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After 17 years, it’s the end of an X-Men era.
Sir Patrick Stewart, 76, plays the powerful Marvel mutant professor Charles Xavier for a seventh (and likely final) time in Logan, a third Wolverine-centered film starring Hugh Jackman that opens Friday. Few actors know what it’s like to play character for so long over so many movies, and even fewer are as respected as Stewart for the work. Stewart’s Xavier has been the wise father figure of the franchise, but in Logan he gets to show off an entirely new, vulnerable side to the character (who ever imagined the professor would drop so many F-bombs in a Marvel movie?).
In a conversation with Heat Vision, Stewart reveals X-Men‘s themes can teach about the Trump era and why the former Starfleet captain doesn’t “think about Star Trek much these days.”
X-Men always has focused on the persecution of minorities. Is Logan more relevant in the age of Trump?
Life is imitating art, because the world has caught up with our subject matter. There is one dominant objective for all the good characters in the movie. They want to reach a border, to cross it and to be safe on the other side. We are living in a world where thousands of people are attempting to do just that. And there are a lot of people who are bent on not just stopping them, but destroying them. That is at the very heart of the X-Men franchise. Given that we now have an administration here in D.C. who are intent on pursuing a policy which will not just slam the door on refugees and others who wish to live in the United States, but we’re building walls to keep them out. We are isolating ourselves against these people, but in doing so, against the rest of the world and the otherness of people, whether it’s color of skin, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual makeup is now considered “other” and suspicious. In this respect, we are hurtling backward and not forward, although the objective is to “Make America Great Again,” it is having exactly the opposite effect.
Jackman has said he is done with the X-Men. What about you?
This only struck me as forcefully when we premiered the movie in Berlin at the festival. And I sat alongside Hugh Jackman, who is on record saying this is his last appearance as Wolverine. It made it a fairly memorable and intense and needless to say emotional moment. … Whether or not there could possibly be another movie in which Charles Xavier existed, there could never be a better way of saying goodbye to the franchise than this film. And so that’s where I am.
James McAvoy has played a younger Xavier. Have you thought of someone playing a younger Captain Picard?
I’m a big fan of the new Star Trek films and of their cast. Big fan. But I don’t think about Star Trek much these days. It was a long, long time ago. And for me, that is finished business. I don’t at all reflect on who might play a younger or a middle-aged Jean-Luc. I am extremely proud of the work that we did on the television series and our four movies, and I enjoyed it immensely, … [but] we move on in this business.
You’ve said movie producers didn’t want to hire you after Star Trek ended because they didn’t want to put Captain Picard in their movie. Has that improved in recent years with roles in things like Green Room, where you played a neo-Nazi?
I hope the last few years indicates that it has, because it was a frustrating aspect. It never affected my theater work, which is always 50 percent of what I do. Quite the opposite. Stage producers see my associating with a big film franchise, whether it’s Star Trek or X-Men, as being an advantage.
Your X-Men co-star and close friend Sir Ian McKellen has been in the same boat in some ways there.
We just finished a six-month run of a play in the U.K. and there was not a seat for every single performance in those 18 weeks. Ian and I are realistic to know that that was in part a result of our relationship with Lord of the Rings and X-Men and Star Trek. They are perhaps coming to see Jean-Luc Picard and Gandalf. The fact is they come. It has been, over the years, at times a little frustrating, but with movies like Green Room, with movies like Match — I have a romantic comedy coming out in the summer with Glenn Close and John Malkovich — finally, this issue might have been laid to rest, and people are beginning to see that actors who are in franchise movies are actors and what they do is always a contrast to perhaps what they are best known for. I am hopeful about that.
Nothing seems less Patrick Stewart than voicing the Poop Emoji in The Emoji Movie. Did you revel in doing something rather undignified?
Are you saying that poop is not dignified? I take offense at that remark! I got a call from my agents. They said, “Listen, something rather unusual has come up.” I met with the producers, and I was amused and charmed and very happy to take on this role.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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Melvin Van Peebles