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SAN DIEGO COMIC CON 2000

Director Bryan Singer talks... "X-Men"

Capacity crowd awaits Bryan Singer, the man behind one of the greatest comic book hero adventures to hit the big screen in years. He walks inÖthe crowd goes nuts. Standing ovation all around. Singer himself is a non-intimidating fellow, looks a lot like a guy still hanging on to his twenties, a Beastie Boy, if you will. The questions begin:

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How long have you been directing?

I started making 8mm films when I was 13, so Iíve been directing for 21 years.

Whatís the deal on the sequel?

Weíre talking about it. But there are very unusual circumstances because of the very compressed post-production schedule on the release date, I genuinely finished this filmÖthree weeks ago? So there hasnít been a lot of time to deliberate that, so weíre just starting to talk about it.

Whatís the deal with the apparent 15-45 minutes which you apparently cut out of the film?

No, no, no. Someone said to me the other day, I heard the studio made you cut like 40 minutes last week and I was like "wow, that would be an unusual thing to have to cut, you know just- pow, take it all out!" No, what we did is, we had a very short amount of time to edit it so in the first five weeks of editing, I was editing on Sundays in Toronto when I wasnít shooting, and what started off as two hours or so, started getting pared down by certain scenes, but it was a normal editing editing process which took place from about the 5-week point to about the 8-10 week point.

I donít think that it was 45 minutes, but maybe something like 20 minutes, shaved off or reduced, there are bits missing, but when youíre shooting a movie, itís very rare that you actually use al the scenes that you shoot. I mean, some films come in at about 4 hours and get down to about an hour and a half or two.

This one was pretty tight and I ended up losing some stuff, but no, the studio didnít come in and say "cut". They were on the same page as the kind of movie that we were making, and there was none of that.

Considering how late he came into production, I was curious as to which scene was the first for Hugh Jackman?

I have a terrible memory for the order of things. I could sing any Beatlesí song, but I couldnít tell you what year it was recorded. <asks his producer> The lab. The scene in the lab when he wakes up, when Jean Grey comes in and he springs up, and runs in the hallway.

Having never worked with special effects before, was it hard for you to direct this film?

No, surprisingly no. I mean, I did a lot of research in the world of special effects. In fact, I was on the set of Phantom Menace when they were shooting in London, I also visited Titanic and spent some time with those filmmakers. Iíve also grown up loving genre movies and so basically, itís applied imagination. You sort of come up with an idea and you say "can or canít we do it" and you learn very quickly, what can or canít be done.

Did you do introduction scenes for Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm? Also, is there a chance that this might on a DVD in time for Christmas? <crowd laughs>

We didnít shoot those. In a draft of the script there was a flashback Storm, and there was a flashback for Cyclops, but they didnít fit in, and I ultimately decided to go with Magneto and Rogue because they were pinnacle characters, who were driving the story forward. But we discussed, possibly some additionsÖI donít know about Christmas, this was just a preliminary discussion that we just had, something fun to do, but weíre not sure yetÖthat would be the studioís decision.

I noticed that the special effects in the movie were more sudden, in a way, more realistic, as opposed to something like the Matrix. How did you direct the actors in that respect during the production?

Mike Fink, my special effects supervisor and I basically agreed that since we were mixing real effects with live actors, they should be as elegant as possible. And also, my cinematographer, Tom Siegel, brought a very textured and very rich lighting design, so that we would need our visual effects to kind of celebrate that. So there were a lot of talks about keeping things fluid, seamless and elegant. And I really credit them, especially Mike Fink, for his quality maintenance in the area of special effects.

Matrix had a different kind of vision, that was a world where anything goes, so people could sort of freeze in mid-air and things like that. Here things were taking place in the real world and there were many different mutations so we basically went to eight different visual effects houses, each one was in charge of a particular mutantís power, like Mystique or what happened to Senator Kelly. So that we could have them focus and dedicate all of their energies to that one effect. As opposed to having a movie where there very many similar effects. We sort of spread it out, that way, each effects house could take pride in, like Toadís tongue for instance.

I heard that you had considered using Beast in this one. Who were some of the characters that you would consider bringing in, other than Beast, or even him, if you were to direct a sequel? <crowd screams Gambit>

I want Gambit. In fact, I almost had Gambit as a young boy on the basketball field, but the fear was that if he held the basketball, then released it and then it exploded, which was the idea, then people would be like "whatís wrong with those basketballs?". That is, people who werenít fans or didnít know the characters. But Gambit and Beast are two characters that I missed terribly. Beast was in the script for a while but then when you have Mystique thatís nine hours make-up and all of these challenges, you have to choose your battles, so perhaps those characters.

If you had more time, would you have done anything differently, or are you 100% satisfied with the way things came out?

Iím very satisfied with the film. Naturally, I would loved to have had more time. It was very difficult trying to split myself between many places at the same time and try to finish the movie quickly, and also maintain the level of quality that we were going for. It was very challenging and difficult and I hurt my neck too, halfway through shooting, so I was always in pain every day. I would have liked more time if I was to do it again, but no, I donít believe that anything was either sacrificed or harmed, thank goodness. In fact, there are some wonderful blessings that occur when youíre forced to be effective.

I thought you did a much better job of portraying Toad in the film, than the comic book ever did, probably ones of the worst villains ever in the comic book. Why would choose Toad over someone like Quicksilver and secondly, what is up with the rumor that the studio has already decided to use Apocalypse in the next film?

Iíve never heard those rumors before. But Toad, well, I simply got obsessed with Toad after looking at the early comics, and once I started the casting process, and then got Ray Park involved, I started thinking, well Toad can now be a lot more vicious. Less of a jester and more of a killer. I also liked the idea of Toad against Storm, but Toad needed more weapons, so the tongue evolved and other things like that. And then they grew and grew from there.


Wolverine and JoBlo

X-MEN BLOOPERS

At this point, the capacity crowd was lucky enough to be shown some cool outtake BLOOPERS from the movie. The first one was during the Wolverine driving the truck scene, smoking his cigar. He opens his window to find a flying super hero coming next to his window. It's director Bryan Singer all dressed up.

The second one is a serious scene between Professor X and Wolverine after he pierces Rogue. As Professor X is leading himself out of the room in his wheelchair (a very quiet moment), he accidentally knocks himself into the door. Pretty funny!

But the funniest one was during one of the later battle scenes where Cyclops, Storm and Wolverine are preparing to attack. As they move forward, they see someone join them from the corner of their eyes. It's SPIDERMAN! All dressed and ready to attack. They all crack up.

Did you feel a lot of pressure making this movie?

Actually, thatís one of the last things that one thinks about when shooting a movie, I mean, sure you take into account the whole comic book universe, but at the same time, you want to be able to be accessible to all the people who donít understand or might not be familiar with the comic, so you think about those things, but you donít think about the pressure. Yeah, the pressureís quite enormous, especially when you read stuff about FOX relying on the film to launch a franchise, and you just try to ignore them and make a good film.

Question about the cameos. Is the kid with the blue hair supposed to be Collussus?

UuuuuuuuhmmÖ..no. Collussus, is at the very beginning of a shot, where the boy runs across the water.

And is teleporting kid, Nightcrawler?

Not necessarily. Nightcrawler is blue with a tail and kinda sticks out <audience laughs>. Heís just teleporting kid <audience laughs again>. And theyíre triplets, by the way, we used triplets to actually do that.

Is the gag reel that we just saw gonna be on the DVD?

Possibly, I donít know. Iím gonna have to think about that <audience claps>. I just donít want to make fun of it. This isnít an "Airplane" movie or anything. But there are good bloopers. On most of my other films, USUAL SUSPECTS and APT PUPIL, we always had good bloopers but we moved so fast through editing that we didnít unfortunately cut a good "gag" reel" for the cast and crew and stuff. Iím gonna have to think about it.

Oh lookÖitís Wolverine!

<A guy looking exactly like Wolvie stands up in the crowd>

First of all, I want to thank you for putting in all of the cool cameosÖ

Well, the real person to thank for that is Tom DeSanto <audience claps>. Not only for suggesting a lot of those things, but for also guiding me through the process and through this amazing world of which heís been a fan of for decades.

How long have you been reading the X-Men comics, or comics in general? Have you always been a fan? Seems to be that you would have to be to get it all so right.

Well, as a matter of factÖ<audience laughs>, I never read comics growing up at all. I liked science-fiction, fantasy, and watched a lot of television, but I never read comics. About three and a half years ago, Tom suggested that I take a look at X-Men, I did, and I found it incredibly fascinating, so I began to read, began to read the character biographies, began to read the comics, I watched al 70 episodes of the animated series, and really familiarized myself. So basically Iíve been reading X-Men for about three and a half years, but Iím much more of a contemporary fan.

But people like Laura Shura-Donner, the producer, these people have been fans for many many years, and it was nice that I could bring in a fresh filmmakerís perspective, as someone who has just fallen in love with X-Men. And what would make other people who didnít know it, fall in love with it just like I did. And as far as the lore goes, I could always have them as a checks and balances system as collaborators.

I donít want to knock the movie or anything because I really liked the movie butÖ

Knock away!

But I noticed that Wolverine didnít know who Sabretooth was, and Iíve always known that he knew him since he was Weapon X.

Well, remember that Wolverine, Logan has no memory. That relationship can be explored later, in that old grey area, that he has no recollection of, which the movieís finale sort of gives way to.

How did you come around to casting Darth Maul as Toad?

Actually, it was very strange because I was on the set of Phantom Menace and it was the day that they were shooting the battle scene between Ewan and Liam Neeson and Ray Park. And I remember turning to Lucas and saying "who is that guy in the red head and the horns?", and he said "thatís the villain". But I was never introduced to him, never met him, I mean, I watched him fight for a while, thought it was neat. And then a while later, after I had seen the Phantom Menace, and enjoyed some of the fighting stuff that he had done, I wanted to meet with him, so he came in, and we just took it from there.

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After the interview session, Bryan was rushed downstairs (bodyguards in tow) to the Marvel booth, nice enough to sign a few hundred autographs for his adoring fans. The man sparked NEW LIFE into the comic book hero movie genre, so he deserves every bit of success that he is receiving. Good stuff, dude!

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SAN DIEGO COMIC CON 2000

1) Day by day coverage by JoBlo and The Arrow

2) EXCLUSIVE new scenes from HOLLOW MAN

3) SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE / Director E. Elias Merhige / Behind the Scenes

4) X-MEN / Director Bryan Singer / Q& A Session

5) CROW 3 movie reviews / Panel with star Eric Mabius and producer Jeff Most

6) Harry Knowles: who is he, where did he come from and how did he get so popular?

7) HOLLOW MAN featurette / Paul Verhoeven Interview

8) The Official JoBlo/Comic Con PHOTO GALLERY!!!

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