Saturday, April 26, 2003
X2 JUNKET: ALAN CUMMING (NIGHTCRAWLER) AND REBECCA ROMIJN-STAMOS (MYSTIQUE)
QUESTION: It must have been exhilarating that they shaved three hours off your makeup time.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: That was exhilarating. I really went through it on the first one and I complained a lot. So I was so happy that they shaved three hours off of it for this time. I was fine. I was perfectly fine.
He didn't know what he was in for, so I think he probably had it much worse because he was like me on the first one.
Alan Cumming: Like a novice nun.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: He didn't think he was going to make it through, which is kind of how I felt on the first one.
CUMMING: It was so great to have someone else there who was like, "I know."
ROMIJN-STAMOS: I totally understood. We had a support group.
CUMMING: "I'm blue too."
ROMIJN-STAMOS: We have a secret blue club.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: With a secret language.
QUESTION: Also, we saw a scene out in the cold and you practically have nothing on. How long of a day was that?
ROMIJN-STAMOS: That was a long day. That was the worst.
CUMMING: It was so cold.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: Of course, that was my very last day on the movie. The last day always has to be the hardest. I don't know why.
CUMMING: They do things...always on last days they do big stunts or big things that you might complain about or you might die in.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: I thought I might die that day.
CUMMING: So they can still finish the film if you die.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: But you know what about that day? First of all, we were up in the mountains. It was snowing, ninety mile an hour winds, freezing cold, but they put potato flakes on top of the snow to try and save my feet from being in the actual snow, because I was barefoot, and the potato flakes literally turned to glue on the soles of my feet. I had these big glue shoes and they'd rush me back into the helicopter, which is where they'd keep me warm between takes, and Ian McKellen would pick the glue off the bottoms of my feet. It was...
CUMMING: A knight of the realm!
ROMIJN-STAMOS: It was the worst! There's Ian pulling glue off of my feet.
CUMMING: I'm sure it's not the first time he's done it.
QUESTION: What were your first impressions, the first time you actually saw what Nightcrawler looked like?
CUMMING: Kind of horror because I would have to be sitting there. The first time I did it was like eight or 10 hours just to get my face done. Also we went to various textures and different shades of blue and then the tattoos became a component.
Actually the first time I saw it I thought, "Oh, yuck," because it was too dark and I just didn't feel I'd be able to communicate anything with the audience. I just thought it was going to be such a mask that it would be...you know, why did they bother hiring me? They could get anyone.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: That's how I felt.
CUMMING: But then you kind of hone it and so hopefully by the time you start shooting...and then you kind of...in a way it was good because in the first two weeks I was just on my own doing the opening sequence, where I open a can of whoop-ass sequence.
CUMMING: That's my favorite phrase. That's why I said that.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: He just learned it yesterday. He's been working it into every single interview.
CUMMING: Open a can of whoop-ass.
And in a way you're much more concerned with the wire and hitting the mark and kicking the stunt man and all that stuff. And then after that, when I got more into the thing, I was more used to it by then and I could see how I could act a bit more.
QUESTION: You both have to do a lot of wire work?
ROMIJN-STAMOS: My costume is so fragile; it disintegrates immediately, so there was no place to put the wire.
CUMMING: There's no place to put the harness.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: There's no place for the harness. My stunt double is the same stunt double from the first one, who is a gymnast, because Mystique has this unique fighting style.
CUMMING: So all that's non-wires?
ROMIJN-STAMOS: She worked on the wires. I think they took it out in post, somehow digitally removed the harness, but it was difficult for them to find a gymnast my height, because most gymnasts are much shorter than I am. Anyway, she was great.
CUMMING: Most people are much shorter than you.
QUESTION: That's one of those things that it looks so cool, but I have a feeling that the first time they hoist you up...
CUMMING: I'll tell you. There's not much joy in that.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: Harnesses don't feel good.
CUMMING: No. There's chaffing involved. There're so many perils to wearing a harness.
QUESTION: And then you have to act while you're in them.
CUMMING: That's kind of the least of your worries though, I have to say, when you've got big, huge, scary mountaineering style straps near your groin.
And it's scary going up so high. Because you practice with a stunt man first. Then it's really nice when the stunt man says, "Yeah! You're doing really well,' and you're like, 'oh!'
It's like your big brother or something telling you you're good at a sport that you're not really good at. Then when you go into the set to actually do it, and you start getting pulled up and you can see everyone going, "Ooh my God! He's really high." You have to try and not be scared, because you really are!
QUESTION: With both your characters: is it good to see the end result, when the special effects are added on?
CUMMING: Yeah. It's fantastic.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: We just saw it on Friday night for the first time and we were, as Alan says, laughing our tits off.
CUMMING: That's only a phrase for you.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: [laughing] I love it. It's so fun. QUESTION: So do you do a lot of the stunt work?
ROMIJN-STAMOS: I did a lot of the kicking and the punching. Then they bring us in for the vanity close ups, like the, 'Whew.' There's a lot of that.
For example Vicki, when I was working with my stunt double, she would come and watch me on the set just to study how I move, because Mystique is sort of serpentine and moves a certain way. Then I would come and watch her when she was fighting and ask her to add in certain gestures here and there.
QUESTION: Is there a trick to emoting through all of the makeup?
ROMIJN-STAMOS: Well that's hard. I'm covered in the silicone and my face is frozen. It's like the ultimate Botox without actually being injected. You don't know if you're actually conveying what you're trying to convey because you can't furrow your brow. Your face is frozen.
CUMMING: I'm going to do it.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: Yeah, I think you should.
CUMMING: I'm getting a little wrinkly.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: It's going to be huge next year, you guys. We're doing an infomercial.
CUMMING: Yeah...The Mystique.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: The Mystique.
CUMMING: Would you like Mystique? You've got it.
I've got those little tattoo things, they're like little raised things you do on with a thing that you'd ice cakes with. Like a syringe.
I just got those. I don't have any kind of pieces on, so it was just the blueness, though. And it was just the things like, you can't really see because of the contact lenses. I didn't have any kind of physical things between me and the camera, but at the same time it's still quite daunting. It's like, "I'm feeling very sad right now. I wonder if anyone knows."
ROMIJN-STAMOS: "I wonder if anyone can tell how angry I am."
CUMMING: There are the teeth as well. It's really hard to speak with the teeth in your mouth. So when I was snarling and doing all that, I'd have the teeth, the bottoms as well. But then when I was speaking I'd mastered being able to sound not like a big, sibilant drag queen with the top ones in. So I would always had less teeth when I talked then when I was snarling. So there was a constant exchange of dentures.
QUESTION: You were doing that and the accent.
CUMMING: And the accent.
QUESTION: Was that the same accent you did in Cabaret?
CUMMING: Well it's a German one. Yeah. I mean it's not exactly the same. Same country.
QUESTION: So that wasn't a big challenge for you?
CUMMING: No the challenge was speaking in German, which is very, you know: I don't read...I can get by in a restaurant in German. But the one time I went home after a very long day and they said, "Oh, we're e-mailing you over some new lines for tomorrow," and I said, "OK.
Hail Mary in German. And I was like, "Jesus Christ! How am I gonna learn this by..."
There's a lovely lady, Ralph (Winter's) assistant Sabrina is German. So she helped me with the actually pronunciation of the German things. It's OK speaking with an accent but when you actually have to speak the...
And then they said to me, "Do you want to go to Germany for the German premiere?" Is said, "Uh-uh. That's like going into the lion's den"
QUESTION: Was it a good experience for you coming into that family environment from the first X-Men?
CUMMING: Yeah. It was. It was nice because they'd all done it. I think they all knew how to pace themselves, because it's such a long film. It's very grueling to do a film like this.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: And also, we were so happy with the success of the first one that we were able to come back with that much more confidence and do more. We love each other. I mean it's such a great cast. We just love hanging out.
CUMMING: So it was a nice thing to come into. I didn't really feel like new boy apart from the first two weeks when I was on my own.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the work you did with a circus trainer?
CUMMING: Yeah. He's called Terry. He's really good. He used to work with Cirque du Soleil and he did the movements for like Planet of the Apes and stuff. So when I would go up for my makeup tests in the months prior to shooting, I would go and spend time with him and do movement.
It was great actually. It was like being back in drama school again. We worked on how he would run and things like, instead of -- oh this is radio so I can't do it, sorry -- but just to get a kind of animal feel to him. We did a lot of stuff and then we kind of toned it down so it wasn't too much but just subtle things to sort of suggest how he might move, looking the way he does.
And I love that. I like being physical in my work, so it was nice to actually work with someone who knows what they're doing.
QUESTION: I've noticed a pattern where actors like yourself will do a big spectacle like this and then look for something smaller. Is there something about getting a battery recharged in a smaller movie?
ROMIJN-STAMOS: I went right into a movie called Godsend which was like a really small crew. It's with Greg Kinnear and Robert DeNiro, about a couple who loses their child and their child gets cloned, and I went straight from X2 into that. It was so nice to actually learn everyone's name. I just played a mom. I didn't have to wear any makeup. It was so nice.
CUMMING: I think that's a good thing. I think that makes you a better actor or artist of any kind, that you mix and match and you go through different mediums and different styles and tones. You can always bring something from one thing into the other. If you do the same thing all the time, you're kind of limiting yourself.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: And it gets boring.
QUESTION: It's interesting you say you can bring something from one thing into the other.
CUMMING: Oh, I know where this question's going. I don't have an answer!
QUESTION: In a big event movie, the character is harder to make happen.
CUMMING: Well, I think that you have a point but what I think works about this film, and the last film, is that the characters are so strongly defined.
CUMMING: And so carefully delineated. I suppose...
ROMIJN-STAMOS: They get to open a can of whoop-ass.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: But they also have time to do meaningful stuff.
CUMMING: They have feelings too.
CUMMING: I always thought that, when I played Hamlet for instance...I used to do stand up comedy and I always think that when I played Hamlet, my Hamlet was better because I'd done stand-up comedy. I understood about relating to the audience in the soliloquies. Basically, as a stand-up comedian you're completely just there with the people and you're looking at them. And then, so in a way, things like working in the theater and being used to doing things like movement and dance stuff, that helped me to do Nightcrawler because I had the confidence to kind of be quite bold.
QUESTION: Is Godsend what we'll be seeing next.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: Yeah. That'll come out in the fall. I think October.
QUESTION: And Alan?
CUMMING: I'm adapting my novel into a screenplay and things like that. Next I'll be in Spy Kids 3D, just playing a little return cameo. And then I'm going to make this film, Phantom of the Opera.
CUMMING: A little-known musical.
QUESTION: Who's directing that?
CUMMING: Joel Schumacher. I am playing Christine, yes. (laughs) No, I'm playing one of the theater owners.
QUESTION: Did I hear you're doing a TV Series?
CUMMING: Oh gosh, I'm doing that as well. There's this thing called Mr. and Mr. Nash. I'm only doing the pilot. Steve Martin's company is producing it. It's hilarious. It's sort of like a gay Hart to Hart. It's like a gay couple who are interior designers and everywhere they go people die and they solve the murder.
QUESTION: Is TV ready for another gay series, do you think?
CUMMING: Well I don't know. What do you think?
QUESTION: Well I think they're ready for lots more gay series.
CUMMING: I think the thing about this is that actually...I think it's hilarious and I love the idea and I'm really excited to see the script, but at the same time I'm very cautious of it because, it could be the first time that there are gay people on network television in America and their gayness would be secondary to what the show is about. That, I think, is a long time coming. But there's kind of a responsibility to get the tone of it right to embrace the fact that they're gay but also not to make it just about that.
QUESTION: Although the makeup experience was down to a science, do you still have the experience of finding blue on you later?
ROMIJN-STAMOS: Oh yeah. I mean I have blue on me for months and months and months. I mean, I knew it was in my ears. I'd get on a plane and go home and strike up a conversation with the person next to me and wonder how long it would take for them to comment on the blue in my ears. I knew it was in there. I would sort of see them looking at it, taking a peek.
Taking it off was, you put this chemical on and it breaks the paint down. Alan and I had a shower trailer that we shared.
CUMMING: Yeah. It was very exotic. It was like a spa.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: It really was.
CUMMING: We had music.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: It looked beautiful and they had the temperature just right. In all there were probably twelve showerheads, but it never worked. The water wouldn't come on. So you'd put the chemical on your skin to break the paint down, and it burns your skin if you leave it on for a certain amount of times. One out of every two times the shower trailer wouldn't work, and I would end up in tears because the stuff is hurting my skin.
I remember sneaking into Alan's side of the shower trailer once and just pulling the pieces off and Alan opens the door and says, "Oh, I'm so sorry for you." I'm like crying.
QUESTION: Have you encountered the X-Men world and fans?
ROMIJN-STAMOS: Oh man, they come out of the woodwork. It's amazing. Most of my friends are just like...
And the information, it just finds you. Everyone keeps asking us if we knew a lot about the X-Men when we started. Once you start working on these movies, the information comes to you, whether you like it or not. You know everything about X-Men.
CUMMING: It's like the French Resistance. Once you're in, you're in.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: You're in. You're in for the long haul.
CUMMING: People bring you things. It's like the strangest people are all X-Menny.
CUMMING: I'm just starting to find out about all this. Like last week I was doing a book tour in London, so I'm signing that book and then all of a sudden there's all these Marvel comics with my face on it. I'm like, "Hey. How about buying a book?"
There're just endless amounts of these things that people have now and they can get you to sign them.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: I have a friend that goes to Comic-Con every year and he's been trying to get me to go. I just don't know. I don't know if that's a safe place to go.
CUMMING: I know because there's such a feeling that you'll disappoint people.
ROMIJN-STAMOS: Right. Exactly.
CUMMING: I find that with things that you do that people have become obsessed by. It's not just that you're scared of them, because sometimes you can be. Also, you're "If you're so obsessed by this, I don't want to let you down."
ROMIJN-STAMOS: "I want to live up to your expectations."
CUMMING: "'I don't want to spoil it for you." Yeah, I would be a bit nervous of that.
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