Set Visit: X-Men 3 Part (3/5)
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 2 of 2
|Hugh Jackman||Halle Berry|
|Ian McKellen||Brett Ratner|
Brett, you referenced political issues, and Im intrigued that chief among them in this story is an issue that really triggers something thats massive in the X-Men universe, and thats the notion of a cure if you dont want to be a mutant, you dont have to be. How do you feel about it. Ian, starting with you
McKellen: Marvel will tell you that they like X-Men more than any of their other titles because it appeals specifically to three groups. The demographic is young blacks, young Jews and young gays. They identify themselves more than most, although perhaps all teenagers consider themselves as mutants in that they are perhaps ill-treated by the rest of society for a time, for no good reason. And as a gay man, the idea that someone might come along with a cure
Ratner: Youre gay? I had no idea! (laughs)
McKellen: Well, there arent many of us in Hollywood. (smiles) But there are people that think gay people can be cured. So my reaction to the idea that I can be cured as a mutant is as contemptuous as of those who think I need curing because of my sexuality. The idea that black people could take a pill that could cure them of being black is abhorrent to me. Id like to hear of any character in this film who thinks that a cure is a good idea, but there are some. And they argue the case. Itll get you worked up, this movie, and so it should, because I dont think people should be cured of their god-given nature.
Ratner: And it was that idea alone that when I first met with Hugh is that the core of this idea is what Im excited about, is why I think this script takes it to a whole new level. I dont know who came up with it, but the idea of the cure, I guess it goes back to the comics, obviously, but the idea of the cure in this film really helps make this third film miles ahead of the last two because every single character in this movie will have an opinion, will have a reason for it or against it and it motivates a lot of the plot. Its a fantastic device and concept, I think.
McKellen: And some people get cured and get changed, but of course we dont know with this cure being a new thing, how long its going to last. Probably not as far as X-Men 4, I hope. (everyone laughs)
Halle, what about Storms view on this?
Berry: Well, I echo everything Ian said. Being a black woman, a woman of colour, I think this is an issue Ive struggled with my whole life. And I had a feeling that when I was a child if I could change myself, my life would be invariably better. As Ive gotten older, Ive come to terms with it in one sense and this movie adds light to that dark subject. So I echo everything Ian said.
Ratner: Storm, in my opinion, and I think Halle agrees is the most, one of the X-Men who is the most opposed to the use of the cure. And I think when you see the passion that these characters have for the subject matter, it totally motivates each individuals plight and their angst. Every scene in the movie is motivated by their opinions so its wonderful, in my opinion.
Jackman: Im going to be devils advocate in my opinion because we have had the studio, everyone involved over certain characters who are offered the cure, and voluntarily some take it, some dont. I wont say which character because I dont want to give away the plot. But we just for example, were talking about someone like Rogue, right? Rogue, as amazingly powerful as she is, lives a potentially very lonely life, never being able to touch anyone, never being able to have a physical relationship, never being able to have children, to be married.
Now, as politically abhorrent as the cure is, its also humanely, socially understandable that a character like that would take it. Now for Wolverine, hes not a political beast in any way shape or form. In the process of this movie I think he starts as someone having very little opinion about the cure, except for what it means for him. If you wanna take the cure, you take the cure. If you dont, whatever, I dont really give a shit. You do what you want to do; Im gonna do what I wanna do. And hes forced in the course of this movie to actually work out what the cure is politically, socially and what his view on it is, because the cure ends up being the source of the battle that is going on. And which side youre on you have to eventually take a side. And thats whats great about this story, for Wolverine.
McKellen: But youd have to say on the matter of Rogue that it isnt necessarily her particular mutancy thats her problem, its other peoples reaction to it. And maybe its society thats wrong, not her. And maybe the last thing you should do is to try and cure her. The first thing you should do is try and help her, if she wants it. And there are ways of helping people who are handicapped, rather than giving them extra limbs or forcing them to be what we think of as normal.
But thats the argument, one of the many arguments thats in this movie, along with all these amazing effects and great good humour that the characters somehow manage to have through thick and thin, and all the glamour of the story and all the bigness of it and Im just very pleased that we can be certain that some young people and maybe older ones too that take comfort from this story because they think its actually addressing thing thats important to them, even though its in this fantastic world of ridiculous costumes and everything else. That, I guess is X-Men, and thats why I like it.
How are the costumes, this time around?
Ratner: Theyre the same, with some enhancements. Theyre pretty close to theyre in the world. There are some new characters and they obviously have some new costumes, but otherwise. Thats when I have to pinch myself, when I have all the X-Men in one room and theyre in their X-suits and the villains mostly the villains. I mean the X-suits dont go too far out, but the villains when Magnetos in his cape and his helmet and the other characters in a helmet, Im like, This is so bizarre! I stop for a second, but then I realize, you know what?
Whats brilliant about this movie and this franchise is that its all based in reality, and my approach to every scene is that this is really happening. Its important to me to capture the essence of that. And in the performance and in the decision of the sets, the props, every single choice informs that: real, real real. These are real characters, this is really happening. Because the audiences believe that, they wanna believe it, and were creating the reality in that frame, and its important that I do that, and thats the way I approach every scene.
And we figured out and we debated it. And we were here last night and we were figuring out that the nuance of how to throw a punch or take a step forward is all based in reality, and its debated. Believe me, I have a lot of work on my plate because these actors definitely have an opinion, theyre not just letting me create my own reality. Theyre saying, You know what? Magneto wouldnt do that! Wait a second. Or Ill say, Magneto would do that. But I have to give a reason why he would or wouldnt, so theres a lot of challenge and its to better the performance and to better the movie, theres no egos involved.
Everyone wants to make a great film, its the best bunch of actors Ive ever worked with, and they really care. Its important to them, from Pyro to Rogue, every person. And I call them by their names, not really by accident, because when Im looking at them, Im looking at Magneto and I really believe hes Magneto. And the same with Storm and Logan.
Is it easy to slip back into these roles this time round? Or is it always a challenge?
Jackman: Easier than the second. But theres always a moment. I said to Brett, the first week, Lets just go through it. Can I just watch the monitor with you because And Brett was great at the beginning and it wasnt until our third day until I went (smacks fist on table) There it is! And I dont think all the stuff we did on the first three days was useless, but it took a few days, putting him back on for me.
Halle, can you tell us about flying?
Berry: Yes. Wirework, spinning, and I know it seems like a little thing, but Ive been saying this since I started this movie: I just wanna fly! Storm flies in the comic book and Ive worn the cape for two movies now and never used it. It seems like a trivial thing, but it really is part of her power and what her mutation is and its nice to be able to get to use that talent and that gift in a profound way that helps my fellow characters. I never got to really use the beauty of what Storm does. She used to fly a plane, but she never got to show what she could do. I love all the physical work that I get to do in these kinds of movies.
Ratner: And by the way we incorporate it into the storyline, its not just, Watch Storm fly now. Its part of the plot and we have Simon Crane whos one of the best second unit directors in the world and hes been shooting some of the most fantastic action sequences with these guys and Ill look at the dailies at the end of every day and Ill be shocked. I dont know why Halle actually does it, because no ones going to believe its her anyway; theyre going to be, Oh, its not her! So why do you even waste your time? But there was this thing where Storm has to...its an action piece, but shes up in the air, shes hovering and she literally to create a tornado effect, she actually spins. Youre on a wire, or a rope or something, and she must have done, like, 87 turns from here to that wall. And then the camera stops and shes, like, Wooah!
Berry: And heres the thing. They say, Okay, youre done, walk back to your trailer! And Im walking back, walking back blecccch! (mimics vomiting) Its really embarrassing! (laughs)
Ratner: Its like, Jackie Chan does his own stunts, Halle Berrys doing her down stunts in this movie. And when I saw the scenes, the execution of it, Simon Cranes brilliance came in because all the action is not just action for actions sake; its motivated by the plot. Its driving the story forward and its showing off the powers of these characters. Its using the claws in a clever way to, you know, to jump down a building.
The same way Jackie Chan would use this in a fight, you know, this bottle of water, theyre using his claws to break a fall and on metal, so theres sparks. Its really thought out! Its not just, Okay, lets have him swinging his claws around. It makes sense. And its all motivated. And all the pieces are working. Im really happy with all the action stuff. But the truth is, the heart of the movie is the fact that theres a small story within the big film. Thats really the relationships between these characters. And thats why I love this film.
It sounds like youre taking a lot of story from Joss Whedons Astonishing X-Men run. Are there any other comic sources or parts from other books that youre using in this movie?
Ratner: Thats a trick question for me, because all I can tell you is if you ask me what comic book or number they refer to, I cant tell you that. But I can tell you that every single scene in this movie, Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg, who are fanatical X-Men fans, if I ask them, Well, where the hell did you get this idea from? hell pull out X-Men 127 or hell photocopy it for me. So in my office here, before I shot, I have every single theres a reference of every single scene in this movie from a comic. And I thought some of it was made up, some of it.
And the execution of the script is so brilliant because I didnt understand that how they have a category in the Academy Awards for Screenplay and then what is it? Adapted Script from another piece of source material. That is the hardest thing to do. Because the complexity of taking something from a comic that exists and to put it into script form, where it works in the movie universe, is not an easy thing to do. That was an incredible education for me, to look at the scene the way it existed. For instance, with the cure in the comic and how it manifests itself in script form and then how I visualize it, it really informed my approach to it. Whether it be a detail of one frame of that comic that had something visual in it, it really helped me tell that story and I think they did a brilliant job of taking those references and if you ask me specifically which comic books, I cant tell you that, but to take it from the comic and put it into script form its all credible. Its all from a comic.
Could you introduce us to the new actors, the new characters?
Ratner: Can I introduce them to you? Theyre not here right now. (looks to publicists) Well, am I allowed to? Yes? Juggernaut? I dont know; I had to sign, like a 100-page document before I walked in this room. Juggernaut, played by Vinnie Jones, is a fantastic character. Just a great actor and a great guy to be on the set with
What is his involvement?
Ratner: In the story, you mean? Well, Juggernaut joins Magnetos crew. I wont tell you how, but Magneto picks him up along the way and he becomes part of the Magneto crew. And theres Kitty Pryde, who is an X-Man who had very small parts in the first two movies and then we decided in this version to expand that role and thats Ellen Page, whos a brilliant young actress whos mostly done independent films. She was in this brilliant film called Hard Candy coming out soon. She has a bunch of scenes, with everybody.
Beast, well, I cant take credit for casting Kelsey Grammer but I gotta tell you, now that hes put that costume on, I dont see another actor who could play that part better than him. Kelsey Grammer was probably born to play Beast and not Frasier. (laughs) This guy, his intelligence, just as a person, as an actor, his voice and the way hes personified. When I see Kelsey Grammer, I get freaked out because its not him, hes Beast. Hes been cured temporarily during the day. So hes fantastic. Who else?
Ratner: Angel! Oh my god! That was such a hard thing. Every handsome, gorgeous young actor came in and wanted the part. Even Ed Norton, who I worked with on Red Dragon, called me and goes, I wish I wasnt in China right now making a movie because I want to play Angel! Its like everyones favorite character. And for me the important thing was to get a great actor. In the comic its kind of drawn as a beautiful, angelic makes sense guy, but I wanted to go for the guy who personified (him). Angel is a pretty tormented character.
One of the most powerful scenes in this movie is with Angel, I believe, and I wanted I saw hundreds of actors and Ben Foster came in and stole the part. He was just, like, I am this guy, and I believed him. Hes done a fantastic job acting out the complexity of Angel, because you could have been safe and just had a beautiful young man who can spread his wings and fly, but theres more to that. These characters and these actors have a lot of dimension and you need an actor that can bring that dimension to the role and Ben Foster definitely did it. Hes worked out harder than this guys like De Niro in Raging Bull except this guy worked out like 12 hours a day and his body is just liked transformed. Theyre heavy wings you cant just be a skinny little Jewish kid and carry them on your back youve got to have some muscle. You have to put some mass on. So hes devoted to the part.
Hugh, Ian and Halle, youve been in this series all along, youve worked up the chemistry you have with each. Whats it like when new people like Kelsey come along?
Jackman: Ah, its fantastic. I did a little phone interview today and someone said, All the cast are back, its really unusual, and I said, Yeah, I suppose it is, especially considering no one had to come back. Its not contractual that anyone had to come back; everyone wanted to be here. Because, as Ian was saying, were all proud of it. Im incredibly proud of what had been created in X1 and 2 and I think X1 forged the way for comic book movies.
You guys probably know better than me, but it seems like it broke new ground and has really laid the groundwork for Spider-Man, Batman, etc., which has come along. And it was done by making a character-based movie. So its an ensemble piece, every character matters, and the relationships matter and were all actors who love working with actors.
When I first auditioned and there was Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart .I was a student of theatre, so for me it was like De Niro and Pacino. Youve gotta be kidding me. And Halle Berry and Anna Paquin, all these people, it was amazing. And so theres certainly no sense of, Were the club and the new people come in. Were incredible lucky to have a series thats successful that great actors wanna come on board and great actors auditioning and not even getting parts! Really, were very lucky and every actor that comes on board, I dont think they feel ostracised. I hope not. Although Wolverine gives them shit! (laughs)
Ratner: Its exciting for me. Yesterday, for instance, Ian Magneto and Beast had their first scene together and I didnt realize that. Ive seen a lot of Beast, a lot of Ian, and then all of a sudden they see each other and its like, Hello! And its so exciting because theyve never been together before, so every day is a new day on this movie. Its fun for me watching it. When youre in love with a girl and you cant wait to tell her about your day, its like I cant wait to get to the set to direct these actors. So for me its like a dream come true.
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