Getting your fangs into Stuart

Niamh Hooper

His recent roles include a vampire and serial seducer. So who's the real Stuart Townsend? NIAMH HOOPER reports

Stuart Townsend became an instant heartthrob as the philandering Adam who was all things to all three of the sisters he seduced in the witty comedy About Adam. Now he's sinking his fangs into young ladies' necks and drinking their blood as the vampire Lestat in Queen of the Damned. This is the movie follow-up to Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, which starred Tom Cruise as Lestat.

Is there be something the 29-year-old actor from Howth, Co Dublin, is trying to tell us?

"I love women," beams the sexy actor dressed in a black shirt, denims and hiking boots. "There would be no point living without women."

So which of his two most recent roles is closest to the real Stuart Townsend? "I'd prefer to be Lestat so I could use my hypnotic powers over women that would be great and they would be helpless. But I'm probably more like Stuart, a bit more dorky."

Townsend, a former student in Dublin's Gaiety School of Acting, is the star of Queen of the Damned, which opened at No 1 in the US box office, ahead of both Denzel Washington and Kevin Costner's new movies. But it hasn't all been plain sailing for Townsend. He was chosen to be play Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, only to be dumped suddenly before filming began.

But more about that later.

Right now, he's as relaxed as anyone who is still functioning on a Los Angeles body clock that wakes you up at 5am can be. "I've been living in LA for a year. I fell in love so I've been doing that and enjoying myself there."

His partner is the beautiful 26-year-old South African actress Charlize Theron. They met a year ago on the set of the yet-to-be-released action-thriller Trapped, which also stars Courtney Love and Kevin Bacon.

The solitary sentence: "I like her an awful lot she's very good to me," is all he'll say about Theron although he does enthuse about a six-day camping trip they took three weeks ago at Lake Eyre in the Australian Outback. ,

Raised in Dublin, the son of well-known golfer Peter and ex-model Lorna, Townsend says he loves coming home, even if it is on the publicity trail for his new movie. So what drew him to the role of rock star vampire, Lestat?

"I was never really crazy about the story or the rock 'n' roll thing. I felt Lestat was a solitary bird and dualistic. In one way, he's 200 years old but he's also this rebellious brat I like that juxtaposition where he is this old soul who has spent all this time alone.

"I can identify with that especially as an actor you get thrown to all corners of the earth on your own and end up working with hundreds of people. But they're all strangers, they become close friends and then they disappear. It's a very solitary life.

Townsend isn't a big fan of big budget movies anyway. "It's starting to piss me off that a lot of movies are just crap, just formulaic and just a product."

When it comes to his favourite role, a four-month stint in theatre in London two years ago where he acted opposite Helen Mirren in Tennessee Williams Orpheus Descending wins hands down.

"It the best thing I ever did. She is the best I've ever worked with as an actress and as a human being."

Career strategies aside, he says he had fun making Queen of the Damned and struck up a friendship with his co-star singer Aaliyah who died in a plane at the age of 22 shortly after the film was made.

"We'd become good friends. Because she was making an album while filming, she wasn't around much but we were in Australia away from friends and she had her family with her. So it was even weirder what happened because not only did I get to know her but I got to know her family and they were so close."

On a lighter note, Townsend gets a laugh out of the rumour doing the rounds that he supported his acting career until his break in Trojan Eddie in 1996 by boxing. "It's a great myth I'd love to be known as a boxer but no. I've boxed in training but have never boxed professionally or as an amateur."

As for his replacement in the role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings by Viggo Mortensen who is 20 years his senior, Townsend says that after two months preparation in New Zealand: "They fired me before filming even started because they said I wasn't working hard enough, which is totally ridiculous. I love to work, I'm a worker." But he says he doesn't regret it at all.

"It was only work, it was only an ego thing. I didn't get my heart broken and no-one died on me."

That said, Townsend hasn't seen or nor has he any intention of seeing whatever did happen to Frodo Baggins.