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W.Va. native villainous in 'The Dark Knight Rises'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Josh Stewart isn't sure what day it is, but that's understandable.

The 35-year-old native of Diana, Webster County, has been globetrotting this week for "The Dark Knight Rises" movie premieres. In the film, he's essentially playing the right-hand man for Batman's foe, Bane.

On Monday, he was in New York for the film's world premiere. Tuesday morning, he hopped a plane to London for the European premiere there Wednesday night. After that, it was back to his Los Angeles home Thursday morning. The film opened nationally at midnight Thursday.

All this comes a week after he wrapped shooting on the thriller "Event 15" with "Once Upon a Time" and "House" star Jennifer Morrison.

"I'm in take-a-breath mode right now," he said with a laugh.

The premieres, he said, were crazy but great. The English premiere was especially wild since the bulk of the core cast (Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman) as well as writer/director Christopher Nolan, are British.

The New York premiere was exciting because it was the first time Stewart got to see the film -- and it was in IMAX.

"Watching it, it's so big. It's bigger than life," he said. "Seeing it in IMAX made it even crazier. Just as a fan, as a moviegoer, it's a pretty unbelievable film."

"The Dark Knight Rises" is definitely the biggest film of the summer, and possibly of the year.

"You know going into it, before you even start, you know it's going to be something amazing," Stewart said. "You just go along for the ride."

He praised Nolan for his treatment of the Batman films. "He approaches them from a character-driven standpoint. The characters aren't just farces. They do some crazy things, but they're also really grounded."

He also has high praise for Tom Hardy, who plays Bane.

"Anybody that can put a mask on their face, cover half of their face, and be as intimidating on screen as he was with only his eyes is really a testament to what that guy has. He's got that thing you just can't teach."

But the actor, Stewart said, is nothing like the scary villain he plays.

"Tom is a big teddy bear. He's a larger-than-life character in real life. He's funny and fun to be around. He couldn't be a better dude."

Stewart worked on the film for six months, filming in the United Kingdom, Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles. He said things on set were very hush-hush.

"The shoot was so incredibly secretive. We all had to sign these crazy confidentially agreements."

He noted, "I was only given a portion of the script to read in my trailer in the U.K., and then I had to give it back. My character wasn't even in the script I read."

His character has no name. In the credits, he's billed as "Bane's mercenary." The designation of his role as Bane's right-hand man is unofficial, but he'll take it.

"If that's what you take from that, I'll go right along with it," he said with a laugh.

Stewart is the son of Diana residents Reggie, a retired schoolteacher, and Marjorie, who is still teaching. His first big acting break came in 2004 when he landed the role of Officer Brendan Finney on the TV series "Third Watch."

In 2007, he had a starring role in the FX series "Dirt," playing Holt McLaren, a once-promising actor determined to get his career back on track. He's also starred in the independent film "Lenexa, 1 Mile," the horror film "The Collector" and he had a role in David Fincher's Oscar-winning "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

And "The Dark Knight Rises" isn't his first superhero role. He played The Watcher in ABC's short-lived drama "No Ordinary Family," with Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz. When asked what superpower he would want if he could have one, he pointed to that show.

"Telekinesis. I had that on 'No Ordinary Family.' Everybody thought that was the coolest [power], and I'd have to agree with them."

Besides "Event 15," Stewart's other upcoming projects include "The Collection" (a sequel to "The Collector") and "The Big Valley," (based on the 1960s TV series), both due out later this year. He'll also surely pop up sometime next season on CBS' "Criminal Minds" since in this spring's season finale, his character, Detective Will LaMontagne, married JJ, the BAU agent played by A.J. Cook.

"There's no plan set in stone [for the future]," he said, "but I always end up popping in to do a few episodes."

Plus, there will be a Batman reboot at some point. Warner Brothers has already said as much. Maybe there will be room for a seasoned villain in that.

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4881.


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