I think it’s very interesting that whole concept of being blind, the focus isn’t on exterior and appearance, and there’s something so beautiful about that. You’re able to let your imagination be as vivid as it wants to be because you’re making up your own world and then waking up to the world you’re living in, and it’s funny how that affects Sam as well with her, “My God, I have to do something with my hair now cause he can see me,” and not being satisfied. Why aren’t we satisfied? All those questions that come up, which I love the film.

We’re more self-conscious of our looks than we probably will admit, and that’s probably the fault of whomever invented the mirror…

Stevens: But also we’re more self-conscious than we really need to be. The fact is that they have a pretty great relationship. They have a kid and everything seemed kind of okay. I like the sense that maybe there are elements… we didn’t want to give the impression that it was this perfect marriage that then disintegrated. It was actually like a marriage that has its ups and downs.

Akerman: Yeah, they’ve been together a long time.

Stevens: And then this epic trauma occurs, and it’s the shockwaves from that, really. James and Sam are both confronted with that, like, “Okay, now we have to suddenly become aware of the visual.” Sam has already been aware of the visual, but now it’s almost hyper-aware or deliberate.

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What did you learn from speaking to blind people and those had their vision restored?

Stevens: Oh, man. That’s what one of the beautiful things about our job, for me anyway, is I enjoy the conversation and getting to talk to some of these people and getting to hear their stories. I asked a couple of them, “What’s the most annoying thing that other people do or say?” I talked to people who have been blind since birth, blind since childhood, partially-sighted, sight regained. There was a range of stories, but there’s this common thing, and I hadn’t even considered this is that there’s a scale of blindness and beyond a certain point, you are technically, legally, essentially blind.

Some people can see vague shape or an occasional flare or outlines and those people in particular, if they explain that to another person, the person might be, “Oh, so you’re not really blind.” Of course that would be annoying, that would drive you insane!

I think most of us expect blind people to just be in darkness all the time.

Stevens: Right, it’s not like lights on, lights off. And again, it’s something I hadn’t quite considered, and there were all these funny little… and some of them were extremely happy and there was a real lust for life in a couple of these just like any humans that you meet, and I think maybe that was the thing. Make this a human story. There were some odd grievances and some bitterness, of course. Anyway, that was just one of the many little things where I was just, “Oh, yeah, that just changed my whole perspective on that story.”

The whole movie is based around this moral fable about the lottery ticket and the movie itself is kind of a fable. Does Sam learn something out of what happens, or is this really about James’ arc?

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Akerman: No, absolutely. She goes through a huge transformation herself, and I spoke to Ido about it a lot. You have to pose the question of why she’s with a blind man in the first place. Like she says in one of the last scenes we have together, she says, “I used to come here for you but I actually came here for me, to dance.” I think she has an opportunity to rediscover who she is in this world and what her purpose is and gains a lot of strength from that. And [it] also says that she can’t take him back because she really can’t, because she’s turned a page in her life, and she is a new person and a stronger woman, and more self-aware.

I think she’s hiding behind this relationship and being able to take care of something. She needed to find a new purpose. I think she had the realization that “Well I wasn’t living my life for me, I was living it for someone else ultimately, and now I have this opportunity to get a new life and what is that going to look like, and who do I want to be in that?” I hope we got a little sense of that, her working out and taking care of herself, and the strength that she shows in the end to not take him back and that’s a reality for her. She’s shifted too much, that’s not there anymore.

Stevens: It’s also interesting, like an added layer of complexity to their relationship, is that patient-carer, which is obviously an unusual take on that story that looking at the carer as much as the patient. Like you say, is it all about James? Of course it’s very about this whole relationship really, this film.

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You have a lot of interesting things coming up and very different from what we’ve seen before. Like in Beauty and the Beast, you’re playing the Beast. I think you’d be more of the Gaston type…

Stevens: Well, thank you. I couldn’t possibly out-Gaston Luke Evans, but yeah, it’s exciting, really exciting. They’re amazing over there and the work that’s going into this movie is quite extraordinary. I’d like to think that it’s modern-day magic, the stuff that’s going into creating this Beast. I did the puppeteering of it, and now it’s being puppeteered further by these digital wizards. The stuff that I have seen in the last year, it just blows my mind what’s happening at the vanguard of that level of animation and CGI, it’s awesome.

The other thing is Legion for FX. I know the character of David Haller from the comics.

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Stevens: You know it? Not many people do.

There are a lot of interesting things about the character such as that crazy hair and also that he has multiple personalities…

Stevens: Yeah, we get to the hair—yeah, we’re sort of working up to the hair. Not a lot of people know… I guess Den of Geek people know Legion. Yes, it’s interesting. He’s part of the Marvel Universe, and he’s a real extraordinarily dark and mysterious corner of the Marvel Universe. He can and literally will take on anybody and anything at one stage, but we’re starting slowly. We’re ramping up, but it’s a really cool character. Noah Hawley [Fargo showrunner] is awesome and he’s bringing a very fresh take to that whole kind of show.

So this is going to be a series?

Stevens: I hope so. We just shot the pilot and we’ll see, but it was cool.

It is a strange character to do a show around but you can definitely do a lot of cool things with the character…

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Stevens: So strange, but it’s so fun and we’re going to go in a lot of weird directions…. A bit like this movie.

Have they been writing more episodes in case it gets picked up?

Stevens: I don’t know. You’d have to ask Noah that. I just do the words when they come to me. They put the words in front of me, I go where I’m told and I say the words, and they make a TV show, it’s amazing! [Laughs]

Are you still doing Billions?

Akerman:  Yeah, we’re ramping up and we’re going to get started in June for the second season.

Stevens: It’s great, by the way. Susan and I just started watching it.

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Akerman: Thanks! It’s fun and really interesting. I love the show. I decided to take half a year off. I haven’t stopped working for a long time, so I took some time off between the two seasons.

[We then talked briefly to Akerman a little about her 2015 movie The Final Girls, trying not to spoil it for Stevens.]

The Ticket is still seeking distribution but will play a few more times at the Tribeca Film Festival on Monday night, April 18, and Saturday, April 23.