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TIT

Patrick Stewart   ('X-Men 2') Patrick Stewart ('X-Men 2')
'The X-Factor Is Back'

Yorkshire-born actor Patrick Stewart boasts one of the best known bonces in Hollywood. Having made possibly his last Star Trek movie earlier in 2003 with 'Nemesis', he's moving on with the 'X-Men' franchise, in which he plays Professor Xavier.

Sitting down with the man hismelf, his eyes warm and inviting, his smile the same, his head dully gleaning in the lights of the hotel room, I first inquire as to why he'd made the comment that this film was like "being a giant leap forward" - career wise?! "I meant that it was a leap forward from the first movie, which I always felt was an expensive trailer. It was a film that was there to introduce the world of the X-Men, what their powers were, what the roles were. What is a triumph with this film is that it just goes straight into the story and we don't have to do a lot of complicated background work."

How do you feel about going from more classical roles to doing a movie like this? "I think that Ian McKelllen and myself were fortunate given the time when we started acting - we played a multitude of roles as a matter of course. I was 19 and played a role created by Ernest Thesiger, who was 86, and I made myself up to look 86. And the next week I was a juvenile, believe it or not! But, your question presumes something which has never been an issue for us [Stewart and McKellen]. There was a time I was first choice for comic roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Then I started playing neurotics after that, and now I seem to be playing these authoritarian figures."

Comic books have got quite a geeky image. Do you think 'X-Men' and other comic books have 'de-geekified' the image of comic books? "The popular notion of comic books would be Superman, The Beano, The Dandy and X-Men. There are also some very serious and very literary comic books. A film - not a great film - was made of 'From Hell', which is an outstanding piece of artwork and literature. There is another one called 'Trans Metropolitan', which is futuristic satire and is as clever as anything you'll see in Private Eye. I think where we are lucky with this is, although we have futuristic characters in a fantasy setting, the fundamentals of 'X-Men' are dealing with social, cultural, and political issues that are absolutely burning today, as much as they have ever been. Those of tolerance, acceptance, the status of the outsider, a fear of that which is strange and unknown. That is in almost every scene we play, it is all happening in a context which is serious."

Interviewed By Russell A. Trunk

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