Set Visit: X-Men 3 Part (1/5)

Of all the event films scheduled for release this summer, few are awaited with as much anticipation – and trepidation – as X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. Given the astounding critical and commercial success of X-Men and X2, expectations are frighteningly high for the third film in the series. With an exciting group of new characters (including fan favorites Beast and Juggernaut) and a storyline influenced heavily by Joss Whedon's highly acclaimed Astonishing X-Men books, fans certainly have reason to be optimistic.

The project stumbled out of the gate, however, when Bryan Singer (the genius behind X1 and X2) jumped ship to go make SUPERMAN RETURNS in Australia, taking much of his crew with him. He offered to make X3 immediately afterward, but Fox, understandably reluctant to put the franchise on hold while Singer tackled the Man of Steel, chose to move forward without him. LAYER CAKE director Mathew Vaughn came on board to write and direct, only to bail nine weeks before filming was set to begin. When Rush Hour director Brett Ratner was chosen to replace Vaughn, reaction was decidedly mixed.

Hardcore fans fretted that Ratner might diverge from the successful formula of the franchise that they held sacred. And with the start of production looming, how prepared would he be?

Having already visited a Brett Ratner set (for last year's AFTER THE SUNSET), I was curious to see how he would approach the project. So when Fox invited me to Vancouver to visit the set last November, I jumped at the chance for a first-hand look at the production.

It was a jam-packed set visit, featuring glimpses of both first and second unit photography, tours of the art department and practical sets, and Q&A’s with Brett Ratner, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen, Kelsey Grammer and Visual Effects Supervisor John Bruno. Let's start things off with our interview with Grammer....

Of all the new characters to be introduced in X-Men: The Last Stand, it is Dr. Hank McCoy – the exceedingly bright, affable young mutant turned into the blue, hairy Beast after a mishap with a serum – that is probably the most eagerly anticipated. Fans were mostly overjoyed when Kelsey Grammer was cast in the role, but one nagging question begged for an answer: just what would Beast’s big-screen manifestation look like? Fox went to great lengths to keep Beast-related info under wraps, so I was understandably excited when we got to meet Kelsey at our set visit in Vancouver .

We found him in the makeup trailer, right in the middle of the transformation process, his bald head painted blue and crowned with a pair of large, pointy ears. Yet to be added were Beast’s trademark hair and teeth. He looked, as he put it, like a “blue teletubby,” if you could imagine what a middle-aged teletubby might look like. After watching the guy play Dr. Frasier Crane for over decade (not to mention his classic turns as Sideshow Bob), it was, needless to say, a tad unsettling. But once he started talking in the signature deep, reassuring voice that made the phrase “I’m listening” famous, my unease melted away.

Kelsey Grammer

So, what’s it like wearing prosthetics? This is something new for you.

Well actually, just recently I did another film where I wore prosthetics. Not quite as complex as these, but I did some age makeup and a different nose. So that prepared me for this, which was pretty extraordinary. When I first got fitted the first time, I thought, “Oh Lord, what have I gotten myself into?”

How long is the makeup process?

It’s not so bad. It’s about two and a half hours, maybe three hours, total, before we’re ready to shoot.

What type of process is this?

Oh, well, you guys (points to makeup guys) can probably answer that better than I can.

Makeup Guy: It’s a five-piece prosthetic that’s glued on his face. We’ve got everything glued on; now we’re into the painting phase. And then the hair pieces, which is behind you guys. There’s six hairpieces: the wig, brows, mutton-chops and chin. And he’s got a bodysuit, gloves, the whole bit.

Yes, I have evening gloves as well as kick-around, work gloves.

Tell us about the character of Hank McCoy/Beast, as you see him.

Well, Hank McCoy has integrated into the political world quite successfully. In his desire to be of service to his fellow mutants and to mankind, I think he’s found a path for himself. In the context of the film, it might not necessarily be where he’s meant to be forever. Then again, it might be. (laughs) I can’t divulge too much, but he’s doing his best to do the world some good in whatever capacity he can find. And that’s what I like about him. That’s Hank and Beast. Beast, of course – his powers as Beast, throughout most of the movie, are at least on the back-burner. He’s doing his best not to have to resort to violence or to enter any kind of a physical confrontation, because he believes that diplomacy is probably the best way to way to work until things come to a head. And of course there is only one answer, and that’s to stand shoulder to shoulder with his comrades and fight against a clear danger.

What’s it like to join an experienced cast like this?

Oh, it was great. I mean, they’re so good and they’ve all been at it for the last several years. But they welcomed me with open arms and I stepped right into it the very first day we shot. Of course, the makeup helped. I think they just assumed that this character existed by virtue of what these guys (the makeup guys) have done, which is extraordinary.

Given that this is a comic book movie, do you approach a role like this with a big element of fun?

Well, I think these films take themselves very seriously. I think there’s some room within the context of the character of Beast – historically in the comic strip as well as in my history as an actor – that may give us a little comic relief, but it would be unwise to say that isn’t a departure from my usual work. He’s a serious person to be dealt with in a serious way in this film.

Have you had to do any fight training for this?

No no, not past the old street life that I’ve thankfully been able put behind me. (laughs)

Was your first introduction to these characters through the films?

Yeah. I wasn’t familiar with them (from the comic). Although I have some friends who are familiar with them and this guy here (makeup guy) is a true expert on everything.

In a way, Beast is kind of a reverse mirror-image of Wolverine. How do those two characters interact in this movie?

They interact as a team, of sort. Maybe reluctantly, but there’s great respect. They certainly know of one another. The rest is for you to enjoy as it unfolds in the film.

Do you have a primary opponent on the other team?

No. Because I have a history with so many of them. We all started out in the same place, really. That’s one thing I learned about the comic, about the character, was that he was one of the first to be educated as Xavier’s. Eric and Xavier - Magneto and Patrick’s character – I knew them when I was a young man. I was one of the first students at the school.

Have your kids seen you in the makeup yet?

Yes, my daughter has seen me in the makeup, yeah. She calls me “Blue Guy.” (laughs) I actually had her come up with me the first week or two when we were shooting and let her watch it unfold and take place so she didn’t get too disconcerted by it. She was a little scared at first, but then realized that the old comic genius was still inside there. (laughs) She just now giggles about the whole idea.

How old is she?

She’s four.

Because you’re wearing so much makeup, do you have to “act bigger”?

You have to kind of “warm up the mask” a bit, as it were. You need to do a couple of stretches and move the mouth around and the eyes and actually check in the mirror a little bit, do a little homework in terms of what kind of expression is possible within the constraints of the mask. It’s pretty expressive. Of course, the eyes are still my eyes, and that’s 80% of your communication anyway. And the eyes are working overtime.

We’re told that you had your first scene with Magneto yesterday. Ian (McKellen) said he was pleased with it.

Well, I was pleased with it too. It’s a little bit odd to jump into the middle of what is basically the climax of a film the first time you meet somebody. I think we’ve met at the Golden Globes once or twice and exchanged kudos to one another. He’s a terrific actor. I mean, it was a very simple routine to do, physically, for each of us, but it’s a very high point in the film. I know we’re gonna be shooting some more coverage of it. I think it went well.

We’re also told there are a lot of mutants fighting a lot of mutants in this film.

That’s a safe assumption. (smiles)

Any particular mutants that you take on in this film?

Well, I deal with Magneto and I deal with a character called Calisto. Storm and Wolverine and I do a little bit of work together and some of the new kids are helpful. That’s about it. Hank’s presence, of course, is a little bit of a sleight of hand thing. It’s a bit of a misleader at first, because you don’t really assume…I mean, people that are fans of the comic will know that he probably can fight pretty well, but in this manifestation of his character, he’s sworn off that, basically. He’s more of an advisor, a senior diplomat, basically. So, his physical prowess should, I think, surprise and delight the audience.

This film deals with the issue of “The Cure.” Some mutants want it, some don’t. What is Hank McCoy’s view?

Well, Hank is a little bit like Ray Charles was. (Ray) grew up as a young man with sight. So (Hank) losing his normal appearance, which happened to him when he was…by virtue of some scientific experiments he was doing himself, accelerated his mutant tendencies to the point where he manifested them in this hairy, blue, much more severe form. I mean, most everybody else kinda has some nuance of mutancy. Hank is pretty boldly mutant, in every possible way. So his relationship, his dilemma in terms of confronting the cure, is the allure of a normal life.

You’re known primarily as a comedic actor. Do you have many comedic moments in this film?

The film really isn’t, you know, funny. My character has lighter moments by virtue of my ability to probably be ironic. I think that may be as high comedy as we’re gonna get, is a bit of irony. He’s a cheerful fellow, and certainly fun in battle. So I’ve think we’ve got a little room in there to actually to have a bit of comic relief. Just within the context of the big fight.

When you were first offered this role, what was your initial reaction? This is a little different from the norm for you.

Yeah. I thought, “Cool. Great.” As an actor, you just hope that in your lifetime you’ll create several memorable characters. So, I had a shot at one, which I did for twenty years. (laughs) And here’s another one. Which is probably pretty memorable, too.

Can you talk a little about your character’s intellectual persona?

Well, I think that might have been one of the things that attracted them to me as an actor. I mean, people just make an assumption about my intelligence, which is pretty much underestimated most of the time. (laughs) We’re not gilding a lily in this case. I mean, he speaks well and he speaks, basically, in my voice. He speaks as an educated man would. Is it to the point of being absurd? I’ve read a couple of the comics and I went, “Well, that’s a little over-the-top.” I do not think he’s over-the-top in terms of his vocabulary. However, I’m willing to explore it if the right moment presents itself.

Was there a moment where everybody, the rest of the cast, got to see you?

Yes. I think they were speechless. (laughs) It’s pretty successful makeup. I mean, you can still see that it’s me in there. I look kind of like I did when I was about 25, actually. I had that much hair then.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com



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