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INT: Brett Ratner

05.24.2006

Of all the people I had lined up to interview during the X3 press day, the guy I was most looking forward to talking to was Brett Ratner. For a variety of reasons, there was a LOT to talk about. Replacing Bryan Singer AND Matthew Vaughn, the short schedule, his casting choices, his character choices, the script leaks... Lucky for him, Brett, as they say, talks the talk. I wasn't always sure I believed all his answers but he certainly did sound convincing saying them. Any fan of the X-MEN movie series is gonna wanna read this. (Oh and he does drop some RUSH HOUR 3 scoopage at the end.)

You ended up coming in late to the movie…not that it was your fault, but just the way it happened… It was my fault. (Laughter) You also knew you’d have less time to prepare, so what made you think that you were up to that challenge? Well, the script was fantastic. I really found it was a much more emotional story, and it was thought-provoking and it was something that I just said, “Wow, if I can pull this off, this is going to be a good movie.” And it was the final chapter. It felt like that when I read it. I didn’t know it was going to be called “The Last Stand” at the time, but it read like the last stand. For me, it was a huge challenge. I’ve never done a movie like this before, and I thought if I could pull this one off, it would be exciting. Was it disappointing that you’d be doing a movie like this but you wouldn’t be able to shepherd it because it was developed by another director? It really wasn’t developed by another director. I think Matthew Vaughn came on very late, too. He was only on for a few weeks, also. It takes years to develop something, really. They started developing this right after X2, so it wasn’t really… I don’t really hear much in the media about who did what. At the end of the day, I directed the movie, so that’s what I care about. Was there a DVD crew on set for extras? There was, and I didn’t allow them… they have some EPK crew come by once in awhile, but I had my own “making of” that I’m shooting, as I’m making the movie. I have a team that I’ve done all my movies with. They get a very intimate, inside look, so there probably will be a two-hour “making of”—or maybe hour and a half—of very private and intimate… my point of view, instead of being the EPK crew where everyone is acting when the lights are on with the EPK crew. “Hey, the EPK crew is here! EPK crew on set today!” and everyone’s like, “Oh, this is great!” I get stuff where the drama ensues.

And deleted scenes? There aren’t many deleted scenes, believe it or not. There’s alternative versions, alternate versions of these scenes. There aren’t many deleted scenes. How did coming into this project so late affect casting since obviously Matthew cast Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut, because he was a good friend of his. There were probably some things that maybe you didn’t have as much control over as some directors might like. Did you think that you could work with whatever cast they gave you? Well, once I came to the movie, I was the director. I could have fired Vinnie Jones, but I thought that Vinnie Jones was perfect casting. If it wasn’t, I would have fired him, but I thought it was brilliant. In between, from when Matthew Vaughn left and when I came on, they hired Kelsey Grammer, and Kelsey was a brilliant, brilliant choice. I thought, “Wow, this guy personifies Beast." I couldn’t come up with a better idea than that. It was amazing. So yeah, I go with what works. If you watch the movie, I didn’t try to reinvent it. I tried to make it part of a trilogy and part of the three. I wasn’t trying to make my version of it. Unless you’re a very sophisticated viewer, I don’t think you’d be able to tell Bryan Singer’s version to my version. Could you? Several of the actors say that you feel comfortable on the set with mayhem. How much does accident play in your creative process? It’s not just my creative process. I think any creative process. I think some of the most brilliant stuff comes out of just putting all these great actors in a real setting in these costumes and magic is going to happen. The perfect example of that is APOCALPYSE NOW. You get these brilliant actors and you go to the jungle for two years with helicopters flying everywhere and loud noises and they’re eating their rations, and magic is going to happen. And the guys with Marlon Brando around. This is a very complex story, so there’s not a lot of room for improvisation but I think some magic did happen out of just us being there. I have brilliant Shakesperean actors, and Patrick Stewart says “Well, Brett, don’t you think I should say this?” and I’m like “Great! Yeah, let’s do that!” These guys are really smart and thet have an opinion and they vocalize them and they encourage that. What were some of the accidents? I can’t even remember. It’s a hard question and there were accidents for sure, stuff that happened. Dialogue, too? Did you have the writers there on set? I had the writers there. The story never changed, that’s what I loved about it. I completely changed the third act, but not the story. The story was there. It was just the location changed, because the third act was ending in Washington, DC. I said to the studio that these movies always end in Washington, DC. I’ve seen it so many times. And the thing that they did is that they had this incredible set piece, which is this bridge sequence, but it was in the middle of the movie. Originally, there wasn’t that truck sequence with the prisoners? They were on Alcatraz Island, that was a prison, and Magneto came to the prison to break them out of the prison and used the bridge to get them off the island. So I said, “This is crazy!” This is the biggest set piece in the entire world, that I’ve ever read, and it’s in the middle of a movie. We have to move this to the end and make it part of the plot. Breaking them out is just one part of it, but where are you going to go from there? So I convinced Tom Rothman, the head of the studio, to move it to the end of the movie and put the Cure on Alcatraz Island and put a face on The Cure with the little boy, and have the reason they’re bringing that bridge over is that it just connects the dots even better, I think.

Can you talk about picking some of the mutants? At one point, they said you were going to have Stacy X, the hooker mutant, which might have been a joke… So let's get this straight, please, cause it’s so ridiculous. Making this movie is a strictly confidential process. We can’t let people… because there are so many people wanting to get this information, there’s so much that is made-up. I literally went through the Mutant Encyclopedia, the X-Men Encyclopedia, and just went like this… turn the page and went BOOM! (sticks finger down on page).. Stacy X, because we couldn’t tell them who they were auditioning for. And we had the writers write sides for a character that wasn’t in the movie, but then all of a sudden, I’m in the paper saying that I’m putting whores in the movie. (laughter) You brought in Bill Duke, was that your choice? Yeah of course. Why change his character [Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinels] from the comic book more than with anyone else? Was there a reason for that? Yeah, because it has to service our story, I mean, this is not a comic book.. this is a comic book movie, but the comic book is not the script and if you see what Bryan Singer did, if they followed the comic book, Wolverine would look more like me, a short stocky RRRR bulldog, you know? So you have to interpret the comic and work for the cinematic world and Bill Duke’s character. I didn’t want the government to be villainous. I didn’t want them to be a cliché, which was in the other movies but is what worked, but I didn’t want to do it again. I didn’t want the bad guy, the villain is somehow the Cure, even though you could see both sides of the cure. So I didn’t want it to be about the government, I wanted it to be about this cure. The President wasn’t quite Bush, but he wasn’t quite Clinton. I was kind of like trying to find a middle ground. I didn’t want the villainous Trask in the comics to be a villain, a bad guy. Was there anyone else you brought in besides Duke? Yeah, a lot of the actors. Ellen Page, Ben Foster, I mean all the new characters. How did you pick the mutants though, particularly the new characters with new powers? I just went through the comics and the materials and thought “this is cool”..they’re what I thought was cool. Callisto and the sidekicks of Magneto, whoever I thought was a cool sidekick and I just wanted to go in and put some color into it. It’s a multi-racial comic and I wanted to put some color to it. Halle Berry was the only person of color in the last few movies, so I wanted to bring some flavor, as they say. But it seemed like a lot of them were actually created like the spikey guy, the Asian character.. They were inspired by the comics. I took… for instance, Spike started as Kid Omega, but there was another character. I found one character that I liked and then I took the powers. For instance, Callisto has the power of another character who moves fast and has the telepathy thing. The girl from the wall looks like Psylocke but she has the power of one of the other characters. So I mixed and matched powers to service the story. Instead of having ten more actors in the movie, I just said, “You’re going to have these three powers.” The actors mentioned that you shot a lot, huge coverage… That what makes it rich and makes it feel like a movie, instead of a TV show. How does this affect your editing process? Do you pre-edit while you’re shooting? Oh, yeah.. I’ll be done with a scene two days after I shot it. You have to because visual effects have to start months and months and months before. My editor has cut every one of my films so he knows how I shoot. It’s just like dropping it in..the guy just knows what I’m going for, he gets it. He knows me like the back of my hand.

So what was the biggest scene you shot to fit your own sense… that’s different from the previous two films? What will people who know your work as a director see as distinctively something of yours? I don’t think it’s a shot. I don’t think it’s something like Spike Lee with the shot of the guy floating down the street. (laughter) I think it’s more of an energy. If you watch the other movies and you watch this movie, I think this movie has a pace that’s my kind of ADD frenetic… I get bored very easily so… next scene, next scene, next scene, keep it moving, keep it moving, keep it moving… I mean, did you fall asleep at all in the film or no? A few times? You mentioned trying to be really top secret about the things going on. Does it bother you as a director when certain elements leaked online? Cause they weren’t right. Were they right? Did you go back and look at it? Do you follow what’s online like at Ain’t It Cool News, SuperHeroHype or JoBlo.com? I don’t actually. Now, I do. I love them now, but when I was doing the movie, I wasn’t really worrying about it because there was so much negativity and I was trying to stay focused and stay positive, and when I took the movie, Bryan gave me incredible advice, he said, “Whatever you do, don’t read the stuff on the internet about you.” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Because they wrote the exact same stuff about me when I did the [first] movie, so just do your own version of the movie and don’t worry about it.” So how do you feel about the negativity? Do you consider it another challenge? Do you say that you’re just going to do the best you can to prove them wrong? I just followed Bryan’s advice. I didn’t really pay attention to it. I know it’s out there. What was the most difficult scene to shoot in the script, anything you didn’t know how you were going to do it? Oh, how am I going to do it? The whole third act! The bridge sequence really, is so complex. You can’t even imagine. If you dissected that and broke it down, it’s crazy. How many cameras did you use on that? 27. No, I’m kidding. (laughter) It wasn’t just cameras. It was just elements. It was miniatures. We built a four-lane bridge in Vancouver, a quarter mile long just to shoot some of the action. It was unbelievable! Then we shot the real bridge in San Francisco, then we did a scale model of it, then we extended it with CGI, then we had real people, fake people, cars, fake cars, then we did… how much time was spent on shooting it? We started shooting it the day we started shooting the movie. That thing was just a monster.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD The after credit sequence in this film… is that something that was in the script? Do you know the whole time that you want to put that after t he credits? Yeah, the studio didn’t even know I did it until.. I didn’t even put it on the schedule. I shot in between set-ups, just went over there and shot it, and then I showed it to the studio and they went “Oh My God, we love that!” because it keeps Xavier. Look, in the last one, Jean Grey died and then I saw her on the first day of shooting X3, so nobody dies in these movies? What the hell are they talking about? END SPOILERS Before you leave, can you talk about RUSH HOUR? No, I can’t. Yes, I can. (laughter) At what stage are you? We’re going to start shooting August 16th in New York and Paris, we’re going to start shooting in Paris The last one ended as if they’re going to go to New York. this one starts in New York and then goes to Paris. Are there any new additions to the cast you can mention? Well, I’ll tell you who I want, who I’m going after. I want… who can I say? I want Yao Ming to be in it? The basketball player. I want to recreate this fight sequence from the Bruce Lee movie where he fights Kareem Abdul Jabar, but I want to do the reverse and have Chris Tucker fight Yao Ming. I would love that to happen. I want whatsername? Aishwarya Rai to be in the movie, I’d love her to be in the movie. I’d love Gong Li to be in the movie. There’s some people that I want, I don’t know if I’m going to get them. Do you think Tony Jaa… Tony Jaa, I want too… I love him. X-MEN movies usually do pretty well so I’m sure you’re signed onto the next project. Have you started thinking about it? No, not until they pay me, I don’t think about anything until I get the check.
Source: JoBlo.com

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