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Saturday, October 19, 2002


By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There were almost as many celebrities as journalists. Nearly as many mutants as humans.

Fox trotted out the stars of X-Men 2 for an online press conference on Friday from the Vancouver Film Studios' production stages and received nearly perfect attendance, a rare group appearance from such a large cast.

Attending were Kelly Hu (Lady Deathstrike), Brian Cox (Stryker), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Mystique), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier), director Bryan Singer, Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Halle Berry (Storm), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), James Marsden (Cyclops), Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler), Anna Paquin (Rogue) and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman).

Before the stars took the makeshift stage, complete with an X-Mansion background, Fox showed the trailer for the film, which will premiere on Nov. 27 with Solaris and also other movies.

The trailer -- nearly finished, just missing a few effects -- was similar to what Singer showed at the Comic-Con International in San Diego and that also briefly appeared online. The chess-playing set-up, conclusion and many of the scenes were the same, although this trailer included Nightcrawler in action, Mystique and a kiss between Wolverine and Jean Grey.

In addition to the press conference, the film's production designer, Guy Dyas, took the journalists on an extensive tour of the massive sets.

Look for complete coverage of Friday's activities throughout the week here in The Continuum, beginning today with part one of an edited transcription of the press conference. (Look for part two within 24 hours)

Following is the transcription, starting with the first question:

Question: Directing a sequel creatively always seems like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you successfully created this world and these characters and opened up new possibilities. On the other hand, you might be saying, "How do I top myself?" Is that how you see it when you approach a sequel?

Bryan Singer: Well, it's kind of necessary because I think people are going to see a sequel they don't want to see a continuation of exactly what they have seen before. They want to see a continuation, an evolution, so you want to improve upon it, make it better. The benefit here is not to be saddled with introducing a new universe to an audience that may not be familiar with it, introducing 12 new characters. A lot of characters are already introduced, so it's a great opportunity to now have fun with them. A few new characters that are going to be introduced in this film, one can do with less exposition and just have more fun with it.

It's actually a lot easier. The pressure is that you want to make it bigger, more spectacular. Fortunately, there's a little more time, a couple more dollars and everybody knows what they're doing a little better, including me.

Question: There was a little romance going on (during the trailer) between Jean Grey and Wolverine. What can you tell us about that?

Hugh Jackman: Well… (laughs). It's mostly Wolverine trying to keep her at bay, but she's so hot for him all the time. (laughs)

Famke Janssen: Cyclops is sitting right next to me (laughs).

Hugh Jackman: The love triangle, I suppose, hots up. And I've got somebody kicking me in the shins (Singer) right now, so I can talk about it. That's all I can say.

Question: Can you talk about what characters will get more screen time this time?

Bryan Singer: I've solved that. It will be a longer movie and that way everyone will get the same amount of time. Oddly enough, with all the characters and bit of splintering that happens in terms of locations where people end up and come apart and come together, it's very evenly spaced, so to speak, for lack of a less glamorous interpretation. I think some characters that weren't utilized as much in the last film will emerge a great deal more in this film, and there's new characters. Every character serves a story at any given time, so it's hard for me. I have no tally in my head. Sometimes certain characters have more lines or screen time or visa versa.

Question: For Anna, you said you wanted to get a costume and quick some ass in this movie. Did you get your wish?

Anna Paquin: (Turning to Singer) Can I say that? Is it plot? Clearly, my character has to go from being sort of frightened of everyone she encounters and has to evolve in some way. So, yeah, in a lot of ways I do get to do a lot more stuff than I did in the last movie, but I'm not really sure how much I can say about that without getting into trouble.

Question: Will the new characters added to the film, did they do any research by way of the comics?

Alan Cumming: Well, I'm a new person and I read some comics. It's quite impressive, actually, because not only am I playing sort of a blue mutant with all these odd physical things, but also everyone in the world apart from me seems to have some idea about how this character should look or read. So there's been a little pressure.

So, yeah, I read some comics and listened to some people. It's kind of hard because halfway through the film, I realized that Mystique is my mother. It's an ongoing learning curve.

Question: For Patrick, what character from classical or Shakespearean drama would you most liken Xavier to and how has he changed between the first movie and the second?

Patrick Stewart: I would liken him to Achilles because in every sense he's perfect, except for one little tiny flaw - which I can't talk about. (laughs) He remains, as he was in the first film, brilliant, intelligent, compassionate, adorable, sexy, (laughs), understanding, forceful, womanly, manly...

Ian McKellen: Full of sh…

Patrick Stewart: No, not full of shit.

But I can say this: He's not quite what he seems.

Question: The core metaphors for X-Men have been racism and intolerance. Has there been anything that has happened in the world the last 10 years that has lent more power to the script?

Bryan Singer: It's a strange. I don't know. I'll defer. Ian, do you have a thought? Seriously, though, because oddly it's paradoxical.

Ian McKellen: I think from what I understand, the X-Men comics are classics in the sense of being around for a long time. Around for a long time because they go on being of interest to their readers. And of interest to their readers because their readers can actually identify with the characters. Everyone has thought of themselves as a mutant at some point of their lives. And obviously when you're young, that can be particularly strong, I think. Regardless of world events, it can be how you're treated kids at school, or treated by your parents or how you're treated by a church.

A disadvantaged group can take comfort in the fact that there are some very powerful people in this fictional who can stand up for themselves against the odds. That's the basic argument between Xavier and Magneto as to what to do.

But that would be seem to me to be why the comic strips - and now the movies - are likely to go on being popular. And not to be tied up with the specifics of international politics, why get away from the classic nature of the story?

Question: For Halle, a lot of things have changed for you since the last X-Men movie. Did you bring your Oscar for show-and-tell at the X-Men set? To the rest of the cast, does she appear any different to you?

(Jackman points below to the table, getting laughs)

Berry: They're getting just sick of the Oscar. Can't you just tell how sick of it they are? No, I didn't bring it and, no, nothing has changed. Honestly, no, nothing as least as far as this production goes.

One of the good things about coming back to this - with Oscar in hand or not - is that we were sort of like, you know, when you start a movie you spend the first month getting to know everybody and just when you get to know everybody, the experience is usually over. Although that wasn't the case with the first X-Men; that was six months.

But normally, just as you're finding that groove and you're all starting to gel, then it's time to stop. We got a chance to reconvene and pick up where we left off. So that's been a really important part of the experience for me.

Question: For the returning cast members, what was it like to explore these characters again?

James Marsden: I think a lot of the first one was devoted to explaining to the audience, the cinema-goers, who the X-Men were, what they were capable of and what their story was. A good percentage of the movie was exposition, explaining the characters.

I think we've gotten that out of the way now. So we can see these characters kind of spring into action and not have to worry about if we're going to know who they are and what the situation is. Now that we've established that in the first film, I think we can have some fun.

Question: Has the success of Spider-Man raised the bar for a super-hero movie?

Bryan Singer: The success of it - from an economic standpoint? If you get caught up in that game - the box-office and trying to prediction those kinds of things -- if that's what you're referring to, I think about that stuff. You think about it, but you don't really apply it. You just stick to what you're doing.

Our tone with these X-Men movies - particularly this one, which is a bit darker and edgier than the previous one - is a little different that the tone of Spider-Man. And it's also a universe, that unlike Spider-Man, has a very specific fan base that is very strong and then it has another side that has no idea of what X-Men is - beyond the movie. Where Spider-Man is part of common lexicon. My mother knows what Spider-Man is. She doesn't know anything about it. She knows the red, webs…

Here, it's very alien to people who don't know it. So, it's kind of a different tone and that reality makes us a different kind of comic-book adaptation. So we don't tend to draw those comparisons or think about them that much.

It's nice because it helps us boost the awareness of the comic-book adaptations and make the comics universe between Marvel universes appealing, which helps us down the road in a good way. Everything helps everything else. Successful science fiction supports more good science fiction.

Beyond that, you can't look at that. You need to make your own movie. I'm not just saying that because it's the thing to say. It's genuine.

Question: What has been the most challenging and on the flip side, what has been funny?

Bryan Singer: You just missed it. You're two hours late (laughs). Shawn?

Shawn Ashmore: Yes?

Bryan Singer: Can you recall something funny that happened?

Shawn Ashmore: It's a story about Hugh, actually. Hugh's sister actually got dressed up in full Wolverine gear and stepped in for a take. She had everything.

It was Bryan's reaction to when he finally realized what was going on that was so funny. He was watching it on the monitor and there was a shot from behind and the shot from a side. And you see Bryan watching…

Bryan Singer: I thought it was Hugh making some creepy face, lost an incredible amount of weight. Until it was over, I had no idea.

Shawn Ashmore: That was pretty funny.

Hugh Jackman: It was funny to me until I actually saw it and then it was weird. I couldn't look at my sister. We looked remarkably similar.

Bryan Singer: They have the same facial structure. And then they put the hair, the tank top … It was the most disturbing moment.

Hugh Jackman: My son looked at the photo and said, "I have two Da-Das."

Question: Brian Cox, can you talk about the Stryker character?

Brian Cox: He sort of represents the human face in this group. (laughs) Because, as we all know, they're all mutants. I'm the only human that I know. As the experience of the film is going on, I'm not so sure of him being human.

He's the guy who is basically the odd-man-out. He's trying to rationalize what these people are about. Exercise some control over there by various means which I am not at liberty to talk about.

Question: For Alan, how do you get prepared for being Nightcrawler?

Alan Cumming: Mentally, it's very difficult. I have to get up very early and I have some lovely, lovely makeup people that do it. You just have to get into a zone where you don't mind grown poking at your face for four hours and spraying you with stuff. Sometimes I watch films in the mirror, which is quite hard if they're sub-titled. (laughs)

I have these tattoos, and I rue the day that I was the one who actually said, "Yeah, let's go with the tattoos. They're really great." They take a lot more time to get stuck on. I'm hoping that maybe if there's a sequel there will be some sort of mutant accident that's taken place and Nightcrawler will have no tattoos and will be white.

The technology in this film is quite incredible with the effects. And I thought maybe the next time I could do the film as me and they could put the makeup on afterwards.

Rebecca Romijn-Stamos: That's what I used to think.

Alan Cumming: Yeah. There's this thing with people who contact lenses in the first film. There's sort of a thing where you pay your dues. Halle and Rebecca don't wear contact lenses any more. I noticed afterwards that I am wearing contact lenses. It must be a kind of rites of passage that you go through. Maybe next time I'll have no contact lenses.

Question: What about the tail?

Alan Cumming: The tails - sometimes I'm wearing it and sometimes I'm not. Because sometimes it's done afterwards. There's tails of various consistencies if boinginess. If I don't have the full tail, I have this stub thing with dots on it for special effects people to do things with afterwards. And that's quite popular with the ladies (laughs) and the gentlemen as well. And myself.

Question: For Halle, I noticed your hairstyle is a little bit different. How about character progression?

Halle Berry: I think everybody's happy with the hair change. There was been a big, big discussion about the hair because I know Bryan and Lauren Shuler Donner, our producer, really wanted to get it right because they felt it was something that desperately need to be changed from the first movie. So, hopefully, everybody will like it better.

And I think my character, this time around you get to know a little bit better about who Storm is. She definitely is allowed to present a point of view this time that I didn't get to present last time. Sort of what her emotional life is like, you really get a taste of that this time. I think there's some evolution.

Question: For Kelly, do you get to keep your clothes on this time and can you tell us a little more about your character?

Kelly Hu: I wear a lot of clothes, actually. I'm actually very happy about it - being that we're shooting here in Vancouver and it's so cold.

The character, geez, I guess I can talk about it, right? I play a mutant. I wasn't allowed to talk about it before, and now I'm so scared.

It's such a fun character for me to be doing. I get to do a lot of…

Bryan Singer: Fighting.

Kelly Hu: Fighting. I get to do a lot of fighting, I can say it! And it's fun. It's really exciting for me because it's the stuff that I enjoy doing the most.

Question: For Hugh, in the last film it seemed that Wolverine was the breakout star…

Ian McKellen: Ha! (laughs).

Question: a lot of attention surrounded him in the film. For this film, what do you want to bring to him?

Hugh Jackman: With the first film, a lot of the storyline did in a way focus on Wolverine and Rogue, but it was more a plot choice because they're ideal mutants to take you into the mutant world and yet to keep as outsider. While he was on screen a lot, you get well introduced to the character, who he was, and then he becomes an essentially part of that world-saving plot that we had.

In this film, his personal demons are really investigated. By the end of this movie, he's going to track down his past, which is very much what this movie is about. If it doesn't come to a complete resolution, it's pretty damned close. He's sort of, in a way, emotionally and with the return of nightmares and things like that, at a crisis point. It's more internal in a way. You get a more internal look at the character, and that's been really fun to play with.

As we alluded to before, there's a few relationships that hot up a little, and I'm just loving playing the character again. I really this love this character. And for all the characters in a movie such as this - if you want to call it an action movie and a comic-book movie, all the characters seem to have dimension beyond what you would expect. I'm having a ball. It's great.

Question: For Patrick, who would you consider to be a better leader: Charles Xavier or Jean Luc Picard?

Patrick Stewart: If I were to answer honestly, I would dismiss both of those and say I think perhaps the best leader would be the breakout star of the last movie. (laughs)

Charles Xavier needs more time. Jean Luc has had 16 years, therefore more opportunities. With the same opportunities - if there are any studio people here - perhaps we will see him develop as richly as Jean Luc.

(To Singer) Is this the moment I ask you to stand up and show people what you are wearing?

(Singer stands up, wearing a Star Trek: Nemesis T-shirt).

Bryan Singer: I hate to draw a comparison to other films -- but a little like the way Empire Strikes Back sort of took everything and explored peoples' frailties and weaknesses and also the potential of their group in their effort to try to overcome ever-does - this film I like that kind of story. You get to see everybody's weaker side.

Definitely Xavier's weaknesses. He and Magneto are cut from a similar cloth and both of them are not entirely right or wrong. That makes it kind of interesting. That's why it's exciting to have Magneto back in the story in a different vein, but not as different as it appear.

Patrick Stewart: Can I just add one thing to what I said? I would like to make it absolutely clear that both Jean Luc Picard and Professor Charles Xavier could kick Captain Kirk's butt.


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