– by James Burns

This is the end of a franchise spanning two decades and a dozen films. No, not the Avengers, but Fox’s ever troublesome X-Men, and no matter how you feel about how the franchise has been handled, you can’t say it hasn’t been well cast. Boasting a colossal roster of characters, the X-Men universe has seen some of the greatest comic book casting ever; Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine alone rivals Christopher Reeve as Superman or Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman.

One particular Dark Phoenix cast member, Andrew Stehlin, New Zealand’s stuntman turned actor who is most famous for his roles in Lord of the Rings and 30 Days of Night, plays a member of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants named Red Lotus; but the part wasn’t originally his according to our recent interview.

LRM had a chance to talk over the phone with Stehlin this week about Dark Phoenix, how he got the role of Red Lotus, and even his preference between Marvel vs DC…

Let’s start by telling us a little bit about yourself.

Andrew Stehlin: All right, I’m from New Zealand. I started in the industry, the stunt industry, about 21 years ago, started on Lord of the Rings, and worked my way through quite a few of Peter Jackson’s movies, and started traveling around the world, which is an amazing thing, or else I would never have the chance to travel. I suppose I started the acting career in 30 Days of Night, as Arvin the vampire, and haven’t looked back.

LRM: What interested me about your story, Andrew, was that you had started in stunts and I was wondering what drew you to stunts first and then acting?

Stehlin: Right, I was hairdressing before I started any of this and I was on Hercules and Xena as an extra, and while there I saw the stunt performers doing their thing and I was thinking to myself: wow, I would absolutely love to do this job. I was doing martial arts back then and one thing led to another and my instructor knew the stunt coordinator that wanted to form a team to go down to Lord of the Rings, because all of the other stunt workers weren’t available because they were on Hercules and Xena. So, I went down to Wellington to start stunt work on Lord of the Rings.

LRM: So you transitioned over to acting, but do you like acting better than stunts, or do you like doing them both in tandem?

Stehlin: Well, I was doing a few little things in acting, because I figured that the whole time that we’re doing it we’re pretty much… acting. [laughs] But at the same time doing your thing. So when I got the role of Arvin, which was so incredible and I’m very grateful for, I really liked the fact that I really enjoyed it and I wanted to pursue that a bit more, but the whole fantastic thing about that was that I could tie the stunt work in with the acting and I think that directors and producers are looking for that now, actors that can do their own movements.

Now, I’m told there was an interesting story about how you’d come to get the role of Red Lotus, that you weren’t originally cast as Red Lotus himself but was doing the stunts for the character…

Stehlin: Right, I went with the stunt team from Australia led by Guy Norris, who’s the second unit director, and coordinated by Tim Wong. [Our coordinator] was Richard Norton and we had to come up with new mutants. So Richard came up with the idea of this guy having hair that extends out of his feet when he would battle and whilst we were doing this we had to visualize the whole thing because I don’t have hair. So as we were building this character up, finding out what his movements were and figuring out what kind of style he possessed, and we finally came up with the character, and we showed the second unit director, which was Guy Norris, and then Guy Norris showed Simon and the next question was who they were gonna get to play this guy, and Simon was like: well, let’s just get this guy to play it.

LRM: Speaking of the differences in the character, I noticed that this Red Lotus is a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants, where originally he was a member of the X-Men. Are there any other differences you can tell us about from this version of Red Lotus to the comic counterpart?

Stehlin: This version was a whole lot of mutants put together for the character and as an original character as well, with the hair doing its thing. So I think there’s quite a difference between the two characters.

LRM: Do you generally prefer heroes over villains? Or are you kind of more of a villain guy?

Stehlin: Yeah, I’ve always played the villain stereotypes. But I love the heroes, I love the villains, I love them both because they both have different stories to tell. It’s an amazing thing because it makes the show… well, it makes the show.

RELATED: Dark Phoenix’s Original Ending Was Apparently Similar To Civil War’s Ending

LRM: X-Men certainly has a lot of heroes and villains and this film has been a culmination of the whole series. What was it like working on a film with that kind of legacy?

Stehlin: Yeah, it was an amazing experience and journey just to work beside these amazing and talented actors. The journey with them, it didn’t really click until I was on camera next to them.

LRM: Do you have a favorite of the legacy X-Men characters?

Stehlin: I’d have to go for Wolverine. He is the fan favorite. He was definitely my favorite when I was younger, buying the comic books and I just loved his attitude and how he was just straight-forward, there was no mucking around. If you want to battle let’s battle, you know. If you want to go for a beer, let’s go for a beer.

LRM: Do you have a preference between Marvel and DC?

Stehlin: No preference at all. I find them both amazing and wonderful things and to be able to give the audience different characters because world-wide everyone loves their own superhero and everyone has a different preference, so they’re just giving them both sides of the coin, which is amazing.

LRM: Beyond your roles that you’ve played so far, is there any kind of big action franchise that you would really love to be a part of someday?

Stehlin: Well, to tell the honest truth I’d love to be a part of it all. Anything that involves acting, a whole lot of action, and a good storyline and amazing people then yes I’m in.

With that said, is there anything else you’d like to add to let your fans know that might be reading this?

Stehlin: I would just like to add, if you have a goal, go for it. There are no limits. Just be a good person and just believe in miracles.

Heartfelt words from a sweet guy. If you’d like to see more of Andrew then check out Dark Phoenix, in theaters now.

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