0 Comments | Add
Rate & Share:
X-MEN: Bruce Davison on Playing Senator Kelly
By Steve Fritz
July 17, 2000
When interviewing Bryan Singer, it was interesting to hear the X-Men
director only give a truly weighty testimonial to one actor and one actor onlyand that actor was Bruce Davison. This is a cast that includes such luminaries as Patrick Stewart, Sir
Ian McKellen, the beautiful Halle Berry, and rising TV star Jim Marsden. Still, when it came to singling out the talent, Singer picked Davison and his performance as Senator Kelly.
'I would have to give that credit to Bruce himself,' Singer said. 'He was the one who decided to play Kelly like he was family, like he was really accessible. If you notice, he did borrow a bit from Jimmy Stewart and turned his role into kind of Mr. Kelly Goes To Washington. Only in his private time do you get to see that he's really kind of dark and corrupted. Then again, that's something I've found interesting about politicians. A lot of them really do believe what they are talking about and are incredibly friendly. That's what Bruce brought to the film, a friendly, real
politician with a scary agenda.'
The truth be told, the year 2000 appears to be a good one for Davison. The actor most fans know from his days on Harry and the Hendersons
TV series regained serious critical attention when PBS brought its first original movie, Ursula K. LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven
, out of mothballs and put it back on the air this June. Having originally aired two decades ago, it reminded quite a few people not only that it was it a good movie, but also that Davison is a truly fine dramatic actor.
Now here he comes again as the soft-spoken, dangerously ambitious yet ultimately tragic Kelly. A lesser actor would have chewed carpet with this role while fans and movie audiences alike would have enjoyed every second of it. Davison played the man with a corn-fed charm that would have fit well on the likes of Dick Gephardt or Dan Quayle. Heck, Al Gore and George W. Bush could take notes from this role.
Then again, they probably are. As part of the entire X-Men
marketing campaign 20th Century Fox has the fictional Kelly also running for President. According to Davison, the gimmick has had bigger repercussions than anyone could have anticipated.
'Creating that Senator Kelly campaign has really done more to confuse reality with weirdness than anything I've ever done,' Davison admitted. 'There's been times when I find myself campaigning against Gore and Bush and doing pretty good.'
Still, when Singer's comments are brought to the fore, Davison is quick to return the compliment. 'I would like to add that having worked with Brian and his partner Tom DeSanto before,' says the actor, who was previously in Singer's Apt Pupil
(1998), 'I know the tremendous burden and baggage they carried when they took on this project. The X-Men's almost a religion. Tom and Bryan were scared of becoming the Salmon Rushdie's of the comic world. I think they were smart enough to research. It was one of the most heavily researched movies I've ever worked on. They really wanted to pay homage to the comic yet make a movie that was accessible. '
And for the non-comic loving fans of the audience, the character of Senator Kelly is the doorway to that access. In a strange sense, the film is not only about the recruitment of Wolverine and Rogue into the fold, but the transition Kelly undergoes during the film.
'I think that for the audience you had to have a character like Senator Kelly in there,' Davison agrees. 'I was already familiar with the history of Senator Kelly when I read the script. I couldn't help but think it was really kind of wonderful. There's really several times when he disappears only to return, only to be truly changed at the end. It's really a nice clothesline throughout the movie that ties the human race to the mutants. Kelly is the mutant's shoes that the audience eventually gets to walk a mile in. What I really think is important is that in the performance Kelly really hammers his points without being overzealous about them. I credit that to Bryan's directing.'
There's also the matter that Davison doesn't play Kelly like a truly evil comic book character. Much like the character of Kevin Conroy in Lathe of Heaven
, Davison plays Kelly with enough idealism that one could be hoodwinked into his anti-mutant cause. If anything, by the time the film is over, one is left with the impression that Kelly really isn't truly evil.
'I think the beauty of the X-Men is there really is no evil character,' says Davison. 'There are highly motivated characters. I would say that Magneto has a damn good reason for being the way he is and hating the human race. I think Senator Kelly also has some real fears.
'I should say that I've met a lot of politicians, and they are all idealists in some way or another,' he adds. 'They know they have to play a corrupt game, just like actors, producers and directors. They have to play that game in order to achieve power. I think the dividing line between good and evil for Senator Kelly is his quest for power. It's how he's using this fear for his own purposes. I would say that he has a real agenda, but it's also driving him to some evil intentions.'
As for his future, Davison is currently negotiating with LeGuin to do a full, theatrical remake of Lathe
. He also hinted that even though Kelly may have met a very comic book ending at the movie, one never knows if that truly means the character is dead and completely gone. After all, in the comic book world, you can have a dead body and that doesn't mean the character himself is permanently shelved in the hereafter.
Personally, given the performance Davison gives in X-MEN, this would be one comic book resurrection that a lot of fans wouldn't mind seeing either.