After playing Dr. Frasier Crane for over twenty years on three popular sitcoms including his own show “Frasier,” actor Kelsey Grammer is taking the biggest leap of his career. Joining the cast of X-Men: The Last Stand as Dr. Hank McCoy, the blue-furred Secretary of Mutant Affairs, lovingly referred to as “Beast,” Grammer may not have known what he was in for when he accepted his first major role in a summer blockbuster.
Superhero Hype! spoke with the most high-profile newcomer to the X-Men franchise during a recent press jaunt in New York City, and he told us just a bit of what he went through to bring the Beast to life.
Superhero Hype!: How did you come to be in this movie, since you’re not exactly the first person whoâ€¦
Kelsey Grammer: â€¦would pop to mind? Well apparently I was the first person to Matthew Vaughn. He was the guy who said, “Oh, no. Kelsey Grammar has to play that part.” So, who knew? I guess he was right. He didn’t end up directing the film. I guess it was mostly because he was worried about the preparation. He didn’t think he could deliver it on time. Brett said he could, soâ€¦
SHH!: Matthew also brought on Vinnie Jones, but how does that work when you sign onto work with a director and then he’s replaced? Or is it more about the part?
Grammer: I sign on for the role. They called and told me that there had been a change in the director. I thought, “Oh, that’s too bad,” but then when I found out all the reasons behind it, I thought, “Okay, these things happen.” Brett turned out to be the right guy for it. He’s comfortable with mayhem and out of what is basically an absurd situation, he has the pitch and the vision to have it come together. Out of all that madness, he pulls moments that collectively become a story to tell, and does a good job of it.
SHH!: Did you see the previous film where your character was introduced?
Grammer: No, I remember somebody mentioning that he’d been in it.
SHH!: It’s kind of strange to see you now without all of that fur. You’re almost unrecognizable.
Grammer: [sarcastically] Oh, I thought about that myself. I thought, “How am I ever going to be recognized again?”
SHH!: Did you think that the blue fur is a good look?
Grammer: I like him. I think he’s a sexy beast. I think he’s a good-looking.
SHH!: I read in another interview that it was a rough to get the look right, at first.
Grammer: Mostly it was the pallor. He was kind of pale and washed-out looking, the first color test we did for the skin. Then we went really dark, then a little lighter, then a little darker, then settled on the almost as dark as the darkest.
SHH!: Did you ever get a chance to talk about being blue and furry with Alan Cumming who played Nightcrawler?
Grammer: I did not, but Alan, oddly enough, appeared on “Frasier” when “X-Men 2” opened, just that opening weekend, and he said it’s hell.
SHH!: Is it complete hell having that make-up and costume put on every day?
Grammer: It’s difficult to endure. It’s not bad getting into it, It’s just hard to stay in it for a long time. And it’s really difficult staying in it for a long time, doing nothing and then being asked to work, that’s hard.
SHH!: Why is that?
Grammer: Because it’s claustrophobic and you can’t really move. You spend a lot of time idle and encased. It’s just an odd sensation. It’s not the most freeing or conducive makeup to getting yourself going. It’s very strange, to have to attend to makeup at the same time you’re trying to attend to a character.
SHH!: It doesn’t help you to define the character?
Grammer: Well, it certainly did do that. The restriction of the makeup makes the character come alive, so it’s a mixed blessing.
SHH!: How long did it actually take to get into the full costume every day?
Grammer: About three hours start to finish.
SHH!: The suit you wear over the fur looks like it could be more uncomfortable than the fur itself.
Grammer: Well, that was really more of a choice about it because he’s a very big guy. I’m not tiny myself, but they added about a half an inch all over me. They expanded the suit and gave me slightly bigger feet. I went from a 13 to an 18. It was pretty silly. I had a stuffed tip of my toe.
SHH!: What about the scenes where the Beast is swinging around and doing all the wirework? Was that really you?
Grammer: No, I didn’t do all that. Adrian Hein, I think is his last name, a terrific stunt guy who did a wonderful job on all that stuff. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I did all that.
SHH!: Was there any time when you were up on the wires doing stuff though?
Grammer: Sure, I did some flipping. We do flipping. We’re actors, we’re supposed to be game for just about anything and we are. I would have done wiresâ€¦ I did get blown up once a long time ago.
SHH!: Were you active at all in the way, developing the way Beast moves when in action?
Grammer: There were some ideas about how he would move and the kind of viciousness he should have. Frankly, had I known a little bit sooner about the role, I might have gone into training a little bit more and done a few more things myself, but there are some assumptions about his movement based on the comicsâ€¦ so he spins a lot. That’s his thing.
SHH!: Can you talk a little bit about working with Brett on set?
Grammer: Sure. It was mayhem, but it was enjoyable mayhem. No one really knew from moment to moment what actually might be happening. I think that was partially by verge of the fact that there was very little prep time on the film. I think that was a challenge but also maybe a happy accident at the same time because when you’re flying by the seat of your pants, you often make the best choices. If you have too much time to think about them, you might make stilted choices or over thought choices. I often think the first impulse is probably the most interesting as a rule for an actor. Usually, you read a play and then you spend six weeks getting back the first impulse you had, so in this case, film is wonderful that way, you can capture those instincts.
SHH!: How did he communicate to you what he wanted?
Grammer: I’m not sure he knew what he wanted from time to time, but I think that’s part of the director’s job as well, to embrace what’s coming at you and look for another angle or look for something that might get used and might not get used. I haven’t actually seen the film, but I know there were a lot of takes where we did a lot of different ideas. I think he was just covering as many things he could think of, as many possibilities as he could think of, and then choosing from them. I think that’s probably a smart way to do it. It depends though. You find a shorthand with people you work with. Brett tends to just say, “Do another one. Try something else,” and it’s kind of up to you.
SHH!: Were you and Brett able to bond over being the new guys on set?
Grammer: Bonding, I don’t knowâ€¦ You either have an appreciation for somebody’s work or you don’t. You walk in the door and you get along or not. I’m a very agreeable, amenable kind of guy, and if I see that it’s a very big project and I see that the guy’s kind of in it up to his you know, whatever, I just back off and bring what I have to bring. My job is to show up.
SHH!: The rest of the cast had worked so much together so before, so how was it being brought into that dynamic?
Grammer: Fantastic, and Hugh is responsible for that. He sets a great tone. He’s the leading man and he makes it an environment that is friendly and welcoming, harmonious and creative. There’s a real wonderful exuberance about the project that Hugh brings to it. That’s his job. The leading man, that’s their job.
SHH!: Did Hugh ever do a bit of Peter Allen for you?
Grammer: Well, listen, we’re all Peter Allen inside. Actors, you know, we all mince around and sing. So there was a lot of singing and mincing, we had a wonderful time. We shook a lot of our bodies and did silliness in the late hours. It’s just something we doâ€¦ sang a lot of songs.
SHH!: Did you sign a multi-picture deal to do more X-Men movies and would you want to do another one?
Grammer: I signed something that said I would probably do another one if they wanted me to do it, so we’ll see. It would depend on the script and the story and what’s going to happen.
SHH!: Are there any chances of you returning to Broadway sometime soon?
Grammer: Oh sure. We were talking about doing “Otherwise Engaged” in the spring, another Simon Gray play. I understand Nathan Lane’s doing “Butley” in the fall, so we’ll see. I might have to do another “Macbeth.” I like that role, it’s a tough one. I’ve done it twice now, third time’s the charm. I don’t know if it’s actually playable, I mean in a lot of ways it’s such a difficult show but there’s this whole thing about when you state words, they instantly become facts for your body. It’s just a theory about what spirit is and what language is, the conductivity of words. That is a very dangerous play.
SHH!: Is doing “X-Men” as dangerous as doing MacBeth?
Grammer: “X-Men” is for the good. It elevates goodness in man or mutant, whatever it may be. Of course we’re all mutants, but it elevates goodness. Macbeth explores darkness unknown to most of us that should not be dismissed. It is just a play but it’s a really powerful play. It embraces evil. A man of conscience embraces evil. That is a tragedy just in that sentence, and you can’t help but absorb it a little bit. You get to take it off, you get to take a shower and peel the crap out of you but there’s dangerous stuff in him. It is foolish to minimize it.
SHH!: Do you miss doing your television show?
Grammer: Oh, I did the show for twenty years. I really enjoyed my time on television and I could have done it for longer if I’d found the right way to make that happen, but it just didn’t work out that way. This has been good for my life. Being on a bit more of a break, choosing projects and being able to control how much time I’m away from the family. A new batch of kids and a wonderful bride, it’s the kind of presumptive joy to spend some time with them.
SHH!: Given the state of their comedy line-up, has NBC called you at any time recently to try to find another sitcom for you?
Grammer: I haven’t gotten that call, so I don’t know. They may think about it.
SHH!: Do you ever watch your old Frasier shows, by accident, while flipping channels?
Grammer: Sure, it was a good show. The funniest thing is the hair. The hair was really wild. Jim Burroughs was the one who said, “You gotta shave the beard and get your hair longer again, because you’re funnier that way.” But I was actually glad it shifted. After the second year, I did “Down Periscope” and went shorter with the hair and kept it. I just thought, “I can be funny without long, stupid-looking hair.”
(The interview ended before we could point out the irony in that statement.)
X-Men: The Last Stand opens everywhere on Friday, May 26. Also read Superhero Hype!’s interviews with Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, and director Brett Ratner.
Source: Edward Douglas