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X3: Patrick Stewart Tells All

By Chris Brown     May 17, 2006

SPOILER WARNING: This Q & A with Patrick Stewart contains MAJOR revelations about the events depicted in 'X-Men: The Last Stand'..

Comics2Film's thechrisbrown sat down with Patrick Stewart out in NY to discuss X-Men: The Last Stand.

He came in the room, an immensely dynamic personality, smiling. He was told to sit at the Captain's Chair, we all had a nice laugh, were told that the Star Trek jokes end there and jumped immediately into X3.

Due to a rather major event in the film, the room was abuzz with questions of a spoilerish nature. Most of this interview revolves around some major events in the film, so you might want to avoid this if you don't want to know too much. Feel free to jump to the bottom where he briefly discusses JJ Abrams Star Trek revival, as well as a Magneto prequel.

PS: I flew in from London yesterday and saw the movie last night. For the first time.

Q: With us?

PS: Not with you. No. There were five of us that watched the movie last night, and uh I was very very pleased. Exciting, intense experience watching that movie.

Q: Did all of your friends like it?

PS: Well, yes. It was me and Jimmy Marsden, from the movie, and my partner, and my son. That was it. And we were all blown away by it. So, you know, my son is an X-Men fan, so I was getting, you know, the layman's point of you. So, it was, it was very positive.

Q: So, looking now, you know, comparing Brett and Bryan's direction. What was the biggest difference for you?

PS: It's interesting to see ... I'm going to take my jacket off ... It's interesting to see the movie now because, of course, we've been asked that question since day one of the movie back in, well, once we started. And ... (there's a pause as he thinks about his response) ... they have so many things in common that it was hard to talk about the differences. Seeing the movie now it's much easier to talk about the differences because the, um, the level of high intensity and high energy that Brett has on the set is very much reflected in the way this movie has been made. He seems not to have any concept of what, um, uh, hanging out, relaxing, being cool is because he's always, you know, high powered and the thing with, this is very much reflected in the movie. It's visually creative without being, um, irritating, because sometimes it can be. He's given a unique look to the film, his use of the camera, and editing particularly. Um, and has given ... so overall there is a, it seems to me, a sustained level of intensity with this movie, whereas with Bryan's depiction, which I admired immensely, (he coughs) excuse me, great filmmaker, there were, uh, more, um, perhaps more variety and variance in tone at times, but I think this is just going to wind people up and blow them around the auditorium. I hope.

Q: What was ... was one of the biggest draws for you, to this project, the fact that you did get to have a death scene?

PS: I didn't know I had a death scene when I signed on to do the movie.

Q: So they didn't consult you at all about the fate of the character?

PS: Um, you know something about the rather checked history of this film in pre-production.

Q: A little tumultuous ... I heard ...

PS: They had two directors and one film. And Brett came in with an absurd amount of ... in fact, he didn't really have prep time. Brett was prepping every day that we were on the set. It was ... It must have been exhausting. He was just trying to keep one step ahead of the camera rolling. Umm ... (long pause) when I saw the first draft of the script, which, I think, is the one that came to the second director. They said, "Give us your response when you see it," and in that, indeed, Xavier dies. So we began to talk about it then. The main concern, which was very much a Marvel concern, was if this is going to be an ongoing franchise, we can't kill off the leader of the X-Men, because anyway it's breaking the line of what the comic book story has been. And, uh, then when Brett was on board, his first response to this in the first phone conversation we had, because I was filming in England, was, "We can't let Xavier die. It's just crazy. We cannot erase this man from the X-Men franchise." So then the conversation became and, of course, none of this could be talked about at the time, became, "What do we do?" And, umm ... Nobody told me how this film ended. Um, I was aware there were three endings. There was an ending I'd read in one script. There was an ending that I filmed in the first days of production when we were out on Vancouver Island, which was never on the call sheet. There was no documentary evidence that this scene had ever been shot.

(Everyone has a good laugh)

PS: And we were also told, "You don't talk about this, you don't talk about it to the rest of the cast ..." Just a few people were in on the scene. This is the scene with the guy in the bed.

Q: Right, right ...

PS: And then Ian, Sir Ian called me up, um, a few weeks ago and said, "You might be interested to know I'm filming this scene in London." He said, "I'm playing chess." And I said, 'ok, who are you playing with?' He said, "Well, they haven't told me who I'm playing with, I don't know. And they say this is going to be the end of the movie." So, um, last night was a somewhat novel experience, when you sit down and watch a movie in which I had no idea whether the ending would or would not involve me. And we, of course, were all on our feet half way through the credits and were urged to sit back down again by the Fox people... (laughter)

(laughter continuing)

Q: They told us the same thing.

PS: Did they?

Q: "Don't leave, we have a surprise for you at the end."

PS: Yeah, and what a surprise. And that's the scene that we shot, it's a fragment of it with Olivia Williams, who is a wonderful actress, I don't know if you know her work, but it's incredible that Olivia is playing that role, after seeing her playing a leading role in a movie in England. And, uh ... It's ... open again or something ... as, uh ... what was I going to say ... Maybe it was Kelsey just now in the holding suite that said, "Maybe this thing wears off."

Q: And it also seems to be, not to drag your other franchise into it, but it does remind me a little bit of Star Trek in that when they killed off Spock, but wanted to bring him back, that whole idea of transferring your consciousness to somebody else it almost gets more into a spiritual bubble at that point ...

PS: And that's interestingly set up, I mean I don't know whether you recall it, but there's a scene where I'm giving a class and I talk about a little bit of it ...

PS: I didn't realize, also, that Olivia was in the memorial service, either, I missed seeing her there, somehow. So, they're planting these little seeds all over.

Q: Did you happen to meet the other two directors?

PS: Oh, of course I talked to Bryan because he's a good friend, and, uh, I knew quite a bit about what was happening there, you know. And then he was gone, and, unfortunately ... um ... Meetings kept being set up for me, and um ... come on, help me.

Q: Matthew ...

PS: Matthew Vaughn. But I was filming in Manchester ... and he was going to fly to me, I was supposed to go to him. And then suddenly Matthew wasn't there, either. (He raises his voice, excited) And then, suddenly, there was Brett on the phone.

(The room breaks out into laughter.)

PS: And, uh, his enthusiasm and his energy and his determination, I was saying, you know, 'Can you do this? How can you start shooting?' He was very convinced, he thought it could be done. That's when we talked quite a lot about it. Really, the only subjects in advance that concerned us, were what is going to happen to Xavier and how much do we need to go into the background relationship with Jean?

Q: In the final scene with you and Jean, Magneto. How did that go? Did you know ... that you were going to be, like, I can't think of a word that quite describes what happened to you ... vaporized ... Well, it's kind of like he's shattered, no less ...

PS: Yeah, they talked me through that, you know, the directors are good. And through my experience with Star Trek, I'm mostly used to asking them, saying, 'I need you to tell

(Patrick is extremely animated, so everyone has a good laugh.)

Q: Right.

Q: In that scene with you and Famke, where, she knows that she gets to kill you ...

PS: Yeah ... (laughing)

Q: What a horrible weight to bear.

PS: Yes, indeed it is. Well, you know, she's got big broad shoulders, she can live with that.

(laughter ensues at the thought. Patrick flashes a devious smile)

Q: Explain that smile.

PS: What?

Q: (laughing) I said, explain that smile, please.

PS: Well, I think that was my input into the thing. Um, you see, what I didn't know, what wasn't actually quite clear in the script and this was a problem sometimes, an unknown element in this filming, that we didn't always quite know what stage the script was at and what work was being done. I was not aware that around the final confrontation with Jean and Xavier, Wolverine and Storm were fighting their way towards us. I thought the art of that scene was about us in that room and that's where we were and the whole scene played out there. I didn't realize that we kept going out to this tumultuous battle. And nobody told me the whole house lifted off the foundation.

(The room bursts into excited laughter.)

Q: Well, you were busy at the time.

PS: Well, yes ... And, thank goodness, Brett did say, "And just before the end, the last person who is witnessing this, is ... Magneto's in the kitchen ... and she's right in front of you, is that you see Wolverine ... manages to get into the room." He didn't say that he was upside down on the ceiling. And I said, 'Well, maybe after the last word to Jean, the last bit of advice, like, you know, he knows ...' my thought was that he lets go, and stops fighting. Um, accepting the inevitability of his fate, and says to her, 'Just try and keep in control of it. That's all.' And then turning and saying goodbye to Wolverine. That's what the smile is about.

Q: To that end you're saying that Xavier's letting himself go, he's saying goodbye, then what is your opinion of that last scene where you find out that Xavier is, perhaps, not dead? Do you feel that serves the story, or does it serve to not kill Xavier?

PS: Well, I think it will serve the story in that it will become a subject for conversation ... (laughing) ... I think, in a lot of chat rooms. Particularly given the nature of this franchise. People will see this movie more than once.

Q: Absolutely.

PS: So as far as the Xavier's cured storyline is concerned. The lecture, the little video clip that I show at the beginning. It's a little bit like watching ... I watched "Don't Look Now," one of my all-time Top 10 movies ever. You know the movie I'm talking about? I never realized that right at the beginning of that movie when Donald Sutherand is sitting over his work table, and the little girl is playing, the children are playing outside, before the girl drowns, and he is studying a photograph, a color photograph of the interior of the church and right there in the foreground of the shot, sitting among the pews, is a figure with a red cloak on, the figure that will terrifyingly appear. It's already there. The ending of the film is marked, right in front, of course he doesn't know what he's looking at. And when I saw it, it gave me goose bumps, because I'd missed it the first time around. Great moviemaking. So, these threads being dropped in like this, and, it's, I think it makes for interesting, challenging storytelling. Have you all seen the French movie that came out about the family, guy's are getting curious tapes sent to them ...

(There's some rumbling from the table. Trying to figure out the title of the film.)

PS: Have you seen it? Well, again it's like this, you have to watch this film so carefully because you're not going to learn what's going on, unless, you kind of have to sit with peripheral vision, because something might happen down here, that's going to be really important in an hour's time.

Q: So, you're saying that to go back and rewatch it, there are hints that Xavier might come back as opposed to being thrown in at the end?

PS: I think there might be.

Q: So, will Scott come back as well, or does he have ...

PS: Who?

Q: Scott ... who was vaporized at the beginning of the movie ...

Q: We never see a body.

PS: We don't quite know what she did to him, we can only assume, given what we see her try to do to Wolverine, and what she does do to Xavier, that it's something similar, but her relationship with Scott was different from both of ours. So it is possible. I personally love it, because I love Jimmy Marsden, so it's always horrible when you lose people in movies. I hate that.

(Laughter.)

Q: So, you are open to X-Men 4?

PS: Oh, most certainly, yes. This is, uh, my (clears throat) ... my acting, my working life has undergone something of a transformation in the last couple years (clears throat) excuse me, and, um, I'm going down a, I'm set out on a journey (clears throat), I'm so sorry, which, uh, is in a sense a new journey, but is also a return to my roots. So, now I'm back working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and doing an in ... it's just good fortune that I don't have performances this weekend. Um, I'm back in two plays with the RSC, and this is where I spent 15 years of my life, so I drive through the countryside every day and I go and I do a show and I do 3 1/2 hours of a show and I get home at midnight and I'm happier than I've been in many, many, many years.

Q: You look happier.

PS: Thank you. Oh, thank you

(Laughter)

Q: Not that anything has ever been wrong with you, but you look, kind of, more rested than you have.

PS: Well, I just had a mini-vacation, but I'm finding the work so profoundly satisfying. Um, intellectually, and emotionally, and I'm back on stage, which is, as I said in the elevator, it's my day job. You know, that's what I do.

Q: And this is?

(Patrick laughs.)

PS: This is the ... this is why I feel myself to be so blessed as an actor, and I know Ian feels the same way, too. Ian's going to be in the same seat. Ian's playing King Lear in the same Stratford season that I'm in, playing Antony and Prospero. But we have this work, which we want to do, which is why we became actors, to do these great dramas, and yet, we're attached to these thrilling, major projects like X-Men, which allow us to use all of our skills that we have from our backgrounds, working with outstanding people, directors, technical staff, a cast of actors, I mean, I just left that room down there and you look around and think, 'My God, the talent that is here in this room.' So, to find, as I'm beginning to find, now, a balance between all that work and all of this marvelous film work, is exactly what I want to do. So, yes, indeed, the possibility of reconvening to find out what might be happening to the X-Men and the mutant population, is irresistible.

Q: Regarding, the recent talk of JJ Abrams going back, what's your feeling about recasting Kirk and Spock?

PS: I don't know. I don't know very much. I just got a call from L.A. a few weeks ago saying, "You're not going to believe this, but the people at Paramount, the new people are very interested in reviving the franchise." Abrams is a huge fan of Star Trek. Beyond that, I know nothing at all. Frankly, I'm astonished, but then the studio, which was the old regime at Paramount, they made it pretty clearly that after "Nemesis" that was goodbye, I never quite knew why because John Logan and Brent Spiner had an absolutely brilliant storyline for another movie, but they put us to sleep. So, it's ... I'll just watch that space with interest, whether it involves me or any of the Next Generation cast, who knows, but it's interesting to hear there's strong enthusiasm at the studio for going down that path one more time.

Q: Now, FOX is also developing a Magneto prequel that would deal with the younger days and the early relationship with Xavier and Magneto ...

PS: How young can they make Sir Ian and me look?

Q: Well, I interviewed Sir Ian last week and he said, that using the technology that is employed at the beginning that you guys could reprise your roles. Would you be open to that, or would you rather, see maybe someone else pick up the mantle of Xavier for that project?

PS: If they're really looking at the early days, a real Prequel should feature young actors.

Q: Who could play you?

PS: My son.

(The room breaks out into laughter. Patrick is set to depart.)

Q: Thank you for your time.

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