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

Intro & Int. w/ Kelsey Grammer
Press Conference Part 1/2 / Press Conference Part 2/2
Part 4 of 5

On the second day of the X-MEN: THE LAST STAND set visit, we got to see some first unit photography. I was excited at the chance to see Brett Ratner at work again. The last time I was on one of his sets (for AFTER THE SUNSET) I got to see, among other things, Serena Williams’ pants falling down. With X3 being a much larger shoot (with a much larger budget), I naturally assumed everything would be amplified. I expected nothing less than full frontal nudity. From Halle Berry , ideally.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only was there no nudity to speak of (perhaps on account of the frigid Vancouver weather), but the whole operation was quite professional and businesslike. No celebrity guests hanging out, messing with their Blackberries (or Sidekicks – whatever the kids are into these days).

A fox rep described the location as such: “This is the side of the building on Alcatraz , which has become Worthington Industries, which is where the cure is being developed. This where a battle takes place. As the cast were talking about, philosophically there is great difference and people have different ideas about what is gonna happen. And so all of those opposing forces converge here and there’s a huge battle.”

The scene: Ian McKellen (Magneto) stands above Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), who is pinned face down on the ground (Magneto’s got that whole “power over metal” thing, yada yada yada), and utters the line “I warned you.” He then flips Jackman over and spins him around (with Jackman screaming in pain throughout.) Jackman manages to yell out “Jean!!!” before McKellen has him writhing again. McKellen says, “You never learn, do you?” to which Jackman replies, “Actually, I do.” And cut. It was strange seeing all the action before the digital effects are added, like watching a couple kids playing in their backyard or something.

We were stationed a few yards away from the action – it’s the closest I’ve ever been to a scene. In between shots, a Ratner joked around about the tight security on the set. “It’s weird having visitors,” he said, “there’s like no visitors allowed on the set.” Hugh also came over and chatted with us a bit. He was particularly excited to see the film’s trailer, which had just been finished.

The second unit at work


The day before, we watched as second unit director Simon Crane shot a pivotal scene where Juggernaut chases Kitty Pryde through Worthington Labs, with Kitty phasing through the walls and Juggernaut smashing through them. Here’s how associate producer David Gorder described it: “The reason Juggernaut is going through the wall is he’s chasing Kitty, who’s phasing. And they’re both after a certain character – a certain mutant, which I will not reveal. Obviously, Kitty is after him for a different reason than Juggernaut is after him. They’ve shot elements of it already, where the walls, the special effects have exploded, and Juggernaut runs through…the debris will be added with visual effects.” The scene was shot from above, with the camera on a huge technocrane, following the characters as they ran.

After the shoot, journalists peppered Gorder with questions about the film. Here are some excerpts.

The action:

“This movie is probably the biggest action-oriented movie out of the series. The action scenes are just incredible – like something you’ve never seen before…I’ve worked on all three X-Men films and this is unprecedented as far as the action. Brett Ratner is doing an incredible job of making it visually exciting with huge stunts, explosions, and action. It’s going to be something that...you’re just going to be thrilled when you see it. It’s absolutely incredible Bryan Singer did a fantastic job and Brett’s carried it to another level. It’s bigger in scope. It’s a bigger canvas that he has. We have more important characters that we’ve been trying to get into the films all along, like Beast and Juggernaut.”

The huge scope of the production:

“The whole production – this whole undertaking – has impressed me. Every day I’m impressed. We have two huge units going. The second unit is almost like a whole separate movie in itself. You can see out there with the trailers and stuff – it looks like the main unit on an ordinary movie – the level of expertise, the crew we’ve hired, Brett’s knowledge of big moviemaking and green-screen work. We’ve built a section of the Golden Gate Bridge and we have four-story green-screens all around it, which is just mind-blowing. When you see production on that scale, and scaffolding, and green-screens four stories high, it’s pretty mind-blowing.”

On seeds being planted for future films:

“As much as we did in X2 – as much as many people missed the fact that ‘Oh, there was sort of an outline of a phoenix in the water.’ We do sort of the same thing with this one. It’s sort of like, you could go there if you wanted to. But it doesn’t rule out anything, it doesn’t set up anything specifically like saying, ‘Oh, you’re going to tell this story in X-Men 4.’ It just sets it up like, ‘Oh…certain characters could come back and continue their story arcs.’”

On the comics that influenced the X3 storyline:

“There’s a lot of reference from Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men.” There’s some characters – Dr. Rao is a character in this movie – that’s from the “Astonishing X-Men.” And also “Phoenix Rising” and the Phoenix comics – there will be some references to that, but mostly it’s an original story. We’ve just taken bits and pieces of what we liked from Joss’s storylines and from the Phoenix storyline.”

On the new characters in the film and the actors who play them:

“Kitty is played by Ellen Page. She’s amazing. Brett calls her ‘the female Edward Norton.’ She was in a small indie movie called Hard Candy, and she’s just an incredible actress. We’re very excited for her to play Kitty. She has a lot of screen time with Bobby (Iceman). There’s a B-storyline there that involves Bobby.”

“Vinnie Jones, of course, is a renowned soccer player from England, and he’s perfect for Juggernaut. He has a suit on that we made for him. The costume and the helmet are incredible and very faithful to the comic. Vinnie has the right personality for the character. He’s an amazing actor to work with. People are really going to fall in love with Juggernaut as a bad guy.”

“We have Ben Foster, who plays Angel. He’s doing an incredible job. When Angel is revealed in the story, I think everybody will be really surprised and happy that he was chosen because he’s spot-on as anything you could imagine Angel to be like.”

On Kelsey Grammer as Beast:

“Kelsey blows my mind. He is so Beast that I almost don’t even want to see him out of his makeup. I like him so much and his character so much that when I see him as Kelsey, I keep thinking it’s Frasier. When you first see him in the Beast makeup, you’re thinking, “Well, as soon as he talks, he’ll sound like Frasier with Beast makeup on. Not at all. He has totally encapsulated the character of Beast better than anyone I could ever imagine. I remember when he was cast, I was like, ‘Hmmm, I wonder how the fans are going to react to this. It’s very interesting casting…’ And I saw his casting tape, and it just blew me – and everybody else – away. It was the best choice they could have made. You are going to be so surprised with his look – they just did an incredible job with his makeup. It’s absolutely fantastic looking.”

On the look of Beast:

“We wanted to stay away from the cat-like Beast, because it makes the character a little bit too unbelievable. It doesn’t quite fit into that world. It’s more about the hair. It took us a long time to get the hair color right and the texture of the hair right. But they’ve done such an amazing job – I think everybody is going to want to be Beast. He’s going to be the favorite character. And it’s very gratifying because we’ve tried to get him into every movie we’ve done and, due to various story reasons or cost-cutting or budget-cutting, we couldn’t fit him into the first two.

But in this one, we finally got him and we made the absolute right choice. He is perfect in the part. He loves playing the part and he’s so enthusiastic to be taking a character and developing it as his own. And I think he’s someone we’re going to want to see back in future sequels. You could almost make a Beast sequel on its own, because he has such an interesting story. He’s got a lot of emotional pathos to his character. He was a football star before he was turned into Beast. He was a handsome guy, and he’s not so handsome now that he has blue fur and blue skin. I think a lot of people are going to relate to that on some level – in your youth, you were handsome and you were a star, and then all of a sudden, you were blue, or you were older. They’ll draw parallels between that and their own life, and Kelsey is the perfect person to pull that off.”

On Patrick Stewart’s involvement – is it as big as it was in the first two films?

“Oh yeah, he’s back and bigger than ever in this. We’ve wrapped him filming. If we bring him back it will be for additional shots. But for the most part, he’s been wrapped. He’s back in London, where he lives now…he’s doing a play in London, so we front-loaded the shooting schedule to shoot him out so he could go do his play – he’s producing and starring in a play in London. Most of his scenes were at the X-Mansion and then we shot him out quickly when we got back to Vancouver. He wrapped about two weeks ago.”

We also had a lengthy Q&A with visual effects supervisor John Bruno, who talked about the challenges of creating effects for each of the characters. Here are some excerpts.

On the challenges of X3 compared to the first two films:

“The difficult part of this film is basically keeping it within the…the story is much more complicated than the last two combined, and the visuals are equally as complicated. What makes it a little more difficult is that we’re have to sort of lock it to reality. What they’ve always established the past X-Men films is that the effects are… the reasons the stories worked and the movie works is that they’re locked more into reality, not the fantasy of Lord of the Rings. Everybody’s mutant power is based on something in the physical world. So trying to keep everything realistic is in fact more difficult.”

On Beast:

“Doing CG with Beast is basically only when we can’t get physical stunts to do. There’s some specific things that he does…he has some trademark moves that he does in the comic. That will have to be CG, because it would hurt somebody if we had to do that. We try to get as much practical as possible, so we’ll start something and take it over in CG and finish it in reality.”

On Juggernaut and Angel:

“Juggernaut is our new character. The only time we will…basically, he physically wrecks things, so we sort of enhance debris or make debris that he sort of runs through. We only have one place where he’s taken over CG, that’s when comes through this outside wall, because it physically can’t be done safely. With Angel…Angel we tried to do, with Simon Crane’s help, everything practical to the point of, instead of using a double for him, we used the actual actor. At one point we took him out, it’s supposed to be a San Francisco street, which we shot in Vancouver, but we pulled him up 250 feet in the air and flew him past camera. Which means all we have to do is take out the cable, the support gear, and then add wings to him. Basically, we’re just adding wings to him.”

On making Storm fly:

“Yeah, Storm’s flying a lot in this movie, actually. Lightning, tornados – she’s creating all that stuff that she’s at the core of. And we’ve done that so far at all practical locations. She’s done it. Halle’s done it herself, which is a pretty spectacular feat for her. The tornado is a pretty wild thing that she did. She did (it) three times, that I saw. So basically we’re just taking out wires. And her eyes spinning because she was so dizzy.” (laughs)

On Colossus:

“Colossus is an interesting character. I remember him from the second movie and we were filming it for 24 frames. And I went, “Who was that guy?” You remember that. So we’re basically…what we’ve done is we’ve digitally scanned him – the actor – and we’ve got some reference again from Marvel as to what he’s supposed to look like. And every time we’ve filmed him close up, we’ve put all these tracking markers on him. And we have a CG version of him that will basically… I guess the concept of Colossus is that his skin disappears and you see this sinuous muscles and he becomes some solid, steel guy.

We basically have a CG version of him, but we mostly are tracking the actor with a CG “skin”, keeping it a way from Terminator. We see his muscle tissue. It’s a pretty interesting look. And in the background, as much as possible we put him…we built a suit that sits on a stunt guy. So as long as he’s in the background and other characters are in the foreground, you can’t tell the difference. It’s actually a very good suit. It also gives us a guide to lighting. There’s a lot of reference to lighting. Lighting, in the CG world, is the key to making the shot look real or not.”

On Iceman:

“We’re taking Iceman to the level of the comics. He “ices up,” for real. That will all be CG. You’ll see through him, actually.”

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

Source: JoBlo.com



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