Patrick Stewart: Things we learned speaking to the Logan actor

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Last week, we spoke with Sir Patrick Stewart ahead of his role in final Wolverine film, Logan, for The Independent's new podcast, Kernels.

During our chat, the esteemed thespian went into detail of his experiences filming the 15-certificate X-Men spinoff with Hugh Jackman and child actor Dafne Keen as well as shedding light on his future as Professor Charles Xavier, a role he's played seven times since 2000.

Stewart was also happy to reflect upon his prolific career in general as well as look ahead to future roles, one of which includes the Poop Emoji in an animated film about emoticons (yes, really). You can find the full podcast below.

Subscribe to Kernels on iTunes and podcasts apps here and follow the podcast @kernels, host @ChristophHooton and culture reporter @Jacob_Stol on Twitter. You can find episode 1 with Matthew McConaughey here.

On when he first heard about Logan

“I was a little surprised that there was another one. Then news of the content began to filter through – first of all, it might be a very limited number of us – then the script arrived. I had been told this is going to be quite a different Charles Xavier. [But] it wasn’t Charles that had the impact on me when I read these scripts, it was the description of the location of the first scene that I was in. When I read the description of where we were, I was immediately very interested – this is not Xavier’s magnificent comfortable beautiful home in Westchester County, Connecticut. And away we went. I was delighted.”

On whether Logan will be his final time playing Charles Xavier

“Hugh [Jackman] was sitting next to me, with James [Mangold] on the other side of him. and the audience were clearly very caught up in it and that was satisfying. It got into the last five or six minutes of the movie and Hugh's hand came over and he took mine and he squeezed my hand. He looked at me and he had big tears and, of course, that set me off. Here we are, the two X-Men wiping away the tears at our own movie! And then I thought while we were watching, 'My God, this is a goodbye ending. What could I possibly do that could top this? As I've lived with that idea over the past few days, I thought: 'Yeah, it's absolutely right that we should both of us just move on now.' The franchise won't die [without us].“ 

Logan - trailer

On his career beginnings

“Diversity and contrast have been important to me from the very start. When I graduated from drama school in Bristol, I didn’t have a job, an agent or anything. It seemed to be everyone else did except me, but after a month of signing on at the Labour Exchange in Dewsbury, I suddenly got an offer out of nowhere. I was introduced to variety from the beginning, so it’s stayed with me. I’ve never been interested in finding a Patrick Stewart persona and simply regurgitating it – and anyway, who’d be interested in Patrick Stewart? Very few people. It’s always for me been about performance and trying to produce the unexpected.”

On working with James Mangold

“I’d spent one day of filming with James in the past [The Wolverine's post-credits scene] and liked that. Now it was day after day after day. They had to shoot me out because I had another commitment, so I was only on the film for seven or eight weeks and I was working pretty much every day. I really like the way James worked. He’s fantastically prepared – not all directors are. Some come in and say, ‘Okay, what’s this about? Let’s take a look’ and make it up as they go along. But not only does he come with a very clear vision but then the moment that the actors begin to join that vision, he goes with it.”

On improvising in Logan

“There were occasions in one scene where James said, ‘Just improvise’. It’s the scene where the family is talking about wanting to have a vacation and the kid says, ‘I’m ready to drop out of school,’ and Logan says something like, ‘Well you know, be careful what you say, because [Xavier] used to run a school.’ James said, ‘When you get to that moment, why don’t you talk about your history a little bit more? Fill it out with something. Whatever feels appropriate to you.’ So we did an eight or nine-minute improvisation, Hugh and myself. Only one line of that improvisation actually makes it into that scene. It was then that I realised that I really have a history. Again it’s not in the movie, but I talked about Jean Grey and what she meant to me. I’d never talked about this before and it was all coming out. We loved it, it was terrific - and the [actors playing the] family were saying: ‘Where did all that stuff come from?’”

On his X-Men experience

“It’s always been a good experience being involved in X-Men. They’ve all been good ones largely because of the company I've kept: working with Bryan Singer three times, with Brett Ratner and now with James. And making friendships for life too. Of course my pal Sir Ian McKellen, that was already in existence. Logan gave me diversity, the chance to do something very different but so closely with Hugh, a person I know very well, in a contentious, angry, quarrelsome situation. It was the best experience in that respect.”

On the struggles of shooting in extreme heat

“The only challenges were the weather conditions. It was brutal. We had 100-degree temperatures and 95 percent humidity, there were crew members on drips, we had two fully qualified medics on set who were having to tend to people who were dehydrated. It’s not all a cushy comfortable life being a movie actor.”

On the first time he met Hugh Jackman

"I was siting on set the day he arrived to do an audition. All the X-Men were sitting around drinking coffee, reading newspaper, not at all like X-Men. This charming slender Australian guy came in and he said he was there to audition and he sat down and had a coffee with us and talked. They took him away and we thought, 'What a great guy.' He came back half an hour later and he said, 'Well, you guys are never gonna see me again.' Then somebody came and said: 'Bryan [Singer] would like to see you again.' Done."

On X-23 child actor Dafne Keen

“[She’s] amazing. The three of us were in that shitty truck for day after day after day. It was fantastic, we had so much fun and got on so well. When they’d say, ‘OK, we’re ready to shoot’ - total focus. No fucking about from her. [She was] ready to work and when she turned around and looked at you, you were looking at X-23. It wasn’t Dafne Keen.”

On Green Room

“The last movie I had come out was a movie called Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier’s thriller, and I saw that at what they call Midnight Madness in Toronto at the film festival. I had no idea that the audiences would go so crazy. They were fans of the horror genre. Oh wow, they were standing up and yelling. I just thought we were going to sit there and watch the film. It was great.”

On how he prepares to play the Poop emoticon in the upcoming Emoji Movie

“Two or three times a day [laughs]. We’re already in the middle of it. I’ve already done my recording on this. They wanted a very cultivated English voice - that’s the direction they're going with. I think it’s going to be fun; I like their ideas very much.”

On his career as a whole

“I feel incredibly fortunate because aspects of my career, not only did I never anticipate any of it, they weren’t looked for. I was a stage actor and the fact that somebody would employ me to work on the stage was enough for me. I did a bit of TV, but movies, Hollywood, it was la la land and a lot of it was accident - being at UCLA illustrating a friend’s academic lecture on Shakespeare; a producer of Star Trek signed up to the course of lectures. I say to my son who is also an actor, it’s a lottery, it really is. Always do the best work you can do, but don’t expect that it will lead to the next thing.”

‘Logan’ is in cinemas now

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