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Logan - Patrick Stewart DVD interview

Logan

Compiled by Jack Foley

SIR Patrick Stewart is an English actor whose stage, television, and film career has spanned almost six decades. After rising to prominence with a long run with the Royal Shakespeare Company, his first major screen roles were in the likes of Hedda and the I, Claudius mini-series.

Moving into American television and film he came to worldwide attention with roles like Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and its off-shoot films; as Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men series of superhero movies; the lead in the Starz TV series Blunt Talk, and voice roles such as CIA Deputy Director Avery Bullock in American Dad!.

In 2010, he was knighted for services to drama. In his most recent outing, Logan, from director James Mangold he stars opposite Hugh Jackman once again, turning in a highly memorable performance as Charles Xavier…

Q. Logan is set 12 years from now. If there were another X-Men film set before this film, would you consider playing the role again?
Patrick Stewart: Hugh Jackman has been on record for quite a long time now saying that this movie will be his last appearance as Wolverine. I knew that and I understood why he would make that choice, and I applaud him for it. But I didn’t reflect on that. This has not been like when I was in another franchise [Star Trek], where for seven years I worked for five days a week, ten months a year on the same project. This was intermittent.

We did an X-Men movie every three or four years. I was delighted and quite charmed when I learnt that this one was going to include my character because as I recall at the end of the last movie [X-Men: Days of Future Past] I wasn’t going to make it [laughs]. But here I am now. It was only a few nights ago, when I was watching the film with an audience for the first time, that I saw quite clearly that there is such sensitive appropriateness to the possible ending — not only of the Logan story but also Charles Xavier’s. I realised there would probably never be a better way of saying au revoir to this character. That is where I am now with my thinking.

Q. James Mangold said you were very courageous in embracing Charles Xavier’s dementia. Did you think about that at all?
Patrick Stewart: Not for a moment. I have lived and worked in Hollywood long enough to know that even success can be an albatross. You get stamped with something. I will never forget a very, very fine and well known director whose film I was campaigning to be in saying to me: “Look, you are a really good actor. I like you but why would I want Jean-Luc Picard in my movie?” There might have been moments before Logan when I thought: “If I do this and I really go for it, am I only going to get cast as geriatrics from now on?” I am not quite there yet [laughs]! Will people say: “Oh, no, we can’t have him playing a healthy, fit individual. He is just too weak and frail and old.” But screw it! It was so much fun.

Q. Was it a challenging thing to play?
Patrick Stewart: It wasn’t challenging at all. It is what I do. It is what actors do and when we get an opportunity to look at something that we think is interesting, we grab it. Sometimes even in my profession, life is less than interesting. But this role intrigued me and as it so happened I was already preparing for a stage role that I did with Ian McKellen in which I was playing a man not only with alcoholism but also with brain degeneration as well. I was already doing research into that.

Q. What research were you doing?
Patrick Stewart: I had met and talked with the great, now departed, Oliver Sacks about this. I consulted Oliver several times about roles and he was always wonderfully helpful. Then when I met James Mangold and found that he too really wanted to push into the depths of Charles’s distress and despair and confusion and anger and fury — as well as his unpredictability — I was all for it. And I enjoyed every aspect of it, particularly given that I was going to be sharing almost all of my time with Hugh.

Q. You have known Hugh now for 17 years…
Patrick Stewart: I was one of the X-Men sitting on set the day that this charming, young Australian turned up to audition for the Wolverine role and we all wished him luck. He came back from the audition and said [adopts Aussie accent], ‘Well, you guys are never going to see me again!’ We were already in production because the original actor cast as Wolverine [Dougray Scott] was locked into another film and couldn’t get out of it. So they had to recast and luckily it was Hugh Jackman who got the role. So knowing that I would be spending so much time with Hugh on this film it felt good because I knew that with Hugh I could take risks. I knew he would be taking risks. I knew enough about James Mangold to know that he would be supporting all of that and we really went for it.

Logan

Q. Did Dafne Keen impress you?
Patrick Stewart: When I was introduced to Dafne Keen [who plays X-23] it got even better from that moment on because she is the most extraordinary child. She is like a 12-year-old going on 45 and she brought so much commitment and concentration and passion and such bravery. There are not many children who would take the risks she took and it became a very, very creative time for all of us. Also, we had lots of laughs and a lot of fun surviving the challenging conditions in Louisiana.

Q. Did you know Dafne’s father, the actor Will Keen?
Patrick Stewart: I hadn’t realised that I knew him until he came on the set and then I realised I had seen him only a year earlier in a West End production that came to Brooklyn (which is where I partly live). Will Keen is a wonderful actor who gave a terrific performance in this Ibsen play that I saw. And her mother was there on set too. She is a distinguished Madrid actress. Dafne’s completely bilingual. She speaks English beautifully and as you see in the film, of course, she has Spanish at her fingertips. We had so much fun. We were stuck in a shitty truck for weeks and weeks in the 100-degree temperatures with 95 per cent humidity. And the air conditioning in the vehicle was pretty much useless. It only reached the front seats and I was in the back! But we played games, we did puzzles, we did quizzes, we sang songs. That was one of the great things for the three of us. I could see the crew looking in sometimes and thinking, ‘What the hell are those three doing in there?’ It was a marvellous experience.

Q. Were you impressed with the freedom that her parents allowed her in playing the role? Some parents might not want their child killing people on screen…
Patrick Stewart: Understandably, given what she has to do and given what she has to witness. So yes, but they are two very committed professionals themselves, dedicated to the work that they do. In Dafne’s story at first she just seems to be a kid playing with a bouncy ball. Then we discover that she is so much more, that she has been manufactured. She is a killing machine.

But during the course of the story she spends time with Charles and with Logan and we see her being affected by their company. Who would have thought that perhaps the most important scene in a comic book franchise film would be a very ordinary, domestic, dinner party scene, where six people sit around the table and talk? But it is vital and that scene has a very powerful impact on X-23, and on Charles too. Later on in the bedroom I said that was one of the best evenings of my life. So the role that Dafne plays goes from being a monster into a human being and when tears are coursing down her cheeks towards the end of the movie, we see that she has changed — that despite the fact that she has been constructed, there is enough power in kindness, affection, love, society and family life to change her. So I think that is enough justification for what happens to her.

Q. How important has this diversity been for you as an actor, doing Shakespeare and then these great sci-fi franchises?
Patrick Stewart: Diversity, from the very beginning, has been at the centre of the work that I do. Four weeks after graduating from drama school I didn’t have any work. Everybody seemed in my year to have an agent or a job but I had got nothing. I signed on at the labour exchange in Dewsbury in the West Riding of Yorkshire and said: “My career is over and it hasn’t even started yet.” Then I got an offer from a repertory company to join them in the Theatre Royal in Lincoln. It was weekly; rep was still weekly in those days. So every Monday morning we did a new play, a complete new production. And I loved it. I didn’t have much to do. I played small roles but I loved the constant transformations into something new. So I am always looking for a different sort of challenge. That is one of the things I loved about Logan, taking a character that was so familiar to me — a part of me in many ways — and turning it upside down.

Q. Logan is set in 2029, which is not that far away. What do you think about when you consider the future?
Patrick Stewart: There is a not a day goes by where I don’t think of my mortality. I am 76-years-old. I am married to a much younger woman and I cannot see her without reflecting on the differences in our ages and expectations and so forth. And this has been a horrible three or four years for my profession. My generation has been decimated. So many actors have gone. But one of the great things about being an actor, maybe the best thing, is that if you are working nothing is wasted. I recently had eight injections in my hands, four into each knuckle. After the third one I thought: “I can’t do any more. This is too unpleasant.” And then you remind yourself: “Come on, Patrick, this is all good experience.” Nothing is ever is wasted. You store it away and one day you might need it. I might need to pretend to experience some pain. Now I know what the hell it feels like. It is an interesting life.

Read our review of Logan

Logan is available on Digital Download on June 24 and on Blu-ray™ and DVD on July 10, 2017, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.