Patrick Stewart in Israel to film heist movie

Patrick Stewart in X-Men

Patrick Stewart in X-Men

He has played a captain in Star Trek and a tolerant superhero in X-Men, but now Sir Patrick Stewart is to star in an Israeli heist comedy.

The distinguished actor, who last year visited Israel to prepare for the role of Shylock in a production of The Merchant of Venice, arrived in the country yesterday to begin filming for "Hunting Elephants".

The role was originally given to British actor John Cleese, but he dropped out due to health concerns.

Sir Patrick has now stepped in to take on the part of an English gentleman who finds himself embroiled in a half-baked plot to rob a bank.

The film is being directed by Reshef Levy, a famous name in Israeli cinema, and follows a precocious dreamer hoping to save his family home by enlisting a group of pensioners.

Sir Patrick, who is best known for playing Captain Picard in Star Trek and Professor Charles Xavier in the comic book trilogy X-Men, said he was delighted to be in the Jewish state "not as a tourist but as part of an Israeli movie production".

He said he wanted to use his time in the country to give himself "a firmer opinion" of the Middle Eastern conflict.

Last updated: 11:26am, August 10 2012