In "Hunting Elephants," Patrick Stewart is brought on board to help orchestrate a bank robbery. In "Hunting Elephants," Patrick Stewart is brought on board to help orchestrate a bank robbery. In "Hunting Elephants," Patrick Stewart is brought on board to help orchestrate a bank robbery. (Photo: XLrator Media)

Patrick Stewart goes from 'X-Men' to bank robber

Award-winning heist comedy 'Hunting Elephants' arrives in America.

Don’t fret, conservationists: “Hunting Elephants” is not about pachyderm poachers. It’s an endearing caper comedy starring Patrick Stewart that was originally released abroad and is now available for U.S. audiences to enjoy for the first time on DVD and Video On Demand services.

The movie is about a whiz kid who teams up with three senior citizens – including his great-uncle Lord Michael Simpson, played by Stewart – to rob a bank in order to save himself and his widowed mother from losing their house. Set and filmed in Jerusalem, “Hunting Elephants” was co-written and directed by Reshef Levi, who drew on some family lore for the story.

“I always dreamt of working with Patrick. He's a great actor and a true star. Patrick is the most talented, funny actor that I've ever had the fortune to work with,” Levi said.

Levi wanted to make “a serious comedy with heart." He's a big fan of directors Woody Allen, Billy Wilder, the Coen Brothers, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese and comedians Danny Kaye and the Marx Brothers. “They’re all big influences on me. Before I started shooting I also watched again some Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee movies. I always look for the story and the drama” before the comedy, he said.

From left: Patrick Stewart, Gil Blank, Sasson Gabai and Mona Moshonov in a scene from 'Hunting Elephants.'From left: Patrick Stewart, Gil Blank, Sasson Gabai and Mona Moshonov in a scene from "Hunting Elephants." (Photo: XLrator Media)

The only difficulties Levi faced on set were dealing with shooting outside in Jerusalem with “X-Men” star Stewart, who quickly drew a crowd. “Before we knew it, we had 5,000 people around us trying to get a glimpse of him. We decided to make them all extras in the scene,” he said. Editing was hard, too, because the actors improvised a lot on set. “It was a struggle to figure out which funny line had to go.”

The film was the No. 1 hit at the box office and earned seven Israel Film Academy Awards when it was released in Israel. So will Levi work with Patrick Stewart again?

“He was playful and super professional and hilarious," Levi says of the classically trained Shakespearean actor. "At the end, he said that it was his best experience in shooting a movie. I thought he was just being nice and English. But after a week my agent called me and said, ‘What have you done to him? He keeps on telling everybody in L.A. how much he had fun with us.’ So I only want to work with Patrick again.”

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