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Set Visit: X-Men 3 Part (2/5)

02.24.2006


Part 1 & Interview with Kelsey Grammer

On day two of our X-MEN: THE LAST STAND set visit, Fox hosted a lengthy Q&A with director Brett Ratner and stars Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry , who took time out of their busy shooting schedule to talk about the latest installment of the storied franchise.

PART 1 of 2

Hugh Jackman Halle Berry
Ian McKellen Brett Ratner

Brett, with Rush Hour you built your own franchise from the ground up. X-Men: The Last Stand is something really different. You joined a train as it was well underway…

Ratner: Jumped on the bandwagon…

Why? What did X-Men mean to you and why did you want to come aboard at this last hour?

Ratner: Well, I was such a fan of the X-Men series. I was talking about this with Hugh the other day and he said, “You probably made history! You’ve directed more movies with a three at the end of them than any other.” And even though Red Dragon didn’t have a three in it, it was the third in a series. But the benefit I had with Red Dragon was that I had three different movies that existed – Manhunter, Hannibal and Silence of the Lambs – that were in the same genre, but three very different movies.

More so with this movie, I had two films that existed with one director, which created a fantastic tone, with some of the best actors in the world. I thought, “Oh, this is going to be an easy job.” Little did I know… we’re here in December in Vancouver , in the freezing cold. But the truth is, I’m such a big fan of what was established, and I knew that if I stuck to the tone of the other movies and to the formula – and we had all the actors coming back – that it was going to be so much fun for me, and a huge challenge by the way, because I’ve never done a huge visual effects movie before.

Can you pinpoint a specific element that you put your personal stamp on once you came aboard?

Ratner: Yeah, like I said it’s been very important to me to stick to the tone that Bryan and the actors have created and my input really has been just trying to make a more emotional film, a film with more heart and more pathos. So I wanted to try and tell a story and act as if this is a trilogy and this movie is the third in a series and go in there and not re-invent it, not make it a “Brett Ratner film,” but stay with the formula that’s worked in the past and add more heart. I’m a very emotional guy. I like heart, I like feeling something in a movie and the audiences care about these characters so much that it was important to me to try and stray true to who they were and not try to re-invent it.

Hugh, this will be the third time you’ve played Wolverine. How do you maintain your enthusiasm for the role? How do you keep it going?

Jackman: Well, I think… Ian’s been doing it a little longer than me, the acting business, but I’ve been acting for ten years, and you get a sense when you’re in a role and you have a movie with a story that you don’t want to let go of. You see X-Men 1 and 2 and as soon as they’re finished, you think, “We have unlimited movies with these characters.” The actors can go any which way, and for me as an actor, it’s an amazing part. I think that Wolverine, not just in the comic book genre, but also in any kind of action movie, is one of the great parts.

And I love playing him and it’s a challenge and with Brett on board…he pulled all the actors aside and said, “Our job is not only to round out the series, because we’re paying off things which have been sown in X1 and X2, deliberately – and we’re getting to pay them off now – but not only are we getting to round it out, but we’re getting to take the stakes much higher than they’ve ever been, emotionally we’re getting to go much further than we’ve ever been.” So it’s a challenge. For me, if you’re going to play and role and do it again, you want to do it better. You want to take it further and want to show more and I think we have the best script to start with of any of the three, so really that’s the long answer to say that it was easy for the passion to be there. And I feel blessed to have the role.

For each of you, how have your characters changed between the second and third films, not only in terms of powers, but also personality?

Berry: Well Storm has one now! (laughs) The movie for me is still very much an ensemble, which is one of the things I really love about it, and why I love working on X-Men. But this time my character – not that she’s there any more than she ever was – but when she’s there, she’s really saying something, she has a definite point of view. And that’s been really wonderful for me and I know that Brett has been instrumental in making that happen. He always wondered, “Well, what the heck is Storm doing?” So he’s really been a supporter of that. I’ve struggled with finding a voice for the character over the years, but not really sure what voice Storm was taking from the comic books – because it didn’t always materialize in the script for me but this time it definitely does.

Ratner: And she gets to fly in this one!

Berry: And I get to fly! That’s another Brett Ratner…yeah, I do get to fly this time.

McKellen: I don’t think my character changes. I think he stays much as he was before. It’s the eternal argument between the two people involved in civil rights, whether they are Malcolm X and Martin Luther King or Magneto and Xavier. That’s the theory, at any rate. So basically, that’s the story being re-told as it’s re-told in the comics. I think Magneto’s very much as he was: a troubled… I’ve been asked what’s it like to play a villain but I’ve never met an actor who thought of a character he was playing as a villain.

It’s boring… I feel he’s a meta-villain. There are lots of villains going around in the world, people doing stupid things. But to say they’re villainous? They might be villainous, but a villain? If there’s no motive for their behaviour…Magneto’s got plenty of motive, and attitude and political nous, you might think he’s doing the wrong thing, but you’ll probably come the worst of any argument with Magneto on this issue. Unless you were a mutant, of course.

Jackman: He’s a little sexier in this one, though.

McKellen: I wanted to keep that as a surprise.

Did you feel the need to make Brett feel comfortable?

Jackman: Brett is the most fearless man you’re ever going to meet. He came on fairly late and said to me, “I’m thrilled because I’m inheriting a great script. It’s a great jumping-off point.” And he was, like, “Let’s go!” right from the beginning, so Brett…if you go to a party, Brett’s the last guy you need to make sure if he’s okay and if he needs a drink. He takes over and runs the place pretty much on his own very quickly. I think what’s great about Brett is that he’s very much at home on a movie of this size and this scale, in every way. I don’t feel that you’re daunted by it. I don’t know if you have any secret fears, but I think he’s enjoyed being with the cast and we’ve enjoyed having him.

Ratner: When I’m alone in the bathroom occasionally, I throw up. (laughs) But no…

McKellen: People probably think, “Oh, I know what happens with these things.” Well, I’m not going to use that dreadful “F” word that you used about the film, these are films. And to call them a franchise, as if we’re in the business of just making money, I think is an insult to everyone involved, including the audience. We’re telling a very important story. And because we’re telling it with the same characters three times over just means that the story is worth telling three times over.

If you’re looking for a totally different view of X-Men – which would be possible – our view of X-Men is quite other than the style of the comics and of the TV spin-off. So it would be possible that Brett would be going way down off the Singer path and (points to Ratner) I’ve been very impressed that you decided that you didn’t want to do that because you’d enjoyed so much what Bryan had done. But we’ve had the advantage of a script that we all agree is superior from the start out to the previous two and has a very intriguing hook that gets you involved immediately and emotionally with the characters.

But we had the advantage, this being the third time around, of not having to introduce everybody. No wonder Storm didn’t have much to do – there were 20 people all fighting to get on the screen. I think things have relaxed a little bit, haven’t they? And it’s a little bit more indulgent and Magneto has a bit more to say than he did in the last movie.

Brett, should this film be looked at as the third part of a trilogy, or as just another story in a continuing series of stories?

Ratner: Well, you know, because I feel so reverential towards the first two, I’m not re-inventing anything that’s already been done, but I am informing some back story that maybe you hadn’t seen, but helps make more sense of the first two, and we are paying off some of the arcs of the characters and resolving some of the arcs. I don’t think it’s the final arc to be done. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to go further with it.

Because I’m referring to the first two movies, because I’m making sure that we’re consistent with the first two movies as far as the characters are concerned – what they want – Bryan and these actors have created the universe and there are these rules that come with that universe. And I’m not going outside of those rules but I am looking to show the audience something that pieces it all together, like, “Oh! That’s why in the first movie, they were in this location…” so it kind of all pays off and so in that sense it is a trilogy. I’m not saying that Fox wouldn’t make a fourth or a fifth X-Men.

McKellen: And it can be quite unnerving when you’re just going about your business of acting and a director comes along and says, “Don’t you remember what you did in the first film?” Gandalf intervened and I don’t remember! (laughs) So you have been bringing us back all the time, sometimes like a schoolteacher with naughty children.

Ratner: It’s like déjà vu for me, except I wasn’t there the first two times! It’s so weird.

Are you deliberately setting things up in this movie that might be paid off further down the line?

Ratner: Well, you know, see… I don’t have a contract to do X4 and it depends on the performance of this movie if they ask me to come back, which is the reality. But the truth is that I am introducing some characters that I know Fox are gonna go, “We gotta put that… Kitty Pryde in X4!” Or I’m introducing little things that, whether I know I’m doing it or not, I just love planting these little seeds. And bringing things into this movie that for some reason or another, Bryan wasn’t able to bring in. (Things) that only the hardcore fans would know about, that wouldn’t make a difference to the average moviegoer but, for instance, like the Fastball Special. I don’t know if I can talk about that, but stuff like that, that the fans are gonna be cheering that for one reason or another they didn’t make it into X1 and 2.

Hugh – obviously from film to film, your confidence has grown. What effect does that have on your character?

Jackman: As an actor? Well, I hope like in anything in life, the more shots you have at it, the more you learn and the better you get. So I don’t want to set myself up for failure, but hopefully as an actor I can bring more to it. I have an interesting progression for the character in this one in that he’s archetypally the reluctant hero, and much of it has been, will he join the X-Men? Will he be part of it? And it’s not so much the case in the third one, but more of, what role will he play? Will it be an issue of leadership or not, will he be a real team player? It’s not so much, is he part of the team. That’s kind of a given here, but what role will he play? There’s a lot at stake in this movie. There’s going to be a lot of shocks in store for the fans.

McKellen: For those of us who get really close to Wolverine, we have to admit that his hair is getting even more gorgeous.

Brett and Halle, what kind of story arc did you want to put in for Storm?

Ratner: Well, as Halle said, when I met her the first time I said, “There wasn’t really a huge presence for you in this movie as far as a personality was concerned,” and I wanted to really define who you were and give you a point of view. Because there are two issues in this movie. There are political issues and emotional storylines and I wanted to define where you stand in these issues, this character.

And I just love photographing Halle Berry, so I wanted to put her in the movie as much as I could! But for her, to give Halle a lot of credit, when we first talked, she was like, “Look, I don’t care about giving me a lot of dialogue, but when I’m on screen, I want it to matter, I don’t want to just be there.” So I kind of went through the script and looked at the opportunity of enhancing her character and giving her more of a point of view and a perspective and a purpose. It’s hard, like everyone said, to pay off 20 different characters in a film, but Halle, I think, understands more going into it: who she is, what her reason for being in each scene is.

Because when there’s 20 people standing around, it’s hard to…that’s the hardest thing, to just stand around listening and not knowing what you’re doing, what’s your point of view. So at least in her mind – I’m speaking for you – at least she understands what the purpose and her motivation is in each scene.

Is there a romantic thing involving Storm?

Ratner: With me? No. (Laughs) I can’t divulge that. No. You’ll see. Fans of her character are going to be excited because she has much more to do, and as for physicality, this is one of the most beautiful women in the world and I wanted to take advantage of that and shoot her in a way that’s exciting.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF THIS PRESS CONFERENCE ON MONDAY

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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