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24 September 2014

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Characters & Actors

Dan Stevens as Nick Guest

Nick Guest (played by Dan Stevens

Handsome and gay, Nick starts the story as an awkward middle class boy from the provinces hungry to explore the wider world. Fiercely intelligent, with a First from Oxford and a passion for Henry James*, he is seduced by the beautiful things and people that he encounters through the glamorous Fedden family. As he increases in confidence, Nick becomes a self-assured and charming player in this new world of privilege.

Nick wants to be all things to all people but is never quite at home anywhere. He forms a protective bond with Catherine Fedden, whose illness interests him and whose sexual experience impresses him. He desires Toby, respects Rachel's upper-class languor and acts as a second son to Gerald, whom he treats with jovial reverence.

Nick is the embodiment of romantic readiness. He is quick to fall in love, and frustrated that each of his relationships have to be conducted as clandestine affairs. Though aware of the social gulf between them, Nick throws himself headlong into an affair with Leo, his first love, but has his heart broken as a result. With Wani, Nick acts as an indulgent parent towards a child he loves too much, constantly amazed by Wani's beauty.

Dan Stevens

Young actor Dan felt strangely at home while filming The Line of Beauty - he'd previously stayed in the plush location used as the interior of the Feddens' house.

"The house belongs to a wealthy friend of mine from Cambridge," says Dan.

"I was chatting to [director] Saul Dibb about Nick's experiences of mixing in opulent circles and he asked whether I'd ever been to a house that had struck me like that.

"I started to describe this house and Saul realised it was the location they'd just chosen that week. It was really, really strange.

Dan first became aware of The Line Of Beauty when it was nominated for – and subsequently won – the 2004 Booker Prize: "My tutor at Cambridge, bizarrely, was on the Booker panel the year The Line Of Beauty won.

"Obviously he had nothing to do with the casting of this but I was very aware of it. He was a huge fan and had been enthusing about it."

Dan's character Nick finds himself drawn into a privileged social circle in the drama.

"I think it is quite an awesome environment, the opulent high society – they've got a gorgeous house in Notting Hill, family homes that are enormous stately homes not far from London and they have extraordinary parties, the likes of which Nick probably hasn't seen.

"There is something quite seductive about the opulence and the grandeur that he experiences with the Feddens.

"Nick's got of natural charm and ability to adapt to the environment. I don't think he's intimidated by it, he's more excited and wants to be accepted by it.

"Very subtly over the four years of the story, as the boom of the mid-80s really kicks in, you see him fitting quite increasingly comfortably into the environment."

Integral to the plot is Nick's sexuality, first fully expressed with Don Gilet's character Leo.

"There's something quite exciting with Leo, I think, for Nick. As far as we know he hasn't had sex before and this is a first date with someone he's never met before. It's quite a risk – the first of many risks he takes in London.

"He's on a romantic quest to find this lover and he falls in love with Leo very quickly and easily."

Dan dealt with his first sex scenes on camera easily. "Don was great fun to work with and he made things very easy. It wasn't difficult; we just got on with them really."

"What we tried to do is make them look beautiful and to show that, particularly with the Leo relationship, this was a loving relationship. That first sex scene is Nick's first sexual experience and it's a great surprise and joy to him."

"It's not easy to do but I've never done any straight sex scenes on camera so I imagine they're just as hard to get right," he adds.

Dan's too young to remember much about the decade in which The Line Of Beauty is set.

"I was only three or four in 1986. It was really interesting interviewing my parents and people of my parents' generation who remember it like it was yesterday. I think I made them feel very old!" he laughs.

"What was interesting was talking to older gay men about what it was like being gay in the 80s.

"As well as AIDS, which was a physical disease, there was actually a disease rife in society which was to exclude the idea of love from a huge sector of the population.

"This idea of forbidden love was a huge problem. In the 21st century, I think it's fair to say, homosexuality is more accepted in Britain and it's wonderful that my generation has been able to grow up with that."

The music used in the drama didn't come as such a revelation to Dan though. "I'm a huge fan of 80s music," he says. My parents seemed to bypass 80s pop music, though!"

"What's great about the drama is you get the clash of classical and quite ugly electronic pop music – the port culture and the cocaine culture. You've got Chopin played at piano recitals and then you cut to the Rolling Stones or New Order."

"Saul really dug deep into the soundtrack of the era. He was always listening to CDs when we were shooting, trying to find interesting music, rather than playing something like Karma Chameleon."

Overall, Dan found filming an enthralling experience.

"I really was in at the deep end and on set all day every day. There wasn't a day when I wasn't filming over the nine-week shoot. Other characters would come and go so I sometimes felt like I was receiving guests on set!

"It was pretty quick but I think that's the best way to learn. People ask if I was terrified but I was actually really excited. It's what I've always wanted, a lead role in something."

At the moment, Dan is working with renowned stage director Sir Peter Hall in Hayfever, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket*.

"Hayfever's going really well, it's great fun. Dame Judi is wonderful. She's very, very supportive and great to learn from.

"I've really enjoyed the film work and I really love working in the theatre.

"I'm doing Noel Coward at the moment and I've done quite a lot of Shakespeare but I'd love to carry on doing both. We'll see. I've been a lucky boy."

The Line of Beauty is young actor Dan's first major screen role. Other TV credits include Henry in a Hallmark production of Frankenstein, alongside Donald Sutherland and William Hurt, and Macbeth in a production for BBC Education.

He studied at Cambridge University, where he started building up his CV with numerous stage parts. Discovered by Sir Peter Hall whilst doing his finals, he has appeared in three of his productions - including a performance as Orlando in As You Like It, for which he was nominated for an Ian Charleson Award.

He recently starred in the Sheffield Crucible production of Howard Brenton's Romans in Britain, directed by Samuel West. In this, the first professional revival since the play's premiere at the National Theatre in 1980 he played Maitland and Marben, a druid who is brutally assaulted by legionaries.

Dan is currently playing Simon Bliss in Peter Hall's critically acclaimed production of Hay Fever. Staged at the Theatre Royal Haymarket*, it stars Dame Judi Dench and Peter Bowles.

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    Episode 1
    Episode 2 transmitted 9pm, May 24 2006
    Episode 3 transmitted 9pm, May 31 2006


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