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Monday, August 5, 2002

BRYAN SINGER'S X-MEN 2 PRESS CONFERENCE

By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum

SAN DIEGO - Following his appearance at Comic-Con International on Saturday, X-Men and X-Men 2 director Bryan Singer met with a few members of the media to answer questions.

Following is an edited transcription.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate a little bit more about who's in the film?

SINGER: Everything I couldn't talk about? (laughs) Yeah, young Pyro and young Bobby Drake, Iceboy. Pyro.

QUESTION: Jubilee?

SINGER: No. The same young characters, you'll see a few you recognize. No one asked me about them, so… I feather it a bit more in beats. There's a big scene, as you saw, at the mansion, something happens there, and someone will be there.

QUESTION: No Toad? No Sabretooth?

SINGER: No. No, there was something I was going to do with Toad, but I didn't. I didn't do it.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about Bryan Cox's character? Stryker?

SINGER: He plays a captain named William Stryker. He's kind of an amalgam. He's not a religious figure, he's a military guy. So he's kind of a couple of characters combined. But he has a history with a lot of characters. He's a human nemesis from their past. They all know him; they remember he was there. When they were emerging, he was emerging - in his own way.

QUESTION: And we learn more about Wolverine's past?

SINGER: Yes.

QUESTION: How much longer will production go?

SINGER: We've shot for about a month, so I've got another four months to go.

QUESTION: You talked about long story arcs. How many are you thinking about doing?

SINGER: There are three ones I would like to address - if I were to go into a third film - that I would like to go into fruition. You have to see how these things go. That's why I think Empire Strikes Back is so good, works so well because he says he had a plan and he did have an idea of a plan, I believe, but it wasn't until Star Wars came together in the way that it did, that you can step back and say, "OK this is truly the right way to go."

That's what interests me less about two movies back-to-back. If it's a saga like Lord of the Rings, for instance, it makes sense because the material is there. You're doing the books.

QUESTION: The first film dealt with issues of discrimination and being different. Do you have a theme or subtext for this film?

SINGER: That factors into it a bit with the younger characters. There's something that happens in the film where they end up hiding out in the home of one of the student and something happens there, so we explore that a bit.

The theme of this is more is the human perspective, the kind of blind rage that feeds, and it's from a human perspective.

QUESTION: A friend of color totally enjoyed the first thought that all the X-Men were mutants who could pass as humans and all the Brotherhood were…

SINGER: Kind of odd looking.

QUESTION: Was that on purpose?

SINGER: Yeah, yeah, it's kind of what happens in the comic book. There's Beast of course, but Beast sort of stays home a lot and reads. In this film, we'll have a character, Nightcrawler, and you won't know which side he's on. He sort of gets sucked in the middle of good and bad.

It's very often people who tend to be disenfranchised in a some way that are so quick to join the radical group. And that happens. I think the Brotherhood are cooler looking, personally. Some people say, "Oh, they're odd." Or they're reptilian or whatever. I think they're the sexier bunch in a way.

But it's true. They are driven. Mystique had one line in the first film: "You're the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child." To me, that one line was very potent. However old Mystique is, that was a couple of decades of anger in one line that led her to say, Why am I going to join for peaceful coexistence when we are homo superior? Look what I can do. I should inherit this Earth and I shouldn't have had to deal with all the prejudice I dealt with growing up, becoming, this in puberty. Or whenever it happened to her.

QUESTION: There's a feeling out there that X-Men rejuvenated the comic book film and took it to another level and made the mainstream take notice. Do you feel like you can take partial credit for that? Do you feel like you belong to some sort of movement?

SINGER: Well, I came from the film that I had popularity with was The Usual Suspects, which was a critically acclaimed film and won awards and things. So, I was perceived - and sometimes am perceived - as a director of those kind character-driven dramas, thriller/character-driven. But more of a dramatic filmmaker - that's how I am perceived. And I've always loved when guys like Robert Wise, when guys like Stanley Kubrick or guys like Steven Spielberg, although he began mixing the genre … Peter Weir, for instance. Directors like that take their interest in character and story and bring it to my favorite genre, which is science fiction/fantasy. Ultimately, my favorite genre. My favorite films are science fiction/fantasy films - I don't like horror. And that doesn't happen often enough.

So when I was going from Usual Suspects to Apt Pupil and all of a sudden I wanted to do a comic-book adaptation, my friends or people who knew me as that were very skeptical. And I said, no, we're the people - not that I'd put myself in a category with proven people like that - but the dramatic filmmakers, we're the ones who tell stories. We should be doing. Ang Lee should be doing Hulk. That's the way it should be. They shouldn't rely on people who can make pretty pictures and do visual effects. Because you can learn those very quickly.

The Wachowski brothers, for instance, come out of a dramatic film, a character-driven film. James Cameron comes out of character stuff. He comes out of model building, designing and engineering, but his emphasis is always on character.

So I feel like a part of that, particularly because a lot of comic books were given a bad rap before that.

QUESTION: So if you don't following through on the third one, will you feel sort of like Tim Burton, like the Godfather of the X-Men?

SINGER: Well, I don't know about. I'll feel a great proprietorship, I always will, to the universe and these actors. I take enormous pride in bringing these characters, giving them some like on the screen, through these particular actors, who I adore and really love working with, as well as the idea of an X-Men movie. So, yeah, whether I'm involved in it or not and goes off and is going to do whatever it's going to do, I'll always feel a home. Even if I didn't, people will always be like, "Eh, X-Men…"

QUESTION: You seem to have a great connection with Ian McKellen…

SINGER: Third movie, I think.

QUESTION: What is the connection. What is it that you share? You seem to have almost a psychic communication.

SINGER: There's a few people I have that kind of that connection, my cinematographer Tom. But Ian as an actor … I started working with him just after he had just done Richard III. He hadn't done Gods and Monsters yet. So I was his sort of first lead in a mainstream movie that wasn't Richard III, which was something he wrote and co-adapted.

The connection - I feel the same thing with Kevin Spacey and I haven't worked with him in years. It's having worked with somebody at that moment in their careers where they're about to take off. Hugh Jackman, Benecio del Toro and even Halle Berry to some degree. It's at a time where it's kind of new to them.

And also I've done some things with Ian that he's never done before in other films or hadn't done up to that time. So it's a learning experience for both of us. We're learning together. And, you know, we're great friends, too. We hang out. We like the same things.

QUESTION: And you made him an action figure.

SINGER: Oh, yeah. I'll never forget. He came up to me and says (as McKellen), "I've seen my doll. We looks nothing like me. Quite handsome, though. I approved it." That's all he said about the whole action figure thing.

But yeah, that was his first action figure. Not his last!

QUESTION: You've become quite a hit with the fans and the love for the characters is on the screen. But what happens expectations get to a point and there's X-Men 6, 7 and 8 and people say, he used to do dramas at one time?

SINGER: You be careful. I would have loved to have done a film between X-Men 1 and X-Men 2 - just something different. I really wanted to, and I wasn't able to. So you try to be diverse in your work, like Usual Suspects or something like. You try to do more character-drive films. I really admire what Steven Soderbergh does because he does these small, almost like home movie, sized films. You try to do something like that to break it up.

But by the time you're talking 6, 7 and 8, I don't know what you're going to be left with at that point.

I felt a lot more comfortable with low expectations with high expectations. And yet, going into this movie, I feel a lot more confident that we're going to have a much superior movie and we all kind of know what we're doing. And it's a lot more enjoyable.

And the footage is cooler. I'm seeing it come together. I'm in the editing room now all the time. All our stages, right now, are right by the editing room, so I'm able to spend a lot more time there while I'm shooting, running up and down and working on those things.

QUESTION: We got to see footage that was cut together into an almost a compete movie trailer from a couple weeks of shooting…

SINGER: Three weeks of shooting.

QUESTION: And it was absolutely incredible.

SINGER: And there was not one visual effects shot in there. We're going to have 750-850 visual effect shots in the movie. And what killed me is last week there were a couple that I would have flopped out and would have put in there - there was this neat thing with some ice. And it was like, "Do we have to? Can't we stick it in?" They're like, "No, we'll put it in another trailer or something."

But, yeah, I liked it. Maybe we'll release something like that as a teaser or something if we can. Maybe I'll have it a little different. But I like that theme, using the chess and how it sets you up. Because in shooting the first picture, it was very much a thought of the idea, "The war is coming, Charles, and I intend to fight it - by any means necessary." The mentality that Magneto had in the first one is very different. The adversaries now are very total. Very severe.

It's a darker movie, too. It's going to be a little more violent.

QUESTION: What's it like directing Halle Berry now that she's won an Oscar?

SINGER: Wonderful. She's great. She's great. Again, we have a great time with every single actor. They're all wonderful and friends. It's just fun.

She's such a good-hearted person. I remember when she won the Golden Globe, we had this cake for her and she was in tears. And I saw her the night before she won the Oscar, and I knew that speech was coming because she's very overwhelmed with that all. Completely unpretentious.

I've been very fortunate. Every actor I've worked with in the few films I've made has all cared about the work that they do about themselves. And that is such a pleasure. That's part of the pleasure of working with people at these beginning times of their career. It's kind of a unique thing.

I've never really worked with a big movie star before in my life. I know some of them, and I'm friendly with some and they're really great and I look forward to working with them. I'd love to work with Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks and people like that. I'm sure they're great and nice and cool.

But everyone has been two things: Very cool and also I've worked with them at that special time where they're like, "Wow, I've never … Green screen?" And I'm like, "Well. let me explain, like I know."

QUESTION: On the first film, there was a rumor that you had your production time chopped and it was kind of rushed.

SINGER: We were in pre-production. I remember the day. The president of 20th Century Fox, Tom Rothman, who is now the co-chairman, he called me and said, "We're moving you to the summer."

And I was like, "X-Men, X-Mas, well that's a shame. But, thank God, because we have six more months."

And he said, "No, no, this summer."

QUESTION: So do you have enough time this time?

SINGER: We have more time. You never have enough time. A film is never finished, it is merely abandoned. At some point, we'll abandon this film for a May 2, 2003 release. We're on time, wonderfully on time. Sailing. I let the crew go at 5 - I usually work crazy overtime - but I let them go at 5 o'clock for the month of incredible work. Things are sailing that smoothly.

We'll be on a schedule, but it will be looser than X-Men 1.

QUESTION: You know that quote about movies being abandoned is so apt at this time. We're starting to see a lot of directors going back to their older films, making modifications and calling them director's cut, when we may have already seen a director's cut. How do you feel about that?

SINGER: I have a problem. I was kind of approached to do something like that with the first X-Men movie, and we talked about different ideas and there's something that could be done in that area because that movie was rushed pretty heavily and there's some things I could do.

But there's also this kind of taste it leaves in your mouth, especially this term "director's cut."

QUESTION: It implies there was no director cut to begin with.

SINGER: The director didn't cut the movie. And very often, in stories where you hear, "This isn't the film I wanted to make."

Filmmaking is this weird thing. It's so unquantifiable. The collaboration to make a movie is the antithesis of writing or painting. It really takes immense amounts of people who have tremendous influence and things happen and the times have an influence and the schedule has an end and when the sun is going down - all of these things.

And it very often you hear about a director, "I was forced to put a voiceover on my film." Or this or that. Sometimes that was their choice at that time because they feared that people wouldn't understand certain things. Now that people understand the film, 20 years later, they take the voiceover off the film and everybody loves it. But at that time maybe they needed the voiceover and maybe the filmmaker believed they needed the voiceover himself and only regrets it in retrospect. Because he or she has looked at the post-life of the film, which is a nebulous, weird thing that you can never predict.

QUESTION: Can you confirm Internet reports that you supposedly have origin sequences for Cyclops and Storm that are supposed to be on the DVD?

SINGER: No.

QUESTION: There were 15 minutes cut out of the original film, that's not true?

SINGER: Fifteen minutes? There was a million feet of footage cut out. Just heads and tails with shots. We screened an assembly at one point for friends, we never tested the movie, then we just got it tighter, tighter, tighter. I don't know, there was never 15 minutes.

QUESTION: There wasn't like whole sequences?

SINGER: No, no. No. There was no sequence. Tom (DeSanto), was there a sequence? There was no sequence. It was just getting things tighter and doing what you do to edit a movie. It came up a relatively short film.

There are some things in the editing area. It was difficult because of the schedule pressures. It was the only time I would have done something differently. Now, I don't have those issues.

E-mail the Continuum at RobAlls@aol.com



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