Filmmaking no image

Published on August 7th, 2003 | by Nik Huggins

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X – MEN 2 (X²) Cast Press Conference

On the morning Thursday 24th April, just hours before the London premiere of X-Men 2 the majority of the cast were assembled at the swanky Dorchester Hotel to romance the media at a press conference. Halle Berry (who plays Storm) and the films’ director Bryan Singer were the only significant absentees from this tantalising get-together. Those who were present took the opportunity to discuss the film and much more besides in a good-natured, if all too brief afternoon of questions, answers and digressions that proved enlightening and entertaining.

  • Part 1 features James Marsden (Cyclops), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), Rebecca Romijin-Stamos (Mystique) and newcomer Kelly Hu (Deathstrike)
  • Part 2 features the big three of Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Dr Charles Xavier) and Sir Ian McKellen (Magneto).

Part 1

Question from the Floor: How Nice is it to be back?

James Marsden (Cyclops): Lovely, very nice to be back, its like a big family reunion really, and its nice to have a big success with the first movie already under your belt.

Rebecca Romijin-Stamos (Mystique): Plus everything was better about the second movie, in terms of location it was summer as opposed to winter so the weather was really nice, we all knew each other and of course the X-jet was bigger!

Famke Janssen (Jean Grey): And our costumes were a lot more comfortable.

Question: Did you think the pressure was greater?

RRS: I think we all had a lot more confidence this time, including the director. I think the pressure was greater with the first film because so many people had waited their whole lives to see these films get made. People had a lot of things to say about the casting and the costumes and the make-up and you don’t want to disappoint or let people down.

Question: Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler) has talked about the bitching sessions the two of you shared whilst in make-up, was it good for you to have another person sitting with you for the same amount of time?

RRS: Yeah we were like a bitter old married couple; you know what they say about misery loving company. It was really good to have another blue person, I felt so alone on the first one, we would run off to our trailer together and cry like big babies. In a movie about freaks we were the freaks among the freaks.

Question: Still talking about make-up, Kelly were your nails computer generated or did you actually have to wear these huge false appendages?

Kelly Hu (Deathstrike): Some were computer generated but there were days when I actually had to walk around with them on and so it was really difficult because you can’t do anything. There were these plastic pieces that were glued to the underside of my actual fingernails and so it became somewhat fragile because if I caught them at all they would just break off. I was very nervous about going near anyone. Even the smallest of tasks, such as using the bathroom becomes a group effort, and in these situations you lose all your modesty.

Question: For those of you who didn’t have to go through the complex make-up sessions was there a big sense of relief?

JM: Huge, I still can’t fathom what these guys went through.

RRS: But you know Alan and I watched the movie and we were so blown away by it, its like childbirth you forget all the pain that you went through, and you can’t wait to do the next one.

FJ: It was great for me, just wander along in the morning and have a wig put on my head, and out I went.

JM: I didn’t even have to have a wig put on.

RRS: Alan and I had been there since 2am, and these guys walk in hours later sleepily asking for more coffee. And we were like no! We have been here all night.

JM: Perhaps you should try being Cyclops next time?

Question: Kelly how was your fight scene with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)?

KH: It was some of the most difficult choreography that I had ever done simply because there was so much wire work involved, you’re constantly in the harnesses flying across the room and slamming in to walls and all of that. When you are doing that much choreography you’re bound to incur little injuries along the way, its pretty inevitable. I was icing myself and being massaged somewhere on my body pretty much every day. There were a couple of times where a wall just accidentally exploded in my face, and that was pretty scary. One time Hugh Jackman landed on my thumb and the nail turned black, so we nearly had nothing to glue the false one to. But its all worth it in the end though, the scene looks amazing and you forget everything about how it was made.

Question: Rebecca, given all your misgivings about the make-up you had to put on in both films I was very happy for you when we saw the scene where you were as you look now.

RRS: You mean not blue, otherwise known as my favourite two days of the entire shoot. It was written in the script when I got it and I was thrilled, my call that day was the same as everyone else’s: 6am, it was amazing. It was actually my first two days on the movie, they always give you the easiest days at the beginning and the very hardest days at the end, which was when I had to be blue and in the snow, walking through snow flurries barefooted in 40 below zero temperatures. I literally had to have Ian McKellen (Magneto) slap me because I really couldn’t believe it was happening, he would go (putting on a deep, English accent): “now, this is the next chapter of your book”. To save my feet from walking through the real snow they would put potato flakes down, but as soon as the flakes turn wet they turn to glue and so I would have cakes of glue on the bottom of my feet, and when they rushed me to the helicopter where they would keep me warm between takes I would have Ian McKellen sitting there picking glue of my feet. I couldn’t believe how disgusting it was.

FJ: Did you slap him then?

RRS: No I was kissing him!

FJ: So that stopped him, right?

Question: (to Famke) Was Jean Grey’s death kept a secret right up until the very last minute?

FJ: She doesn’t die, she evolves, that’s how we like to see it, and its still supposed to be a secret. It was something that actually evolved as we were shooting. It wasn’t in the first draft of the script that I read, but it became the new ending of the film, which I think is great, very powerful and a beautiful sacrifice. I think we have done a good job until now to keep it a secret and we all know that Jean Grey evolves into another character called Dark Phoenix anyway.

Question: James, did the revised ending change the way you approached you role?

JM: I thought it was good because I had some nice emotional stuff to do.

FJ: You’re supposed to say: “I was sooo sad!”

JM: When they came up with this wonderful ending with Famke I think it proved that Bryan (Bryan Singer, the director) has done a great job in giving all of the 14 plus main cast members something really meaningful to do.

Question: Are you all onboard to make another sequel?

RRS: I am

KH: I am, but I am dead!

JM: I don’t think anything is set in stone yet, but I guess its almost inevitable that they will make another one, because I think this one will be successful and it underpins our faith in the movie to believe that there will be another one.

FJ: But logistically it could be a little freaky with all the different cast members.

JM: Yeah, because inevitably they will want to bring in a number of new characters too.

RRS: The storylines are infinite with so many different comics that they could literally go anywhere, with so many different characters becoming involved.

JM: It could become quite a crowded cast list. But I do think it will happen, just to speculate on what it will be like right now is a little bit premature. But I am sure it will be cool, whatever it is. I think we have something really special with the X-Men franchise, and Bryans’ adaptation has been something very unique from day one.

FJ: They are all much more realistic than your general superhero, they have real problems like real people added to the special powers.

JM: Bryan has assembled a great cast and a great group of people around him and it would suck if in X-Men 3 that whole formula and chemistry was messed with, it would be really unfortunate.

Question: Does it feel very different from any of the other movies you’ve worked on having to work as part of a large ensemble of actors?

RRS: You don’t really feel any connections to the other parts of the movie, I felt like I was making a completely different movie from everyone else, which makes it really fun to watch in the end.

KH: Yeah because so much of it is a surprise, there are time when you are on set for six weeks straight but on the second unit, and there is a whole other first unit team working but you never get to see what they are doing, until the end.

JM: You become so detached, at times, from the process. You can shoot for six months with huge breaks in between and literally go and do something else and then come back to it months later. Also in the nature of these sort of films half of the film is made in post-production anyway so it’s exciting to see the final product.

Question: To turn that question around a bit, is it strange to go from working on a huge budget movie like this to a smaller more intimate drama that is struggling for the next cent?

KH: I love that.

RRS: I love that too, I went straight from making this movie into a really small movie where I am playing just a normal mum with no make-up, and I got to wear clothes.

JM: I don’t know if I will go and see that one Rebecca, if you’ve got clothes on!

FJ: its really fun to go back and forth between both of those types of movies. Films like X-Men two take about 6 months out of your life and you shoot about a page of script a day or two maybe at the most, whereas on the little ones they are sometimes shot in about twenty days or two months or something and you get through about six pages a day with a lot of dialogue.

JM: Sometimes it hard to get a groove going.

RRS: Yeah and you get to know everyone’s name in the crew. On this one it was such a huge production that I wished everyone had worn name tags.

FJ: Everyday there were new faces that you had literally never seen before.

KH: And everyone had their specific specialities, like one person would be hired just to put in contact lenses, another person would be hired just to powder Rebecca with blue stuff.

Question: Do you feel that with all the fame that comes with a movie like this it enables you in a practical way to go on and do those other movies?

JM: Absolutely, yeah because a movie like this pays all your bills.

FJ: And not only on a financial level, but also on different levels too because it opens so many doors.

JM: But to work on a film like this from the point of view of an actor is so fragmented and intermittent that it’s difficult to get any sort of experience out of it. With acting the more you put into it, the more you flex those muscles and the better you become, but with a movie like X-Men it is completely different.

RRS: Yeah because you are shooting split-second sequences, that they string together.

FJ: In the end you are much more a puppet on a film like this I think, its much more about storylines and special effects, and you have a specific function within all of that.

JM: You go and do those other movies to really take creative control.

FJ: You can’t improvise in a movie like X-Men because every single word serves a purpose in the plot. That said it’s still nice to be part of the blockbuster with a brain that actually contains a good message.

KH: Yeah I love that!

JM: How many times have you said that on this junket? To Bryan Singers’ credit he has always put characterisation to the fore in all of his movies and if that is at the core of you movies then that is what is really going to breath life into all the special effects and action sequences.

RRS: And I don’t think this movie really relies on special effects to make it a great movie, yes there are special effects used but I think it’s a wonderful movie without that.

JM: Bryan is not a director who is hugely reliant on Computer Generated Imagery; he knows its necessary but he will try and do things practically until it just won’t work and then he will CGI it. It has become en vogue these days to just say: “oh, ok we will just CGI it”, and it can often look false. What’s great about this film is that you don’t watch it and go that looks CGI and that doesn’t, because when you’re in the movie perhaps that whole character development thing that Bryan puts so much value into distracts you from the CGI elements.

Question: What has everyone been working on since completing X-Men 2?

FJ: I just finished a movie called Eulogy, and it was a tiny little dark comedy, the complete opposite of what this was.

RRS: I went into a movie called Godsend with Greg Kinnear and Robert De Niro about a couple whose 8-year old son dies and De Niro plays this mad scientist who comes and clones their son.

JM: I did another ensemble film, which was very different from X-Men directed by Nick Cassavetes called Notebook, with Joan Allen and Sam Shepard. Totally different in scale and genre but with a similarly large cast.

KH: I am just the opposite of everyone I have a couple of projects in development, one being another comic book adaptation, another one is a sort of female assassin kind of role and a third one is a kind of Korean-American Bridget Jones’ Diary.

 

Part 2

Question: (to Patrick Stewart, Dr Xavier) As you are not a devotee of this particular brand of comic book were you surprised to discover the depth, the darkness and the edge contained within X-Men?

Patrick Stewart: Well I wasn’t because as it happened before we started the first film, I had for, various reasons, been studying a number of other comics such as From Hell and Trans-Metropolitan and so I was very much aware of a very serious and darker aspect to the comic-books genre. But X-Men itself was strange to me and when the producer actually showed me a copy of the comic I actually thought she was talking about The X-Files, I thought she had got it wrong.

Hugh Jackman (Wolverine): There’s actually a pub band that I love in Australia called “The Uncanny X-Men” and when I first heard about it I thought they can’t possibly be making a movie about this band, because I thought only about 7 people knew about them. In terms of the darkness and the intensity of the second film, from the script right through to the realisation I think that X-Men 2 brings an even sharper focus to the complexity of the characters and the issues involved. I also think, funnily enough, that it is a lot funnier too.

Question: (To Sir Ian McKellen) Can you tell us how the notion was pitched to you that you might like to play Magneto?

Sir Ian McKellen: Well, Bryan Singer had me in another of his films Apt Pupil and then he told me that he was going to do X-Men and I was ignorant and I didn’t know, actually nor did he know about it until the idea of filming it came up. He told me the story entirely in terms of the ongoing argument of these two friends, Magneto and Professor Xavier, as to what you do if you are a leader within a mutant community, a community that is rejected by straight society; do you accommodate peoples fears and attempt integration by trying to understand them, or do you take on the world (Magneto’s viewpoint) and say we are special and we are the future even if that leads to a violent confrontation in society? I know that within the gay community that argument is a constant, do you write to your MP and sit down to meet the Prime Minister or do you take to the streets? So it was presented to me not as a comic fantasy, and as a bit of escapism but as something very crucial and rather gritty to not just a gay film director and a gay actor but to young gays and young blacks and young Jews in particular, who all identify themselves as mutants.

Question: You mentioned Apt Pupil, it seems to me that all of Bryan Singers’ films have the theme of the outsider running through them?

IM: I was very impressed that he wanted to make the sequel after having such a triumph with the first one, because it was so different from his previous, very distinguished work. That he should want to do it again, feeling that the job was unfinished, I think reassured us (although we were under contract to do the sequel even though he wasn’t) that it would be alright, and so it has proved.

PS: Perhaps it was that he felt, like us, that the first film although marvellous and successful, was very much an introduction and only with this film can you lay out what X-Men truly means.

Question: To Patrick and Sir Ian; Did your paths cross much in the theatre, and do you find it slightly ironic that you are two Shakespearian actors appearing here in a huge Hollywood Blockbuster?

PS: I don’t find it ironic, I think we both just see it as a part of happy and fortunate careers.

IM: We are the same person really, except that he is from the wrong side of the Pennines, apart from that we’re basically the same.

PS: Yes we are, we had worked together once in the past. Once we did a world premiere of a Tom Stoppard play called “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” with the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Trevor Nunn, and we were in the company at the same time for a while but never worked together before that. I was actually a little bit intimidated by Ian McKellen, when I was in rep I had seen him as a young actor at the National Theatre so there was this sort of status thing at work there, which has never quite gone away.

HJ: Were you bullying him Ian?

IM: No, no, I’m here with Captain Picard!!! I was meaning to ask you (to Patrick) what ever happened to that French accent, because in the first series it was present.

PS: No I didn’t!

IM: Well a sort of French accent, somewhere around about Huddersfield.

PS: We did one rehearsal with the French accent and it was such a disaster. Can you imagine the Captain of the Enterprise sounding like Peter Sellers playing Inspector Clouseau. It’s easy to explain, this man is not only the captain of the flagship of the Federation, he’s also a scholar, an archaeologist and a literary man so when it come to speaking a foreign language he would have to speak it perfectly!

Question: On that note, will you three gentlemen be boldly going for X-Men 3?

HJ: this is presuming they ask us back!

Question: Well Lauren Shuler-Donner (the producer) has put it on record that she cannot envisage any subsequent X-Men films without the original cast?

PS: Mmmm, well good for her, excellent.

HJ: That’s exactly what my agent wants to hear too!

IM: Whether there’s another sequel depends upon the audience reaction to this one. If a lot of people come to see X-Men 2 you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be an X-Men 3. What I hope is that we see something more dramatic and expanding than just another sequel, in the comics you know all the principle characters have their own comics so why can’t we all just have our own films! Of course you guys can come and guest in mine with pleasure!

Question: So Ian you’re pushing for Magneto: The Movie? Your own franchise?

IM: Exactly, I am. Not only the Movie, but the Movies!

PS: Ian is absolutely right, it’s all a question of economics not sentiment. I speak from bitter experience of the Star Trek: Next Generation franchise, in that if this film does extraordinarily well I have no doubt that there will be a third one, but what combination of characters, who can say? My feeling is, and I may live to regret this, that you are probably looking at the three characters in the franchise who are least likely to get dumped for another film.

Question: (To Hugh) You could easily find yourself torn between franchises because as we can see from your longhaired, cavalier look you are currently embarking on the Van Helsing project which is seen by Universal as a potential franchise or they wouldn’t be throwing millions of dollars at it?

HJ: It’s funny, I always thought X-Men 2 would be much better than X-Men 1 for precisely the reasons Patrick was saying, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the People at 20th Century Fox were saying that this could be more like Bond or Star Trek where its episodic and will keep evolving with so many new characters. In this movie the kids get a much bigger role to play and you can see that there is endless opportunity, there are still 30-40 characters that haven’t even seen the light of day yet. For me the second film is superior to the first and I don’t see any reason why the films can’t sustain the quality, and I was the one who started the rumour about the Wolverine movie as well so you never know where it will all lead.

IM: But without Bryan Singer at the helm what will the movies be like, these are the questions people are starting to ask about the next Harry Potter film, so it’s all unknown territory, but very interesting. If you delve into the comics you discover that it is not an ongoing history that these characters have but a series of stories that are of mythic proportions in as far as no one can be quite certain where these characters all came from, so you can actually keep changing the characters without losing faith with the source material.

Question: Have you ever longed for an action figure of yourself, in the midst of a long and rather tedious run in a stage play?

IM: No, but I have always wanted to be thought of as being a Protean actor who puts on a nose or a beard, and accents, if one can manage them, or limps and hope that I can be different and people can say “Oh, he’s a good actor”, and that’s what I have been trying to do all my life, by doing different things. So that I should be in an astoundingly different situation; a franchise, or having a series of dolls is wonderful. I play with the dolls you know, and Gandalf always wins!

HJ: I think as an actor with any role you play it important to flesh out the character. With Wolverine he’s very angry, brooding and grumpy a lot of the time and potentially very one note, so it was refreshing in the script to discover that some of the answers to the inner turmoil was there. These are unusually three-dimensional characters to play and its rare to have an acting remit and a director who will push you beyond what is on the page.


About the Author

Nik Huggins

Cinema has fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and when something takes hold of your life so completely it's only natural to want to shout about it. To the relief of everyone who gets bored with me harping on about great movies they'll never see, I started writing for Future Movies in the summer of 2001.


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