Monday, April 28, 2003
X2 JUNKET: PATRICK STEWART (PROFESSOR XAVIER)
QUESTION: So Professor, you are back?
STEWART: Oh yes, indeed. As we all are, I think, except for … I miss Toad and the big guy with the mane of hair. We're all back, and it's been a lovely experience and a terrific movie. I'm gung-ho about this movie.
QUESTION: It's bigger.
STEWART: It's richer, all-round. And we're not having to spend so much time telling everybody who we are and what we do. The first movie was in a sense like a very expensive trailer for X-Men. Now we're just telling the stories of the X-Men and the Brotherhood.
QUESTION: Was it fun getting back together with everybody?
STEWART: Oh, it was. And actually to be a little more involved with some of the characters that I hadn't seen much of in the early film. I particularly, in this case, enjoyed with Brian Cox and Alan Cumming, two of my UK acting colleagues. I've known their work for years, particularly Brian; we're the same generation. And we had never worked with before. And Alan, I had a been a fan of his work for a long time.
It's ironic that you get four British actors in this franchise, with very similar backgrounds. We're all stage actors with classical backgrounds. And that was a particular treat, to be working with the two of them and be reuniting with Hugh (Jackman) and Sir Ian (McKellen).
QUESTION: Do you have to be careful translating something that already has such a great following?
STEWART: There are plenty of keepers of the Grail around on this movie to make sure that what should be preserved is preserved.
QUESTION: You can't approach it tongue-in-cheek or make fun of it?
STEWART: No. And I think that's been a weakness of movies of this kind in the past. It's serious and it's real. The world that we're inhabiting is the world that's actually out there on the streets. Or if it's not there yet, it will be very soon.
I don't think it's fair to do that. And I never thought it was fair to that in Next Generation, which is why one morning show wanted to have their weather man on the Enterprise, I made such a fuss. Because I just through it was inappropriate. We spend so much of our time trying to persuade our audience that this is a futuristic world where these things are happening and then you undermine it with stuff like that.
I think that we have to be convincing. And I look at it as being in part my job as Charles Xavier to give an intellectual and moral substance to what we do. He's a serious man.
I have some jokes in this movie, though.
QUESTION: Is Star Trek over?
STEWART: I suspect that Next Generation is over. It's a little bittersweet, that, because all of us - producer, director, writer, cast - had thought we had made probably our best movie. And we thought that right up to the morning that it opened.
I sat here in a cinema at Times Square at 12 noon, a packed cinema, and I came out of it thinking, "We've really done it this time." But we hadn't. All of us haven't quite recovered from the dismay of finding that our audience just seem to have drifted away. The studio called it franchise fatigue.
So, 20th Century Fox beware!
I was so proud of that movie and the content of it and the seriousness of it and how it was shot and so forth. I've talked to people in England the past three week while I was rehearsing and they've said, "I loved your series, It was great." These are people I run into. And they say, "Oh, I've bought the DVDs."
And I say, "What did you think of the movie?" And it's, "Oh, I didn't see it. And they can't explain why. "Oh, it was Christmas." The timing of the release was bad.
QUESTION: Star Trek fans are known for their fanaticism. Were you hesitant to take another role with those types of fans?
STEWART: Well, I was hesitant, but it had nothing to do with the fan base. I just thought to connect with a similar concept - it's not science fiction, it's fantasy - might not be the smartest thing to do.
And I resisted for some time. I was arguing with Bryan (Singer, director) and Lauren (Shuler Donner, producer) that maybe it wasn't in the best interest of this new franchise of someone in such a key role bringing a lot of luggage with him. And Bryan argued that that was a bonus. And he was so exciting as he talked about his plans for the movie, I finally found it irresistible.
And I wasn't thinking in terms of a franchise. But I didn't know X-Men. I had no idea - just as I didn't know Star Trek - its impact and its status out there in popular culture.
I suppose someone out there is looking out for me in that as one franchise is bringing down the curtain, another one is storming to the front.
QUESTION: Bryan faces an incredible challenge with all these characters and the scope of a film this big.
STEWART: He does it very slowly. You cannot rush him. He is the most methodical, most careful director I have ever worked with. And if he's not ready to shoot because he doesn't think everything is right, he just doesn't shoot. The cameras sit there cold. And he will not commit the camera to something he is not absolutely convinced he wants in the movie.
Sometimes that can be a little frustrating. Sometimes that means there can be a lot of waiting. But you know that it's nothing more than an absolute determination to be authentic and accurate and truly within the world that he's trying to represent.
QUESTION: He's a perfectionist.
STEWART: That perfectionism - and Bryan indeed is a perfectionist -- that's a valuable thing to have in a franchise. There's no sloppiness. And we see a bit of sloppiness sometimes in other movies.
There's no kind of nudge, nudge, wink, wink about it at all. It's very serious.
QUESTION: This film kind of kicks off the summer movie season.
STEWART: I think this is going to set the bar for the summer.
QUESTION: Have you been a fan of the summer movie genre?
STEWART: No, not especially. Cinema going still for me is a treat because I don't get to go that often. Then there is the seduction that the Academy tapes will come around and I have a screening room. Why should I go out and wade through popcorn in order to see a movie?
But I still believe in public entertainment. I'm a stage actor. And there are some films that I would always see in a cinema. The classic case to me is that I could never forget the Sunday night in Westwood Village, seeing Schindler's List in a packed cinema. The experience I had there I could not have had in my screening room. Because it was a communal experience. Everybody was just being overwhelmed with the same set of feelings. Although Steve Spielberg manipulated that in the way he shot the movie, he was not responsible for what those people were feeling. So the film was being enhanced by the communal experience.
That's one of the reasons why I'm a stage actor. Because I get that eight times a week.
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