On the second day of our visit to the set of X-Men: The Last Stand in Vancouver, it ended up being just as cold as I expected it to be on a December night. Earlier in the day we had visited the set of the Viking vs. Indian film called “Pathfinder” which was filming nearby. That evening we found ourselves driving in a bus in the snow on the way to the location of the main “X-Men” shooting. We were told that snow was rare in Vancouver, but here it was on a night we were due to be outside a lot.
The bus drove through a dark industrial area in Vancouver. As we neared the set I saw a large area lit up like a stadium. Surrounding it were dozens of trucks, trailers, and people. We went through a fence after briefly talking to a guard and started making our way through the maze of trailers. This was one of the biggest sets I’d ever been on. As we creeped along, I saw extras dressed as military police and soldiers. I also saw a couple of Hummers made up to look like military vehicles. Eventually we came up to a large hangar that was next to the main set. We stopped, unloaded, and were ushered into an area for the interview.
The area we were led into was surrounded by black curtains. As a backdrop for the desk where the actors and director were to sit was a large image of the X-Men’s headquarters hallway. A few heaters were placed around the room, but they had little effect unless you were right next to them. This was the coldest interview I had ever attended. You could see people’s breath as they asked questions.
After a short wait, the actors and director joined us. In attendance were Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, and director Brett Ratner. Ratner and McKellen were wearing heavy coats appropriate for the weather. Halle Berry snuck in so quietly that I totally missed her until she sat down. She was wearing a light leather coat, her hair pulled back, and a tan baseball cap with angel wings painted on the sides. The person that really struck me was Hugh Jackman. He, too, was wearing a heavy coat, but you could see the pants of his trademark X-Men costume. Jackman also had his distinctive Wolverine hair which looks quite bizarre in person until you get used to it. I was amazed at how tall he was. I’m about 6’5″, yet Jackman was practically looking me in the eye. (IMDb says he’s 6′ 2.5″, but the tall X-Boots and hair made him look even taller.) Everyone sat down and the Q&A began. Halle looked like she was about to freeze to death, but she turned down offers for a heavier coat. It was the first time I shivered through a Q&A.
Q: Brett, with Rush Hour you kind of built your own franchise there, from the ground up. You were there pretty much from the beginning, put your own stamp on it, had ideas about changing certain things. X3 is something really different from that, for you. You kind of joined the train as it was moving pretty quickly. My question is, why? What did X-Men mean to you and why did you want to come onboard at this last hour?
Ratner: I was such a fan of the X-Men series. And actually I was talking with Hugh about this the other day. He said, “You probably made history-you’ve directed more movies with a 3 at the end of it than any other movie.” Even though Red Dragon didn’t have a 3 at the end, it was the third in the series. But the benefit I had with Red Dragon was that I had 3 different movies that existed-Manhunter, Hannibal, and Silence of the Lambs-that were in the exact same genre, but very different movies. Moreso with this movie, I had 2 movies that existed with one director. He created a fantastic tone, with some of the best actors in the world. So I said, “Oh, this was going to be an easy job.” Little did I know. We’re in December in Vancouver in the freezing cold. But the truth is that I was such a big fan of what was established and I knew that if I stuck to the tone of this movie and the formula, and we had all the same 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 visual effects movie before.
Q: 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 for me to stick to the tone that Bryan (Singer) and the actors created. My input really has been just trying to make a more emotional film. A film with more heart and more pathos. I wanted to try and tell a story and act if this is a trilogy and the third in the series. Go in there and not reinvent 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 and I like emotion and I like feeling something in the movie. The audiences care about these characters so much and it was very important to me to stay true to who they were and not try and reinvent it.
Q: Hugh, it was 6 years ago at an event not unlike this, we brought a bunch of press over from the sci-fi genre world, and you were shooting in an abandoned beer factory in Toronto. Do you remember that?
Jackman: It was the pub scene. I remember it.
Q: We had never met you before, and the thing that impressed me so much about you was your incredible enthusiasm for the film, for the character. How do you maintain it now the 3rd time around and there might be a 4th time around? How do you keep it going?
Jackman: I think that Ian’s been doing this a little longer than me – the acting business. I’ve been acting for ten years, and you get a sense when you have a role and you’re in a movie and a story which you don’t want to let go of. You watch the movie- X-Men 1, X-Men 2 –and as soon as it is finished, you’re like, “We have unlimited movies from this. These characters can go any which way.” For me as an actor, it’s an amazing part. Wolverine in not just the comic book genre but any kind of action movie, is one of the great parts, I think. I love playing him, it’s a challenge. With Brett onboard, he pulled all the actors aside and said, “Our job in the third one not only is to round out the series because we’re paying off things that have been sown in X-Men 1 and X-Men 2 deliberately and we’re getting to pay them off now. But not only are we rounding it out, we’re gonna take the stakes much higher than they’ve ever been, and emotionally we’re going much further than we’ve ever been.” So it was a challenge. For me, if you’re going to play a role and do it again, you want to be able to do it better, to take it further, you want to show more. I think we have the best script to start with of any of the three. And really, that’s the long answer of saying it was easy to keep the passion to be there, and I feel blessed to have the role.
Q: For each of you, how have your characters changed between X-Men 2 to X-Men 3? As far as powers, personality?
Berry: Storm has one now [laughs]. The movie for me is still very much an ensemble; that’s one of the things I really love about working on X-Men. But this time my character of Storm, not that she’s there any more than she ever was, but when she’s there she’s saying something, she has a definite point of view and that’s been really wonderful for me. I know that Brett was really instrumental in making that happen. He always wondered, ‘Well what the heck is Storm doing’? He’s really been a supporter of just finding a voice for the character. I think I’ve struggled with that over the years, (Storm is) very much a part of it but not really sure myself what voice Storm was taking from the comic books because it didn’t always materialize in the script for me. This time it does.
Ratner: And she gets to fly.
Berry: And I get to fly [laughs]. That’s another Brett Ratner (influence). Yeah, I do get to fly this time.
McKellen: I don’t actually think my character changes. He’s very much who he was before. It’s the eternal arguments between two people involved in civil rights, whether they are Malcolm X and Martin Luther King or Magneto and Xavier. That’s the theory anyway. So basically that’s a story that’s been retold, as it’s retold from the past. I’ve constantly been asked what it’s like to play a villain, but I’ve never met an actor who thought of the characters they were playing as a villain. I’ve never met a villain before. I don’t think there’s many villains going around in the world, but lots of people doing stupid things. Magneto’s got plenty of motives and attitude behind his villainous behavior. You might think he’s doing the wrong thing, but you’d probably come out the worst in any argument with Magneto on this particular issue.
Jackman: He’s a little sexier in this one though [laughs]
McKellen: I wanted to keep that as a surprise [laughs].
Q: Did you feel like you needed to make Brett feel comfortable in being the new director?
Jackman: Brett is the most fearless man you’ve ever going to meet. He came on relatively 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. If you go to a party, Brett is the last guy you need to make sure has 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 in a movie of this size. (to Brett) I don’t feel that you’re daunted by it. I don’t know if you have any secret fears. But I think he enjoys it and has enjoyed being with the cast, and we’ve enjoyed having him.
Ratner: When I’m in the bathroom, I throw up occasionally. [laughs].
McKellen: Probably people are thinking, ‘Oh I see what happens with these’â€¦well, I’m not going to use that dreaded F word you used. These are films. To call it a ‘franchise’ as if we’re in the business of just making money, I think it’s an insult to everybody 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 to be truthful. If you’re looking for a totally different view of X-Men, it will be perfectly possible. Our view of X-Men is quite other than the style of comics and the television spin-off. But it would be possible that Brett would be going way down off the Singer path and I’ve been very impressed that you decided that you absolutely didn’t want to do that because you loved so much what Bryan had done. It’s a script that we all agree is superior from the start out, to the previous two, and it has a very intriguing hook that gets you involved immediately and emotionally with the characters. But we have the advantage of being the third time around and not having to introduce everyone. No wonder Storm didn’t have much to do with it; there were twenty people all fighting to get on the screen somehow. I think things have relaxed a little bit and that’s a little more indulgent. Magneto has a bit more to say than he did in the last movie.
Q: Brett, should this film be looked at as the third part in a trilogy, or just another story in a continuing series of stories?
Ratner: Because I feel so reverential to the first two, I’m not reinventing anything that’s already been done, but I am informing some back story that maybe you hadn’t seen but makes total sense to the first two. And we are paying off some of the arcs of the characters and resolving some of the arcs somehow-I don’t think it’s the final arc. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to go further with it. But I think because I’m referring to the first two movies and I’m making sure that we’re consistent with the first two movies as far as the characters are concerned, as far as what they went. Bryan and these actors have created kind of the universe and there are 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 kind of pieces it all together. Like, ‘Oh, that’s why in the first movie they were in this location here.’ That sort of all pays off. So in that sense maybe it is a trilogy, I’m not saying that Fox wouldn’t make a fourth or fifth X-Men…
McKellen: It can be quite unnerving when you’re going about your business of acting and the director comes over and says, “Tell me about what you did in the first two movies.” “Well, Gandalfâ€¦.” (laughs) So I mean, you have been bringing us back all the time and you’re sometimes the schoolteacher with naughty children.
Ratner: It’s like dÃ©jÃ vu for me since I wasn’t there the first two times. It’s so weird.
Q: Are you deliberately setting things up in this film that might be paid off in subsequent movies?
Ratner: See, I don’t have a contract to do X4-it depends on the performance of this movie if they ask me to come back, which is the reality. But the truth is I am introducing some characters that I know that Fox is gonna go, ‘We’ve gotta to put Kitty Pryde in X4. We’ve got to bring them back’. I’m setting things up where I’m introducing little things that whether I’m doing it or not, I just love planting those little seeds, and bringing things into this movie that for some reason or another, Bryan wasn’t able to bring inâ€¦ that only the hardcore fans would really know about that wouldn’t really make a difference to the moviegoer. But for instance, like the Fastball Special-I don’t know if I can talk about that. [laughs]. But stuff like that, stuff that the fans are gonna be like, “Yeah!” and gonna be cheering, that for one reason or another weren’t able to make it into X-Men 1 or 2.
Q: Hugh, obviously from film to film, your confidence has grown. What type of effect does that have on Wolverine for this film?
Jackman: As an actor?
Q: Yes, as you.
Jackman: Well, I hope in anything in life, the more shots you have at it, the more confidence you get, the more you learn, the better you get. I don’t want to set myself up for failure, but hopefully as an actor I can bring a little more to it. An interesting progression for the character in this one is that he’s archetypally the reluctant hero, and much of it has been will he join the X-Men, will he be a part of it? That’s not so much the case in the third one but more, what role will he play? Will it be an issue of leadership? Will he be a real team player? It’s not so much, is he part of the X-Men-that’s kind of a given in the beginning of X-Men 3, but what role is he going to play. There is a lot at stake in this movie. I think that 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. [laughs].
Q: Brett and Halle, what kind of story arc did you want to put in for Storm? What are you going for with this?
Ratner: Like Halle said, when I met her the first time and I said, “There really wasn’t a huge presence for you in this movie as far as personality was concerned, and I wanted to really define who you were, give you a point of view.” Because there’s two issues in this movie-there’s political issues, and there’s emotional storyline. I wanted to make sure, where do you stand in these issues, this character? And I just love photographing Halle Berry. I want her in the movie as much as I can [laughs]. But for her, to give her a lot of credit, when we first talked she said, “Look, I don’t care about giving me a lot of dialogue. When I’m on screen, I want it to matter. I don’t want it to just be there.” So I kind of went through the script and looked for the opportunity of really enhancing her character, and giving her more of a point of a 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. When it’s 20 people standing around, it’s hard to kind of know. That’s the hardest thing, just listening and standing there and not knowing ‘What are you doing here, what’s your point of view’? In her mind, at least she understands what the purpose and motivation is for her in each scene.
Q: Is there a romantic thing involving Storm?
Ratner: With me? No. [laughs]. I can’t divulge that, but you’ll see. I think fans of her character are going to be excited because she has much more to do in this movie. And physicality, this is one of the most beautiful women in the world and I wanted to really take advantage of that, and shoot her in a way that was really exciting for the audience.
Q: Brett, you are faced with political issues and I’m particularly intrigued. Chief among them in this story is something that triggers something that’s massive in this X-Men universe and that’s the notion of a cure. If you don’t want to be a mutant anymore, you don’t have to be. This triggers all sorts of upheavals with the X-Men and the Brotherhood. It seems to me when I read it that each X-Men character has a different reaction and I think that’s really important. Maybe you can talk about the character’s reactions? In starting with you Ian, obviously Magneto has very strong opinions about this.
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-and that they identify themselves more than most. Although, all teenagers perhaps think of themselves as mutants and that they are mistreated by the rest of society for a time, for no good reason. As a gay man, the idea that someone might come along with a cureâ€¦
Ratner: (jokingly) You’re gay??
McKellen: Well, there aren’t many of us in Hollywood [laughs]. But there are people who think gay people can be cured, so my reaction to that, that I can be cured as a mutant, is contemptuous, that people think I need curing for my sexuality. The idea that black people can take a pill that would cure them of being black is absolutely appalling to me. I’d like to hear of any character in this film who thinks this 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. I don’t think people should be cured of their god-given nature.
Ratner: In that idea alone, when I first met with you I said, “The core of this idea is what I’m excited about, which is why I think this script takes it to a whole other 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 just miles ahead of the last two. Because every single character in this movie will have an opinion and have a reason for it or against it, and it motivates a lot of the plot. It’s a fantastic device and it’s a fantastic concept that is excellent.
McKellen: And some people get cured and get changed. But of course we don’t know, this cure being a new thing, how long it’s going to last, probably will not go as far as X-Men 4 [laughs]
Q: What’s Storm’s view on this?
Berry: I echo everything Ian said. Being a black woman, a woman of color, I think that’s been an issue I’ve struggled with my whole life. Feeling like somehow when I was a child that if I could change myself, somehow my life would be invariably better. And as I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve come to terms with what nonsense that is and this movie certainly adds light to that dark subject.
Ratner: Storm, in my opinion and I think Halle’s, is one of the X-Men who are most opposed to the use of the cure. And 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 that happens in this movie is motivated by their opinion on the subject, so the plot is fantastic in my opinion.
Jackman: I’m going to be devil’s advocate, because we’ve had the studio, everyone involved, fights with certain characters that are offered the cure. And voluntarily some take it, some don’t. And I won’t say which character cause I don’t want to give away the plot. There’s a number of characters, but we just, for example, were talking about someone like Rogue. Now 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, never being able to be married. Now, as politically abhorrent as somehow the cure is, it’s also humanely and socially, incredibly understandable that a character like that would take it. Now for Wolverine, he’s not a political beast in any way shape or form, and in the process of this movie, I think he starts as someone with very little opinion about the cure except for what it means for him. If you want to take the cure, you take the cure. If you don’t, whatever, I could give a s**t. You do what you want to do; I’ll do what I want to 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. That’s what I think is great about this story. For Wolverine, he works that out.
McKellen: I would have to say, on the matter of Rogue, that it isn’t necessarily her particular mutancy which is her problem; it’s other people’s reaction to it. Maybe it’s society that’s wrong, not her. And the last thing that you should do is try to cure her; the first thing you should do, if she wants, is try and help her. But there are many ways of trying to help people who are handicapped, rather than giving them extra limbs or forcing them to be what we think of as the normal. But that’s one of the many arguments that is in this movie, and along with all these amazing effects and great humor that the characters manage to have through thick and thin and all the glamour of the story and the bigness of itâ€¦ I’m just very, very pleased that we can be certain that for some young people and maybe old ones too, who take comfort from this story because they think it’s actually addressing something that’s important to them. Even though it’s in this fantastic world of ridiculous costumes and everything else. That’s excellent and that’s why they like it.
Q: How are the costumes this time around?
Ratner: They’re the same, with some enhancements. They’re pretty close. They’re in the world. There’s some new characters, so they have obviously some new costumes, but otherwiseâ€¦that’s when I have to pinch myself kind of when I’m in the X-Men 1 room and they’re in their X suits and the villains-mostly the villains, the X suits don’t go too far out-when Magneto’s in his cape and his helmet, and the other character’s in a helmet, I’m like, ‘This is just so bizarre.’ [laughs]. It’s like, what’s going on? 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; this is really going down. 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 and they want to believe it and we’re creating the reality within that frame. It’s very important that I do that and that’s my approach to every scene. We figured out and we debated, and we were here last night and we were figuring out the nuance of how to throw a punch, or how to 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!’ And I’ll say, ‘Magneto would do that or wouldn’t do that’, but I have to give a reason why he would or wouldn’t. There’s a lot of challenging and it’s to better the performance and better the movie. There’s no egos involved and everyone wants to make a great film. It’s the best bunch of actors I’ve ever worked with, and they really care. Their character is important to them from Pyro to Rogue. And I call them by their names, not really by accident because when I look at them, I’m looking at Magneto. I’m like, “Magneto, come here.” And I believe he’s Magneto and the same with Storm and Logan.
Q: Speaking to the cast-is it easy to slip back into these roles the third time around, 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 get through it, I want to watch the monitor with you” and he was great to me from the beginning. After the third day I was like BOOM, there it is. I don’t think all the stuff we did on the first few days were useless, but I took a few days. It was just putting it back on for me.
Q: Halle, can you tell us about flying? Did you do wire work?
Berry: Yes. Wire work, spinning. I know it seems like a little thing-I’ve been saying this now since I started the movie, “I just want to fly! Storm flies in the comic book and I wore this cape for two movies now and never used it” [laughs]. It really is part of her power and part of 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 really helps my fellow characters. I never really got to use the beauty of what Storm does. She used to fly a plane, but she didn’t actually do what she can do so as an actor, that’s been fun for me. I love all the physical work that I get to do in these movies.
Ratner: And by the way, we incorporated it into the storyline. It’s not just, ‘Let’s watch Storm fly now!’ It’s part of the plot and Simon Crane is one of the best second unit directors in the world and he’s been shooting some fantastic action sequences with these guys. And I’ll look at the dailies at the end of every day and I was shocked. You know, I don’t know why Halle actually does it because nobody is going to believe it’s her anyway [laughs]. But there is this thing where Storm has an action piece and she’s up in the air hovering, and she literally to create a kind of wind/tornado effect, she actually spins. She’s on a wire, or rope or something -she must have done like 87 turns from here to that wall and then the camera stops and I just see her go, ‘Whoa’.
Berry: And then they say, “Okay you’re done. Walk back to your trailer.” So I’m walking back, walking back, walking back, *vomit noise* [laughs]. Totally embarrassing.
Berry: I tried that!
Ratner: So she didn’t really have to do it but she actually did. So it’s like Jackie Chan’s doing his own stunts; Halle Berry’s doing her own stunts. The thing is when I saw the scene, the actual execution of it, I said that 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 jump down a building. The same way that Jackie Chan would use this in a fight. This bottle of water. They’re using his claws to break a fall going down on metal, so there’s sparks. It’s really thought out. It’s not just, ‘Okay, let’s just have him swinging his claws around’. It makes sense. It’s all motivated. All the pieces are working and I’m really happy with all of the action stuff. The truth is that the heart of this movie is the fact that there’s a small story within the big film. There’s a small story, and that’s really the relationships between these characters, and that’s why I love this film.
Q: It sounds like you’ve taken a lot of stories from Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” run. Are there any other comic sources of parts of other X-Men books that you used in this movie? And if so, which ones? And to the actors, do you ever pick up the comic books anymore?
Ratner: That’s a trick question for me because all I can tell you is that if you ask me what number comic book they refer to, I can’t tell you that. But I can tell you that every single scene in this movie (the screenwriters) Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg, who are fanatical X-Men fans, if I asked them, “Where the hell did you get this idea from?”, they’ll pull out X-Men 127 and he’ll photocopy it for me. So in my office here, before I actually shot, there’s a reference of every single scene in this movie from a comic. I thought some of it is made up. The execution of the script is so brilliant because you know how they have an Academy Awards category for screenplay and then adapted screenplay from another piece of source material? That is the hardest thing to do. Harder than an adaptation because the complexity of taking something from a comic that exists, and put it into script form where it works in a movie universe-is not an easy thing to do. That was incredible education for me to look at the scene the way it existed, for instance the cure in the comic, and how it manifests itself in script form and then how I visualized it. It really informed my approach to it. Whether it be a detail of one frame of a comic that had something visual in it, it really helped me tell that story and I think they did a brilliant job at taking those references and putting it in script form. It’s all credible, that’s all I can tell you. It’s all from pre-existing comic book stories.
Q: Could you discuss the new actors, and the new characters?
Ratner: I just signed like a 100 page document before I walked into this room (about nondisclosure) [laughs]. Juggernaut, played by Vinnie Jones, is a fantastic character and just a great actor and just a great guy to work with and be on the set with. Juggernaut joins Magneto’s group, I won’t tell you how, but Magneto picks him up along the way and he becomes part of the Magneto crew. There’s Kitty Pryde who’s an X-Men that had very small parts in the first two movies, but we decided in this version to expand that character. That’s Ellen Page, a brilliant young actress who’s done mostly independent films-she’s in this brilliant film coming out soon called “Hard Candy”.
Q: Does she have a few scenes with Wolverine?
Ratner: She has a bunch of scenes in this movie. She’s one of the X-Men; she has scenes with everybody. For Beastâ€¦I can’t take credit for casting Kelsey Grammer but I can tell you that now that he’s put that costume on, I don’t see another actor who could play that part better than him. I think Kelsey Grammer was probably born to play Beast and not Frasier [laughs]. This guy-his intelligence as a person and as an actor, his voice, and the way he’s personified. When I see Kelsey Grammer I get freaked out on the set because it’s not him, he’s Beast. He’s been cured, temporarily during the day. He is fantastic. I think all the new charactersâ€¦and what I’ve done really is taken Bryan Singer’s essence and put it into me. I don’t know if that’s said properly [laughs]. If Bryan was directing this movie, who would he hire? So I was very careful and it wasn’t because I wanted to make sure that he was happy with the movie at the end when he sees it-even though I care what he thinks because I do respect his work-but it’s moreso that I didn’t want to all of the sudden have some ‘Where did that come from’. I knew the focus on these movies cause you can’t complain about Ian McKellen cause he was in the first one with Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. But what did Brett bring to this movie as far as the new actors and new characters? And so I was very careful in choosing the new characters, the new actors for the new roles and making sure that it was within the universe and it wasn’t like ‘Where did that come from’. You know, like Brett was catching butterflies over there while he was casting this movie. I stayed very true, I think, to the universe. There’s some other evil mutants. We refer to as ‘muties’ -I don’t want to give you their names because it’s not official right now-but there’s muties that have actually joined Magneto, and a very talented young actress by the name of Dania Ramirez who is one of Spike Lee’s muses or favorite actresses, and I put her in this film. She’s fantastic. And Angel, that was a hard thing. Every handsome, gorgeous young actor came in and wanted that part. Even Edward Norton who I worked with on Red Dragon called me and goes, “I wish I wasn’t in China right now making a movie! I wanna play Angel!” I mean, it’s like everyone’s favorite character. And for me the important part was getting a great actor. In the comic he’s drawn as kind of a beautiful, angelic actor but I wanted to go for the guy that personified him. Angel is a pretty tormented character, and I think one of the most powerful scenes in this movie is with Angel, I believe, emotionally. So I saw hundreds of actors and Ben Foster just came in and stole the part. He was just like, “I am this guy” and I believed him. He’s done a fantastic job at 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 actors and these characters especially have a lot of dimension, and you need an actor that could bring that dimension to the role. Ben Foster definitely did it. And he’s worked out harder than Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull”. This guy works out like 12 hours a day and his body has just completely transformed himself for the part. They’re heavy wings, you can’t just be a skinny little Jewish kid and carry them on your back. You gotta have some muscle so he put some mass on. He’s devoted to the part.
Q: The actors- you’ve been in this series all along from the beginning, and worked up the chemistry you have with each other and how the ensemble works. What is it like for incorporating new people, like when Kelsey comes along?
Jackman: I think it’s fantastic. I did a little phone interview today and someone said, “So all the cast are back, that’s really unusual.” I said, “Yeah I suppose it is”, especially considering no one had to come back contractually. Everyone wanted to be her because as Ian was saying and Brett was saying, we’re all proud of it. I’m incredibly proud of what had been created in X-Men 1 and 2, and I think X-Men 1 forged the way for comic book movies. You guys probably know better than me. It seems it broke new ground and really laid the groundwork for “Spider-Man”, “Batman”, etc. that has come. And it was done by making a character based movie so it’s an ensemble piece and 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, as a student of theater, I said for me, “This is De Niro and Pacino.” You’ve got to be kidding me! So with Halle Berry and all these people, I thought this is amazing. There’s certainly no sense of, “We’re the club” and new people come in. I think we’re incredibly lucky to have a series that’s successful and great actors want to come aboard. Great actors auditioning, and great actors not even getting parts! We really are very lucky with every actor that comes onboard and I don’t think they feel ostracized. I hope not. Although Wolverine gives them s**t, but apart from thatâ€¦[laughs]
Ratner: It’s exciting for me because yesterday for instance, Magneto and Beast had their first scene together and I realized that I’d seen a lot of Beast and a lot of Ian, and all of a sudden they see each other and say hello and it’s like, “Oh my god this is so exciting, they’ve never been together before.” So everyday is a new day on this movie and it’s fun for me watching it. You know when you’re in love with a girl and you can’t wait to go home and tell her about your day? I can’t wait to get to the set to direct these actors. So for me it’s like a dream come true.
That concluded our refrigerated Q&A session with the stars and director of the film. Next up we were told that we were going to speak to the man behind the visual effects. Read it in Part 4 of our set visit to X-Men: The Last Stand!
Source: Scott Chitwood