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 I’m intrigued that chief among them in this story is an issue that really triggers something that’s massive in the X-Men universe, and that’s the notion of a cure – if you don’t want to be a mutant, you don’t have to be. How do you feel about it. Ian, starting with you…
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
You’re gay? I had no idea! (laughs)
McKellen: Well, there aren’t 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. I’d 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. It’ll get you worked up, this movie, and so it should, because I don’t 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 I’m excited about, is why I think this script takes it to a whole new level. I don’t 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. It’s a fantastic device and concept, I think.
And some people get cured and get changed, but of course we don’t
know with this cure being a new thing, how long it’s going to
last. Probably not as far as X-Men 4, I hope. (everyone laughs)
what about Storm’s view on this?
Berry: Well, I echo everything Ian said. Being a black woman, a woman of colour, I think this is an issue I’ve 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 I’ve gotten older, I’ve 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 individual’s plight and their angst. Every scene in the movie is motivated by their opinions so it’s wonderful, in my opinion.
Jackman: I’m going to be devil’s 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 don’t. I won’t say which character because I don’t 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, it’s also humanely, socially understandable that a character like that would take it. Now for Wolverine, he’s 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 don’t, whatever, I don’t really give a shit. You do what you want to do; I’m gonna do what I wanna do. And he’s 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 you’re on…you have to eventually take a side. And that’s what’s great about this story, for Wolverine.
McKellen: But you’d have to say on the matter of Rogue that it isn’t necessarily her particular mutancy that’s her problem, it’s other people’s reaction to it. And maybe it’s society that’s 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.
that’s the argument, one of the many arguments that’s 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 I’m
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 it’s actually addressing thing that’s
important to them, even though it’s in this fantastic world of
ridiculous costumes and everything else. That, I guess is X-Men, and
that’s why I like it.
are the costumes, this time around?
Ratner: They’re the same, with some enhancements. They’re pretty close to… they’re in the world. There are some new characters and they obviously have some new costumes, but otherwise. That’s when I have to pinch myself, when I have all the X-Men in one room and they’re in their X-suits and the villains…mostly the villains. I mean the X-suits don’t go too far out, but the villains…when Magneto’s in his cape and his helmet and the other character’s in a helmet, I’m like, “This is so bizarre!” I stop for a second, but then I realize, you know what?
What’s brilliant about this movie and this franchise is that it’s all based in reality, and my approach to every scene is that this is really happening. It’s 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 we’re creating the reality in that frame, and it’s important that I do that, and that’s 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 it’s debated. Believe me, I have a lot of work on my plate because these actors definitely have an opinion, they’re not just letting me create my own reality. They’re saying, “You know what? Magneto wouldn’t do that! Wait a second.” Or I’ll say, “Magneto would do that.” But I have to give a reason why he would or wouldn’t, so there’s a lot of challenge and it’s to better the performance and to better the movie, there’s no egos involved.
Everyone wants to make a great film, it’s the best bunch of actors I’ve ever worked with, and they really care. It’s important to them, from Pyro to Rogue, every person. And I call them by their names, not really by accident, because when I’m looking at them, I’m looking at Magneto and I really believe he’s Magneto. And the same with Storm and Logan.
it easy to slip back into these roles this time round? Or is it
always a challenge?
Jackman: Easier than the second. But there’s always a moment. I said to Brett, the first week, “Let’s just go through it. Can I just watch the monitor with you because…” And Brett was great at the beginning and it wasn’t until our third day until I went (smacks fist on table) “There it is!” And I don’t 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.
can you tell us about flying?
Berry: Yes. Wirework, spinning, and I know it seems like a little thing, but I’ve been saying this since I started this movie: “I just wanna fly! Storm flies in the comic book and I’ve 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 it’s 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, it’s not just, “Watch Storm fly now.” It’s part of the plot and we have Simon Crane – who’s one of the best second unit directors in the world – and he’s been shooting some of the most fantastic action sequences with these guys and I’ll look at the dailies at the end of every day and I’ll be shocked. I don’t know why Halle actually does it, because no one’s going to believe it’s her anyway; they’re going to be, “Oh, it’s not her!” So why do you even waste your time? But there was this thing where Storm has to...it’s an action piece, but she’s up in the air, she’s hovering and she literally to create a tornado effect, she actually spins. You’re 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 she’s, like, “Wooah!”
And here’s the thing. They
say, “Okay, you’re done, walk back to your trailer!” And I’m
walking back, walking back…blecccch! (mimics vomiting) It’s
really embarrassing! (laughs)
Ratner: It’s like, Jackie Chan does his own stunts, Halle Berry’s doing her down stunts in this movie. And when I saw the scenes, the execution of it, Simon Crane’s brilliance came in because all the action is not just action for action’s sake; it’s motivated by the plot. It’s driving the story forward and it’s showing off the powers of these characters. It’s 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, they’re using his claws to break a fall and on metal, so there’s sparks. It’s really thought out! It’s not just, “Okay, let’s have him swinging his claws around.” It makes sense. And it’s all motivated. And all the pieces are working. I’m really happy with all the action stuff. But the truth is, the heart of the movie is the fact that there’s a small story within the big film. That’s really the relationships between these characters. And that’s why I love this film.
sounds like you’re taking a lot of story from Joss Whedon’s
Astonishing X-Men run. Are there any other comic sources or parts
from other books that you’re using in this movie?
Ratner: That’s 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 can’t 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?” he’ll pull out X-Men 127 or he’ll photocopy it for me. So in my office here, before I shot, I have every single…there’s 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 didn’t 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 can’t tell you that, but to take it from the comic and put it into script form… it’s all credible. It’s all from a comic.
you introduce us to the new actors, the new characters?
Ratner: Can I introduce them to you? They’re not here right now. (looks to publicists) Well, am I allowed to? Yes? Juggernaut? I don’t 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…
is his involvement?
Ratner: In the story, you mean? Well, Juggernaut joins Magneto’s crew. I won’t tell you how, but Magneto picks him up along the way and he becomes part of the Magneto crew. And there’s 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 that’s Ellen Page, who’s a brilliant young actress who’s 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 can’t take credit for casting Kelsey Grammer but I gotta tell you, now that he’s put that costume on, I don’t 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 he’s personified. When I see Kelsey Grammer, I get freaked out because it’s not him, he’s Beast. He’s been cured temporarily during the day. So he’s 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 wasn’t in China right now making a movie because I want to play Angel!” It’s like everyone’s favorite character. And for me the important thing was to get a great actor. In the comic it’s 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. He’s 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 there’s 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. He’s worked out harder than…this guy’s like De Niro in Raging Bull except this guy worked out like 12 hours a day and his body is just liked transformed. They’re heavy wings – you can’t just be a skinny little Jewish kid and carry them on your back – you’ve got to have some muscle. You have to put some mass on. So he’s devoted to the part.
Hugh, Ian and Halle, you’ve been in this series all along, you’ve worked up the chemistry you have with each. What’s it like when new people like Kelsey come along?
Jackman: Ah, it’s fantastic. I did a little phone interview today and someone said, “All the cast are back, it’s really unusual,” and I said, “Yeah, I suppose it is, especially considering no one had to come back.” It’s not contractual that anyone had to come back; everyone wanted to be here. Because, as Ian was saying, we’re all proud of it. I’m 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 it’s an ensemble piece, every character matters, and the relationships matter and we’re 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. You’ve gotta be kidding me. And Halle Berry and Anna Paquin, all these people, it was amazing. And so there’s certainly no sense of, “We’re the club and the new people come in.” We’re incredible lucky to have a series that’s successful that great actors wanna come on board and great actors auditioning and not even getting parts! Really, we’re very lucky and every actor that comes on board, I don’t think they feel ostracised. I hope not. Although Wolverine gives them shit! (laughs)
Ratner: It’s exciting for me. Yesterday, for instance, Ian – Magneto and Beast had their first scene together – and I didn’t realize that. I’ve seen a lot of Beast, a lot of Ian, and then all of a sudden they see each other and it’s like, “Hello!” And it’s so exciting because they’ve never been together before, so every day is a new day on this movie. It’s fun for me watching it. When you’re in love with a girl and you can’t wait to tell her about your day, it’s like I can’t wait to get to the set to direct these actors. So for me it’s like a dream come true.
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