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Monday, October 21, 2002

X-MEN 2'S X-JET

By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The X-Men get a new plane for their new movie.

In X-Men 2, the X-Jet plays an even more important role in the first movie. And in the sequel, the aircraft will be bigger in its exterior CG presentation and will have a larger practical interior.

"As per Bryan Singer's request, we had a complete redesign of the X-Jet," production designer Guy Dyas said. "He wanted to sort of update and make it a lot more elaborate for the scenes that took place in the X-Jet. Quite a great deal of the film takes place in the X-Jet, a lot of conversations and action. So it was necessary to expand on what they had started in the first film.

Dyas showed a press contingent the inside sets for the X-Jet following the X-Men 2 press conference Friday.

"The front part of the X-Jet is actually separated and that is for practical reasons," Dyas said. "When we want to put the X-Jet up on to what we call a gimbal, to get some motion, the combined length of the X-Jet was far too long and heavy to do that. So we actually designed the set to separate in the middle. So we can basically put each half of this set onto a riser and then move it around."

As pictured, Jean Grey and Storm sit up front in the cabin, which is lit orange during filming.

"There is a navigation seat off to the left. All the seats were hand-made from original designs. A little difficult to imagine.

After showing the X-Jet interior, Dyas took questions from the press about it.

Question: Ejection seats?

Dyas: Yes. But they eject from the bottom, not from the top.

Question: Can you talk about the chair design?

Dyas: A lot of it is taken, especially from the chairs, is taken from automotive design. Recent automotive design enables us to mold very organic shapes. A product designer, Ross Lovegrove, I looked at his work very closely to get a sense of form, shape, and strength at the same time. Also some of the 60's designers. They're quite retro-y in a way. It felt right, the design.

Question: Did you make a lot of changes from the first film?

Dyas: Yeah, it was really a total redesign. They had, I think, 4 seats in the first film and a sort of thrown-together cockpit, which worked really well but it just didn't hold for a really long shot. And if you look at the still frames of that, it didn't really hold up. I think it was good for what they needed it for, but we're in this jet so much, they needed to have things you could look at for a long time and find them believable. So the level of detail and such is much higher.

Question: Do the seatbelts have the circle X logo?

Dyas: They do, yeah, they do. They're four-way seatbelts and they have the little X in the middle. The seats lock into various positions. They have a little switch at the side that enables them to turn. They lock basically because this thing was really being thrown around on the gimbal. Sort of a safety thing more than anything else.

Question: I imagine the split design made it easier for filming purposes, as well as getting the shots.

Dyas: Absolutely. Believe it or not, all the walls, and the ceiling, and front, they all wild out. I worked in a parting line design on the sides so they could pretty much get any angle they wanted, which was pretty good. They were in here for a long time. I think they did something like 12 to 13 days in this set.

Question: What is a holographic emitter (as labeled in the set)?

Dyas: That's a device that runs in the center of this doorway which basically is a three-dimensional television screen. It's an old idea, really. What's nice about this is that we decided to design it into a doorway and it's really just for a story beat where they're showing off something in the middle of this doorway and a character walks through and breaks the beam, so that kind of stops for a second. It's a nice interactive animation moment, but obviously that's going to be created in CG.

Question: What is RS 150 (as printed on the interior of the X-Jet)?

Dyas: I wanted to come up with a fairly ambiguous labeling system for this that maybe could be related to some kind of X-Jet manual that they had. In case they need to repair certain things. So we came up with a sort of a numbering/labeling system that was fairly ambiguous.

Question: How many cast members did you have in here?

Dyas: I think it varied. Most of the time I think there were three or four people, but at one point I think they had eight people in here. We have these two bucket seats at the back because for a long time it was fairly unclear how many people would be in here at any given time. So, I sneakily designed these bucket seats at the sides that fold up just in case we needed extra seating.

Question: Were the consoles all live?

Dyas: Yes, all the consoles were live. We obviously had a graphic designer in my department putting together computer graphics, original computer graphics, to show on there. A lot of it related to scenes in the film, various beats that happened. As I say, largely when turned on is orange. It just sort of complimented the blue really well. There is a lot of computer screens and switches throughout the film, so I tried to give them a family of colors. So when you're in the X-Jet, it's orange and where we are about to go (Stryker's base) it was more on the green side and then there is another area where it was more yellow and white. So we had these different feels to spaces.

Question: Why did you move away from black towards the pastels?

Dyas: Oh, that's just my personal taste. I'm just really fed up with seeing the typical black and steel, the very junky interiors that you see in a lot of space films. I've worked on a lot of films that use that aesthetic and it was a real chance to try something completely different.

So I wanted to go for a very clean look, but at the same time, for me it's nice because the set is very plain and simple, but the seats themselves are very complicated. They sort of stand out almost like pieces of sculpture in the middle, which is quite nice.

It seemed to work quite well. As you know, from the comic books, the X-Men have their own aesthetic. It is largely sort of mid-blue that they use. There is also the use of steel in their gadgets and in their jets and so forth. I wanted to sort of carry that through. There was, I guess in the folklore of the X-Men, there was actually a X-Jet Mach 2. I'm not a huge comic-book fan, but I obviously had to do a lot of reading when I took on the project. There seemed to be a point where there was a second Mach 2 X-Jet. So, I kinda nicknamed this the Mach 2 X-Jet so that it tied in a little bit to the folklore of the X-Men.

The exterior design as well has changed quite drastically from the first film. Obviously we didn't build the exterior. It's also a lot larger.

In the first film, it looked a lot like the space shuttle to me. I don't know if anyone recalls what it looks like. I wanted to give it a stealth sort of feel. I looked at a lot of aircrafts. This design largely came from looking at birds.. taking and doing sketches from natural forms. A swan was my starting point for this.

We did do portions of the exterior of the X-Jet as well.

After pencil sketches, a lot of this was generated as a 3D model. The way we construct it is almost like putting cheese wire through cheese. We take slices through various points of this jet, and then we make up sections in wood, we space those out equally, and then basically join them back together. It's almost like building a skeletal structure with various different shaped ribs and then joining them in the latitude. So, yeah, it was pretty complicated to build. This is about 15 weeks and about 30 people.

Question: What did this cost?

Dyas: I'm not allowed to say that. You know that. A lot more than the first one. It did look really nice when it was first unveiled to Bryan. It's obviously got a lot of scuffs and bashes. Quite a lot happens in here.

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