20 Years Ago, Republican Senators ‘All Went Nuts’ for the Xenophobic ‘X-Men’ Villain

The actor behind the villainous Senator Robert Kelly tells all about real Congress members loving his character.
Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock (1631524a)X-men, Bruce DavisonFilm and Television
Bruce Davison as Senator Kelly in "X-Men" (2000)

X-Men” is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week and one of the most revealing articles marking the occasion comes courtesy of Inverse, which spoke to actor Bruce Davison about starring in the comic book blockbuster as the villainous Senator Robert Kelly. Davison’s character is a xenophobic and anti-mutant politician who wants to pass the Mutant Registration Act in order to ban mutant children from schools. The actor tells Inverse the fear-mongering and genocidal Senator Kelly made fans of out real Republican congressmen after the release of “X-Men.”

“I was spending a lot of time in Washington with the Creative Coalition campaigning for the arts, and they would only send me into the Republican offices because the Republicans would all go nuts over Senator Kelly,” Davison said. “It was great, talking to [then Kansas senator Sam] Brownback and his people about, ‘Oh, yeah, Senator Kelly. I can identify with this guy.’”

Davison said Brownback was “a brick wall when it came to funding the arts,” but the actor added that Brownback and many other conservatives in Washington D.C. “loved Senator Kelly.” The role was so beloved by Republicans that Davison referred to it as “a useful door opener in those Bush years.” As for who Senator Kelly most reminds Davison of these days, the actor answered, “I’d rather not be compared to him, but yes, Mike Pence is that guy.”

“’X-Men’ was like nothing I’d read or seen before,” Davison said of the blockbuster. “And it was all about the characters. It was all about mutants living in the world. It wasn’t the first, but it followed the genre, which has now sort of gobbled everything up. Now I guess that era is ending too.”

Would Davison ever reprise the role of Senator Kelly if Disney came knocking at his door? “I’d drop dead, I’d be so shocked,” the actor said. “I’d be more than happy to do anything that had to do with that, but I certainly ain’t holding my breath.”

Senator Kelly met his demise in the original “X-Men,” but Davison briefly reprised the character in the sequel “X2: X-Men United” during sequences in which Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) shape-shifts into the politician. Head over to Inverse’s website to read Davison’s interview in its entirety.

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