The Beast of Tonbridge

    Dan Stevens

    A HOLLYWOOD hunk who took up acting in Tonbridge was watched by thousands worldwide last week as he starred in Disney’s latest blockbuster.

    Dan Stevens, 34 – who played Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey – is the co-lead alongside Harry Potter star Emma Watson in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast.

    Stevens who, in 1996, won a scholarship to Tonbridge School at the age of 13, recently spoke with The Telegraph of his time at the independent.

    “These schools are built like castles. They have imposing façades and are run on very old English principles, and they are all trying to be echoes of each other,” he said, adding that he became ‘unruly’ – smoking, getting suspended and going on demonstrations.

    He was encouraged into the dramatic arts by teachers Jonathan Smith and Lawrence Thornbury, who he described as ‘this incredible duo’ and ‘an oasis of creativity’ who ‘championed what I was good at’.

    He has previously described Tonbridge as ‘where it all started’ and labelled his plays at Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School and Walthamstow Hall in Sevenoaks as ‘essentially a good way to get out of Tonbridge and meet girls’.

    In the film, which was released at the weekend to mixed reviews, Stevens spends the best part of two hours disguised as a 6ft 10in leonine monster.

    Audiences don’t even hear his normal voice in the film, as the star was manipulating his larynx to make it particularly growly. A move away from his normal soothing tones which have narrated more than 30 audiobooks, from Agatha Christie to Roald Dahl.