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Bard for life

X-Men: The Last Stand took 20 years off Patrick Stewart's life
By GARY SUSMAN  |  May 26, 2006

Patrick Stewart

NEW YORK -- Patrick Stewart is 65, though you might be fooled into thinking he's 45 when you watch the prologue of X-Men: The Last Stand, thanks to software that makes him and Ian McKellen appear 20 years younger. "It was delightful to watch," Stewart says at the film's Manhattan press junket. "They didn't do a lot with makeup. They took the gray out of my eyebrows. But we also needed, in the performance, to think about being 20 years younger, the way we sat, the way we moved. I feel it now. Our bodies move differently. There's a fluidity which I don't have anymore, not to the same extent. So watching it made me smile a few times."

Like Charles Xavier and Magneto, Stewart and McKellen are old friends, and their partnership is extending to the stage this year; both are involved in the Royal Shakespeare Company's season presenting the complete works of Shakespeare. "Everything that he wrote or might have written, you can hear on an RSC stage in the next 12 months. I'm opening the season with Antony and Cleopatra, and Ian is closing it with King Lear. And in the middle, I'm doing The Tempest. So I'm committed for the next 12 months to the company and to Shakespeare. "

Stewart's decision to return to the stage has all but halted his film career. "I haven't talked to my agent for months. We have nothing to say to one another," he says. "I do have an exciting project I hope I'll be filming. John Logan has done a brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, set in the present day, which Michael Almereyda will direct. I'm coproducing, and I will play Shylock. We're assembling a wonderful cast, including Sir Ian, and we're hoping to be shooting this in November or December."

Whatever the future of the X-Men franchise, Stewart says of Last Stand, "This is it. I made this conscious decision two years ago to rebalance the work I was doing. It meant leaving Hollywood and returning to live in the UK. I needed to get back to the work that had originally made me become an actor. I was missing it. Years were going by. There were many roles I haven't played that I'm too old to do now. A couple of people have even commented that I'm too old to play Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. (I don't think that's true, but it did come up.) I had a lot of catching up to do, so I made a 15-month commitment to the RSC. Other than things like my appearance in Extras with Ricky Gervais, that's it."

Moving from the center of a mega-budget action film franchise to the 450-seat theater in Stratford gives Stewart confidence, he says. "It's very pleasing, being able to step onto the stage and say, 'Not only am I Mark Antony, but I'm also Charles Xavier and Captain Jean-Luc Picard,' all these things you carry with you."

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  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Movies, Ian McKellen,  More more >
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