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FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2006

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND'S PATRICK STEWART

NEW YORK -- The Continuum continues its features on the actors of X-Men: The Last Stand today, with a question-and-answer session with Patrick Stewart, who returns as Professor Xavier.

Following is an edited transcription from a roundtable interview from the X-Men press junket. Specific plot points regarding the fates of characters were removed.

Question: What did you think make of the opening scene, when they did something to make you look younger?

Stewart: Did it work?

Question: Yes, but I thought it was done with makeup.

Stewart: They did very, very little with makeup. They have written this computer program for aging as well as making faces younger, so there were different elements to it -- how we looked. The makeup department did a little bit of that, then knowing that we were going to be smoothed out somewhat.

But then there's also the fact that 20 years ago I was physically a different sort of person. I was moving differently and all of that. So Ian (McKellen) and I were interested in what we could do to subtly suggest that we were 20 years younger. There's 18 months in our age difference.

It was a very interesting little acting exercise to work on those scenes. But I had not seen the final effect of the work that they'd done -- the enhancement -- until last night. I thought it was quite successful. I wish I'd had Ian with me. It would have been amusing to compare. Maybe later on we'll freeze-frame and compare.

Question: How surprised were you when you got the script that it was effectively a supporting role?

Stewart: Xavier has essentially been a supporting role in all of them. I have been unconscious or half-dead or in some sort of stasis in each one of the movies. I've disappeared from massive sections of these movies for one obvious reason, you cannot put Xavier in the middle of an action sequences. So the moment they start building to that they've got to find a way of dumping him. This time they found a very effective way.

It didn't feel like a supportive role. And watching it last night, it didn't feel like a supporting role.

I don't think I had any less to do in this film than to do in this film, than either of the other two. Because of these big chunks of the first films where I wasn't around.

Question:It seemed like you had more to do, almost.

Stewart: It felt that way to me, too, last night watching it. There was more than I remembered actually shooting. It was so spread out over such a long period of time, the different sequences.

Question: Can you talk about the change in directors? Does it mean that much to you guys?

Stewart: Well, I think it was difficult for everyone and there was, a large measure of disappointment, not to say, dismay, when we heard that Bryan (Singer) was not going to be on the project. He called me to tell me that and for a little while I found it hard to conceive of what it would be like now going into this with a new director.

And Matthew (Vaughn), I knew his work, but I'd never actually met him. I was filming a project in Manchester, in the north of England, and I couldn't get away from there. There was talk of him flying over. Anyway, the next thing I hear, Matthew has also left the project. He and I never had a conversation.

< And at that stage I hadn't seen a script anyway, so I didn't know what we were talking about. I'd had a conversation with (Fox honcho) Tom Rothman about what would be the implication of Xavier not making it to the end of the movie. What if we lost Xavier? What would this mean? Then if we were to do that would there be any possibility of what way we could bring him back. . But I was only having those conversations with the studio. They were not, in a sense, really creative conversations.

Then one day my phone rang in Manchester and this voice said "Hi Patrick, it's Brett! We're going to make this great movie! It's going to be fantastic! It's going to be brilliant!"

And Brett was on board, with a vengeance. ...In choosing Brett they chose a man who just made it happen, whose energy is so enormous and whose technical skills are so complete that he wasn't at all fazed by it. Once we started filming, he was just trying to keep one day ahead all the time which, on a project like this, is very demanding.

Question: Did you feel there was a darker tone to this one?

Stewart: Inevitably, given that the film begins with the death of Jean Grey still hovering over it and the massive impact that losing Jean had on the X-Men. Then the early introduction of this cure.... There appears suddently to be a fragility to the X-Men.

Then these questions are beginning to be asked, mostly by Wolverine about Xavier's moral right to have all these year been denying Jean full capabilities. And in a sense he may have been doing this to everyone who was in his school and under his power, that there had been a certain amount of personality control going on.

Question: Naw, Xavier wouldn't do that.

Stewart: I didn't see it like that, but at some point somebody's got to start asking questions about what was his right to treat Jean Grey in this way that she had been treated. He was responsible for her and brought her into the school. So inevitably there is a darker tone to it, and the last hour of the film gives you a sense that everything might be lost. It's in the balance. I don't think that in the first two I ever felt that. I felt that our heroes would pull though in the end, but there is a sense in this, largely because of Jean's presence and what she's doing.

Question: The title has an air of finality to it.

Stewart: The studio is sticking to their line that this is it, until we all meet up next week in Cannes. We shall see.

Question: Up until a few years ago American comics had a bad reputation for being silly. But the breadth of the worlds like X-Men and Star Trek, every emotion happens. Do you look at them as Shakespearean in a way?

Stewart: I have done that for years, yes. You're probably aware that there was a time when I started making these comparisons between the world of classical theater and Star Trek because I saw so many overlapping areas.

People have asked me, why are people like Kelsey (Grammer) and you and Sir Ian and Hugh Jackman, who has a significant stage background, how does it come about they get guys like you in these movies? Is it accidental? I don't believe it is accidental.

Whether it's science fiction or fantasy, and especially those that are based on a comic, a heightened naturalism about everything. We're not making Capote here when we make these movies. We're not making Brokeback Mountain. This is not that kind of detailed naturalism. It's not a recognizable world that's right out there. Everything is larger than life. Everything is heightened. Even the language is heightened.

Question: We've not discussed Star Trek at all because there is no Star Trek to talk about. How sad is that?

Stewart: It's not sad at all. It was seven years of a television series followed by four movies. With each one of the last two movies we were asking ourselves seriously, "Have we outstayed our welcome with this?"

For me the most important thing is that I see my pals as much as possible. We are a very tight group, the Star Trek group.

But now I hear talk of a possible resurrection of the franchise at the studio. There are new people at the studio who are very keen to look again at Star Trek, I'm told. JJ Abrams is a big fan and interested. I know nothing more than that.

Question: Any change or movement in the possible Trasmetropolitan cartoon?

Stewart: Oh no, I'm afraid that along with so many other projects from the days when I was a producer in Hollywood...oh, that's such a joke. I've practically wound up my company now.



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