A Kiwi stuntman and actor has taken on his biggest role to date in the upcoming superhero blockbuster, X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
Andrew Stehlin plays the role of Red Lotus in the long-awaited instalment in the X-Men franchise, which is released in New Zealand on June 6 after being delayed due to extensive reshoots.
Stehlin's role as the mutant Red Lotus, who serves as Magneto's (Michael Fassbender) right-hand man in the film, was created after his stunt work on the film was noticed by its director, Simon Kinberg.
"There was a stunt team that went over to Montreal from Australia - Guy Norris, he was the leader of that group, and he was a second unit director on the X-Men shoot," says Stehlin. "I got the opportunity to go over with them because I worked with them on Ghost in the Shell in Wellington.
"I was [in Montreal] as an assistant fight co-ordinator to Richard Norton, and they had some new characters that they wanted to look at, so we had to come up with new mutants with new powers that hadn't been seen before," he says. "Richard Norton came up with the idea of Red Lotus and his superpower, which was that his hair extends out to ten feet when he starts battling.
"Richard and I put together a fight... We showed it to the second unit director and he liked it, then showed it to the director and then the question was, who was gonna play the character? And the director just said 'let's just get him to play it.' And it was amazing. Right place right time."
Stehlin, who has done stunt work on films such as Hacksaw Ridge and the latest Pirates of the Caribbean, describes the initial six-month shoot in Montreal as an "amazing experience".
"I was very appreciative of the fact that I got chosen," he says. "So I just focused everything on to the character and tried to bring it to life as much as I could. Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and I got a big battle in there. It was quite epic.
"The director (Simon Kinberg) is a lovely man, and everybody on that film set was just all giving and really pleasant to work with - from the caterers right up through to the extras through to everyone on board," he says. "Lighting, wardrobe, makeup, they're all just amazing people."
The bulk of the shoot for Dark Phoenix was completed two years ago, but when an early test screening didn't fly well with audiences, the cast and crew were invited back for reshoots, says Stehlin.
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"They reshot half of the movie because they had a sneak preview and I think the audience didn't understand what was going on at the end," he says. "It was great cause it gave me the opportunity to go back and meet new people and have new experiences."
He hopes that the new version of the film sits well with audiences. "I'm hoping that they have a good time watching it, because the last time was a bit of a flop," he says. "I'm hoping this one does X-Men justice because they deserve it."
Stehlin has been working in the stunt industry for 21 years, with his first job working on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. But he came to the profession by chance; in fact, he was initially working as a hairdresser.
"I was doing extra work on Hercules and Xena, and one day I saw stunt folk get up and do their thing, and during that time I was doing martial arts," he says. "I was watching them move and I was going, 'holy cow, I would love to do that.'
"My [martial arts] instructor at the time knew the stunt co-ordinator that was trying to build a new team for Lord of the Rings, because all of the stunties that were up in Auckland were on Hercules and Xena and a few other shows. So then we formed a new team and went down to Wellington and trained for a year."
Stehlin hopes to pursue more dramatic roles like his turn as Red Lotus - particularly considering his stunt background makes him an asset for action roles.
"I am pursuing the acting career now because I'm able to do my own stunts," he says. "I think that's what directors are liking now - actors that can do their own thing."