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Monday, July 18, 2005


SAN DIEGO -- Zak Penn, who is writing the third X-Men movie with Simon Kinberg, said he is "incredibly honored" at the chance to incorporate the Dark Phoenix Saga into the film's story.

"The Chris Claremont and John Byrne run, that run of comic books, totally blew me away," Penn said at a screenwriters panel at Comic-Con International. "Especially when I read the Dark Phoenix, which I'm working on now."

Don't expect the Dark Phoenix to be exactly like the comics, though.

"Anyone whose read the comic books knows that in the Dark Phoenix Saga -- which is not all of the movie, by the way; there's a lot of other stuff going on in the movie -- you have the Shi'ar Empire and Empress Lilandra and starcrafts and galaxies being destroyed.

"There's no way, if you've seen X-Men 1 and X-Men 2 and are not a fan of the comic book, that that would make any sense to you if we tried to do that in X-Men 3. I hope I'm not ruining it for anyone, but there will not be intergalactic battles and star destroyers. I keep reading people saying it should take place on the moon. If you saw X-Men 2, does that movie seem like it was heading towards taking place on the moon?

"Bryan (Singer, director) and the people who worked on those movies -- and that includes all the actors -- created a tone that's probably one of the most well-realized tone of any comic-book movie. The X-Men movies are incredibly consistent in their tone. That's one of the best things about them. And it's our job and we argue about it every single day, about how to keep that tone going. And it's not easy. It's really not easy. The bar is incredibly high."

Penn, who also worked on X2, said he was brought in to help with the continuity between films. He and Kinberg were originally working on their own -- much like Penn and David Hayter did on X2 -- before teaming up.

"Simon and I sat down on our own and realized that we were kindred spirits and both like the same things," Penn said. "And because of the accelerated schedule, we went into the studio and said that instead of having two competing screenwriters, which is kind of what we did on X-Men 2, let's work together. That's how we were able to write a script in a week and hand in a draft and say, 'Here's what X-Men 3 should be.' It seemed crazy, but we had two experienced screenwriters working on the same time."

Penn said that the accelerated pace -- X-Men 3 starts filming in three weeks for a May 26 release -- is not about " an evil overload at Fox saying, 'I'm going to destroy X-Men. Let's push the schedule up.'"

"We have 14 actors who are all extremely popular and all who are extremely famous and all who have really busy schedules," Penn said. "There is no way if we don't work on the schedule we're working on ... the center will not hold. We can't make the movie. It's not like Spider-Man, where you need Tobey Maguire. We need all those people to come back.

"Imagine if we said, 'Yeah, we're doing X-Men 3, but no Hugh Jackman, no Halle Berry, no Ian McKellen, no Patrick Stewart.' I mean, people would freak out. We have to work under the dictates of the reality of Hollywood. We want all these actors back. We want to be able to do it. The movie is crazy expensive; this is not a cheap film.

"We don't say in the production office, 'Gee, this isn't fair. I wish we had another year.' We say, 'This is what we have to do to get a movie before the fans.'"

The Beast is being introduced in X-Men 3, and Penn said he's "really proud" of how the character is being treated. Asked about the Hank McCoy cameo in X2, Penn said it's been to forget about it.

"X-Men is not a franchise where its parade of a cameos," he said. "It's not like it, 'Hey, I'm Beast. I'm here to save the day.' These characters have to live and breath in the same world that Nightcrawler lived in and the same world the other characters lived in."

Warren Worthington, reportedly to be played by Ben Foster, will be in the film, but Penn nipped a rumor in the bud.

"People keep writing that Warren Worthington Sr. is the evil corporate leader that is trying to destroy mutantkind, and it's totally false," he said.

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