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Still reeling after being unceremoniously dumped from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, sexy Irish actor Stuart Townsend is hoping his role in The Queen of the Damned will be a passport to bigger and better things in Hollywood.
Stuart stars as Lestat de Lioncourt, the vampire/rock star and love interest of Queen Akasha, played by the late Aaliyah. Townsend, 29, says he got to live out his childhood dream. "It was the ultimate fantasy playing a rock star," he laughs. "All those years in the bedroom holding a hair brush werenít in vain!"
But performing in front of 5,000 extras is a little different from playing air guitar in front of a mirror. "I had to drink a bottle of tequila to be able to get on stage and perform," he recalls. "I had a few of my mates from Ireland in the trailer with me before that scene, and we sat there getting wasted. It helped, believe me."
Dating Charlize Theron, who he met when they were playing husband and wife in the upcoming thriller, 24 Hours, he says the attraction was there from the start. "It was an instant thing when we met," he asserts.
Stuart used to date actress Parker Posey. "I think Iíll have to join AA Ė Actresses Anonymous Ė but you canít help who you fall in love with, can you?" he shrugs. "But Charlize doesnít act like sheís a high-profile actress, so it doesnít fee like Iím going out with a Ďmovie starí."
Theron and Townsend are currently in Australia, camping. Itís difficult to imagine the glamorous actress roughing it in the bush, but Townsend says sheís more of an outdoors type than she looks. "Oh, youíve got her wrong. Charlize grew up on a farm in South African and Iím from a fishing village. Sheís so down-to-earth and wants to live a normal life. We love being homebodies and we do lots of camping trips to the desert."
Townsend was set to play the heroic warrior Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, but had problems on the shoot and didnít stay on. Bitter about his experience, the actor isnít very complimentary about the time he spent in New Zealand. "I worked my ass off for that movie and I was devastated it didnít turn out," he states. "And now, even though The Lord of the Rings is huge, Iím glad I wasnít in it. I was treated badly."
He certainly wonít be returning to New Zealand in a hurry. "Wellington is a miserable little hole, itís the anus of the world. But I loved filming The Queen of the Damned. I loved Melbourne and I found Australians to be the most like the Irish out of any nationality Iíve ever met. Theyíre pretty good drinkers, maybe because thereís a lot of Irish in them!"
Townsend spent a lot of time working with Aaliyah (who died in a plane crash late last year). "She really was a special person and there was a great sense of fun about her," he says. "When I first heard about her death, I just thought about her family. Iíve had death in my own family and when youíre the one left behind, itís really tough," he says. Speaking of mortality, Townsend says he wouldnít want to live for eternity like his vampire alter-ego. "Iíd hate to be around forever. It would be a drag because reality is pretty mundane Ė otherwise why would we escape our lives to watch movies?"
Without a doubt, Stuartís Lestat is a lot more convincing than when Tom Cruise donned the fangs for the same role in Interview with the Vampire. "I wasnít nervous about stepping into Tomís shoes because Lestat was a different character in this book. If I thought about it like that, I wouldíve been far to nervous to play it."
But what about the legion of Anne Rice fans whoíll be scrutinizing his performance? "Look, I canít please everyone. I went on the internet and they were complaining before we even started shooting: ĎHe doesnít have blond hair! Heís so short! So Iíve decided I really donít want to know what they think."
Playing Lestat, Stuart had to endure some pretty scary stunts. "When I was doing the rock star segments, I had two little wires attached to me and I was hanging above the stage, nine stories high. I was absolutely terrified, so itís funny for me to watch that scene because I remember being worried the crowd would think I was a wanker, so I wasnít going to look scared on top of that!"
Although Townsend is known in the UK, playing Lestat could be his big break into Hollywood. "I really hope it is. The last few movies Iíve done havenít worked." (Most recently, he starred in About Adam, a romantic comedy with Kate Hudson and Australian actress Frances Oí Connor.) Apparently, Theron is telling her agents she wonít sign for another movie role unless thereís a role in it for her new beau.