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Wednesday, February 22, 2006


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Continuum today begins it series of reports from a set visit to X-Men: The Last Stand in November.

As a kick-off, here's an edited transcription from a press conference with director Brett Ratner, Ian McKellen (Magneto), Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Halle Berry (Storm).

Question: Brett, we'll start with you. With Rush Hour, you kind of built your franchise from the ground up. X3 is something really different for you. You kind of joined the train as it was moving pretty quickly and was on its way. What did X-Men mean to you and why did you want to come aboard at this last hour?

Ratner: I was such a fan of the X-Men series. I was talking to Hugh about this the other day, and he said, "You've probably made history. You've directed more movies with a three at the end of it" -- even though Red Dragon didn't have a three at the end of it, it was the third in the series. The benefit with Red Dragon that I had three different movie that existed -- Manhunter, Hannibal and Silence of the Lambs -- that were the exact same genre, but very different movies.

Moreso with this movie, I had two movies that existed with one director, which created a fantastic tone with some of the best actors in the world. So I said, "Oh, this is going to be an easy job." Little did I know... We're in December, in Vancouver, in the freezing cold.

But the truth is I was such a big fan of what was established and I knew that if I stuck to the tone with this movie, to the formula, and we had all the same actors coming back, that it was going to be so much fun for me. And a huge challenge for me, by the way, because I've never done a visual effects movie.

Question: Can you pinpoint a specific element that you put your stamp on once you came aboard?

Ratner: I think, like I said, that it was very important for me to stick the tone from Bryan and the actors. My input, really, is to try to make a more emotional film, a film with more heart and more pathos. I wanted to try tell the story and act as if this is a trilogy and this is the third of the series. Go in there and not reinvent it, not make it a Brett Ratner film, but stay with the formula that's worked in the past.

And just add more heart. I'm a very emotional guy. I like emotion. I like feeling something in a movie. And the audiences care about these characters so much, it was very important for me to stay true to who they were and not re-invent it.

Question: (To Jackman) How do you maintain your enthusiam the third time around? How do you keep going?

Jackman: Ian's been doing this a little longer than me in the acting business, but I've been acting for 10 years, and you get a sense when you have a role and you're in a movie and a story which you don't want to let go of.

You watch the movie -- X-Men 1 or X-Men 2 -- and as soon as you're finished, you're like, "We have unlimited movies from these. These characters can go any which way." For me as an actor, it's an amazing part. I think Wolverine in, not just the comic-book genre, but any kind of action movie, is one of the great parts, I think. I love playing him, and it's a challenge.

With Brett onboard ... Brett sort of pulled me aside, I think he pulled all the actors aside, and said that our job was not only to round out the series -- because we are paying off things that were being sewn in X-Men 1 and X-Men 2 deliberately and we're getting to pay them off now -- not only are we rounding it out, we are getting to take the stakes much higher than they've ever been. Emotionally, we're going much further than we've ever been. So, it's a challenge.

For me, if you're going to play a role and you're going to do it again, you want to do it better, you want to take if further and you want to show more. And in the script, I think we have the best script to start with of any of three.

So really, that's the long answer of saying it was easy for the passion to be there, and I feel blessed to have the role. Very blessed.

Question: How have your characters changed from X-Men 2 to X-Men 3? How have your powers changed?

Berry: Well, Storm has one now. (laughs) The movie, for me is still very much an ensemble. That's one of the things I love about working on X-Men. But this time my character of Storm, not that she's there any more than she ever was, but when she's there, she's saying something now. She has a definite point of view.

And that's been really wonderful for me, and Brett was really instrumental in making that happen. He always wondered, "Well, what the heck is Storm doing?" He's really been a supporter of it, just finding a voice for the character. I think I struggled with that for many years, very much part of it was I was not sure myself was voice Storm was taking from the comic books because it didn't always materialize in the script for me, and this time it does.

Ratner: And she gets to fly.

Berry: And I get to fly. That's another Brett Ratner... I do get to fly this time.

McKellen: I don't think I tried to change (as Magneto). He stays very much as before. It's the eternal argument between two people involved in civil rights, whether it's Malcolm X and Martin Luther King or Magneto and Xavier. So that's the theory, anyahw.

So basically, that's the story that is being retold over the course of the film. I think Magneto is very much as he always was, troubled. I'm constantly being asked about being a villain. I never met an actor who thought of that as a character trait.

There are a lot of people running around going stupid thing, To say that they're villainous, they might be villainous, but villains? As if there's no motive for their behavior? Magneto's got plenty of motive and attitude and polictical mass. You might think he's doing the wrong thing, but you'll come the worst of any argument with Magneto.

Jackman: He's a little sexier in this in one. (laughs).

McKellen: I wanted to keep that as a surprise.

Question: Did you feel like you had to make Brett comfortable?

Jackman: Brett is the most fearless man you're ever going to meet. He came on relatively late and said, "I'm thrilled because I'm inheriting a great script," because it's a great jumping off point and he was like, "Let's go!" right from the beginning.

Brett is, if you to party, the last guy you need to make sure he has a drink and "Are you OK?" He takes over and runs the place pretty much on his own pretty quickly.

I think what's great about Brett is that he's very much at home in a movie of this size and this scale in everyway. I don't he's daunted by it -- (to Ratner) I don't know if you have any secret fears -- but I think he enjoys it and has enjoyed the cast. And we've enjoyed having him.

Ratner: When I'm in the bathroom, I throw up occasionally. (laughs)

McKellen: Probably people think, "Oh, I see what happens with these..." -- Well, I'm not going to use that dreadful "F" word that you used about a film. These are films. To call them franchises as if we were just making money is an insult to everybody involved, including the audience. We are telling a very important story and because we're telling it with the same characters three times over just means that the story is worth telling three times over, to be truthful.

If you're looking for a totally different of view of X-Men, which would be perfectly possible... Our view of X-Men is the style of the comics and the television spin-off. So it would be possible that Brett would be going way down off the Singer path and I was very impressed that you (Ratner) decided not to do that because you enjoyed so much what Bryan had done.

Brett had the advantage of a script that is a superior start-out to the previous two and a has a very, very intriguing hook that you gets you involed immediately and emotionally with the characters.

We've had the advantage, with being the third time around, of not having to introduce everybody. There were 20 people all fighting to get on the screen somehow. Well, I think things have relaxed a little bit and it's a little bit more indulgent and Magneto has a little bit more to say than the last movie.

Question: Will this film be looked at as the third part of a trilogy or just another story?

Ratner: Because I feel so reverential to the first two, I'm not re-inventing anything that's already been done. But I am maybe informing some backstory that you maybe hadn't seen but makes total sense with the first two, and we are paying off some of the arcs of the characters, and resolving some of their arcs somehow.

I don't think it's the final arc. I think there's a lot of opportunity to go further with it. But I think, because I'm referring to the first two movies and I'm making sure we're consistent with the first two movies as the characters are concerend and where they went ...

Bryan and these actors have created a kind of the universe and there's rules that come with that universe. I'm not going outside of those rules, but I am looking to show an audience something that kind of pieces it all together, like "Oh, that's why in the first movie they were in this location." So it all kind of pays off.

So, in that sense, maybe it is a trilogy. I'm not saying that Fox wouldn't make a fourth or a fifth X-Men.

McKellen: It can be quite unnerving as an actor when your director comes over and says, "Don't you remember what you did in the first X-Men movie?"

"I did Gandalf in between, I don't remember..." (laughs)

So you have been bringing us back all the time, like a school teacher with naughty children.

Ratner: It's like deja vu for me, except I wasn't there the first two times. It's so weird.

Question: Would you like to do another?

Ratner: Well, you know, I don't have to do a contract to do X4. It depends on the performance of this movie if they ask me to come back, which is the reality. But the truth is that I am introducing some characters that I know that Fox is going, "We've got to put Kitty Pryde in X4" or "We've got to bring him back."

I'm setting things up, where I'm introducing little things, that, whether I'm doing it or not, I just love planting little seeds, you know? And bring things into this movie that, for some reason or another, Bryan wasn't able to bring in, that only the hardcore fans would really know about, that wouldn't make a difference to the moviegoer.

For instance, the Fastball Special ... I don't know if I can talk about that. But stuff like that. Stuff that fans are going to go, "Yeah!", and going to be cheering, that for one reason or another, didn't make it into X1 or 2.

Question: Hugh, obviously you're confidences has grown from film to film. What kind of effect does that have on Wolverine?

Jackman: As an actor? I mean, I hope with anything in life, the more shots you have at it, the more confidence you get, the more you learn and the better you get. I don't want to set myself up for failure, but hopefully as an actor I can bring a little more to it.

I have an interesting progression for the character in this one. He's archetypally the reluctant hero and much of has been, "Will he join of the X-Men? Will he be part of it?" and so on. That's no so much the case in the third one, but more what role will he play. Will it be an issue or leadership or not? Will he be a real team player? It's not so much "Is he part of the X-Men?" That's kind of a given at the beginning of X-Men 3, but what role is he going to play? And there's a lot at stake in this movie.

I think there's going to be a lot of shocks in store for the fans.

McKellen: For those of who get really close to Wolverine, we have to admit his hair is getting even more gorgeous. (laughs).

Question: Brett, what kind of story arc did you want for Storm?

Ratner: Like Halle said, when I met her the first time, and I said that there really wasn't a huge presence for you in this movie as far as a personality was concerned and I really wanted to define who you were, give you a point of view.

Because there's two issues in this movie. There's politicial issues and there's an emotional storyline. And I wanted to make sure where do you stand in these issues, this character.

And I just love photographing Halle Berry, so I wanted to put her in the movie as much as I can.

Actually to give Halle a lot of credit, when we first talked, she says, "I don't care about giving me a lot dialogue. But when I'm on screen, I want it to matter. I don't want to just be there." So I kind of went through the script and looked at the opportunity of really enhancing her character and giving her more of a point of view and a perspective and a purpose.

It's hard, having to pay off 20 characters in a film. But Halle understands more going into it, who she is and what her reason for being in each scene is. When it's 20 people standing around, it's hard to know. That's the hardest thing, just listening and standing there and not knowing what you're doing there, what's your point of view. I'm speaking for you, but at least she understands what her motiviation and purpose is in each scene.

Question: Is there romance for her?

Ratner: With me? No. (laughs) I can't divulge that.

You'll see, fans of her character are going to be excited because she has much more to do in this movie. And physicality? I mean, this is one of the most beautiful women in the world. I want to take advantage of that and shoot her in a way that's really exciting for the audience.

Question: You've referenced political issues and chief among them in this story is something that triggers something that is really massive in this X-Men universe. And that's the notion of a course. If you don't want to be a mutant any more, you don't have to be. This triggers all sorts of upheavals with the X-Men and the Brotherhood. Each character has a different reaction.

Ratner: Absolutely.

Question: Ian, starting with you, Magneto has strong opinions about this.

McKellen: Marvel will tell you they like X-Men more than any of their other titles because it appeals specifically to three groups. The demographic is young blacks, young Jews and young gays. They identify themselves more than most, although all teenagers, perhaps, think of themselves as mutants.

As a gay man, the idea that someone might come along as a cure... There are people who think gay people think gay people can be cured.

So my reaction to the idea that I can be cured as a mutant is contemptuous as people who think I need curing because of my sexuality. The idea that black people could take a pill that could cure them of being black is absolutely abhorrent to me. I'd like to hear of any character in the film that thinks an idea of a cure is a good one, but there are some. And they argue the case.

It will get you worked up, this movie. And so it should. I don't think that people should be cured of their God-given nature.

Ratner: And that idea alone, when I first met with Hugh, I said, "The core of this idea is what I'm excited about, is why I think it takes this script to a whole other level. I don't know who came up with it, I guess it goes back to the comics obviously, but the idea of the cure in this film really helps makes this third film miles ahead of the last two. Because every single character in this film will have an opinion and will have a reason for it or against it. It motivates a lot of the plot. It's a fantastic the device. It's a fantastic concept.

McKellen: And some people get cured and get changed. But of course, this cure being a new thing, we don't know how long it's going to last. Probably not as far X-Men 4. (laughs).

Question: Halle, what's Storm's view on this?

Berry: I echo everything Ian said. Being a black woman, a woman of color, I think that's an issue I've struggled with my whole life. Feeling like somehow when I was a child if I could change myself, somehow my life would be better. As I've gotten older, I think I've come to terms with what nonsense that is. And this movie certainly adds light to that dark subject.

Ratner:Storm in my opinion, and I think Halle feels this, is one of the X-Men most opposed to use of the cure. And when you see the passion that these characters have for the subject matter, it totally motivates each individual's plight and their angst. Every scene in this movie is motivated by their opinion on this subject. So the plot is fantastic.

Jackman: I'm going to be devil's advocate because we've had, everyone involved, finds that certain characters are offered the cure. Some take it, some don't. And I won't say which characters, but I don't want to give away the plot. But there's a number of characters.

But for example, we're talking about something like Rogue. Now Rogue, as amazingly powerful as she is, has potentially a very lonely life, never being able to touch anyone, never being able to have a physical relationship, never being able to have children, never able to be married. Now, as polictically abhorrent as something like cure is, it's also humanely, socially incredibly that a character like would take it.

Now Wolverine, he's not political based in any way, shape or form. And in the process of this movie, I think he starts as someone with very little opinion about the cure, except for what it means for him. "If you want to take the cure, you take the cure. If you don't, whatever. I don't give a shit. You do what you want to do. I'm going to do what I want to do."

And he's forced in the course of this movie to actually work out what the cure is politically, socially, and what his view on it is. Because the cure ends up being the source of the battle that's going on and which side you're on ... you have to eventually take a side. And I think that's what's great about this story. For Wolverine, he works it out.

McKellen: I do have to say on the matter of Rogue that it isn't necessarily her particular mutancy that's her problem. It's other people's reaction to it. It's maybe society that's rotten, not her. The last thing we should do is try and cure her. The first thing to do, if she wants it, is to try to help her. But there are many ways of helping people who are handicapped rather than giving them extra limbs or forcing them to be what we think is normal.

But that's the argument, one of the many arguments that is in this movie -- along with these amazing effects and great humor that the characters somehow manage to have through thick and thin. And all the glamour of the story and the bigness of it, I'm just very, very please that there will be some young people -- and maybe some old ones, too -- who can take comfort with this story because they think it's actually addressing something that's important to them, even though it's in this world of ridiculous costumes and everything else. That's X-Men.

Question: How are the costumes this time around?

Ratner: They're the same, with some enhancements. They're in the world. There are some new characters, so obviously the new characters have new costumes. That's when I kind of have to pinch myself, when I have all the X-Men in one room and they're in their X-suits and the villains, Magneto's in his helmet and the other character's in a helmet.

Question: And I'm like, "This is so bizarre. What's going on?" I stop for a second. Then I realize, "You know, what? What's brilliant about this franchise is that it's all based in reality." And my approch to every scene is that this is really happening. This is really going down. It's important to capture the essences of that, and in the performance and in the decision of the sets and the props. Every single choice informs that: real, real, real. These are real characters and this is really happening because the audience believes they and they want to believe it and we're creating the reality within that frame. It's very important that I do that, and it's my approach to every scene.

And we'd figure it out and debate it. We were here last night and the nuance of how to throw a punch or how to take a step forward is all based in reality. And it's debated. Believe me, I have a lot of work on my plate because these actors definitely have an opinion. They're not just letting me creating my own reality.

They're saying, "You know what, Magneto wouldn't do that. Wait a second." Or I'll saying, "Magneto would do that" or "Magneto wouldn't do that," but I have to give a reason why he would or wouldn't. There's a lot of challenging, but it's to better the performance and it's to better the movie. There's no egos involved. Everyone wants to make a great film. It's the best of actors I've ever worked with, and they really care. They really care. It's important to them. Their characters are important, from Pyro to Rogue.

And I call them by their names, not really by accident. When I'm looking at them, it's like, "Magneto, here." And the same with Storm and Logan, so...

Question: Is it easy to slip back in these characters the third time around or is it always a challenge?

Jackman: Easier than the second movie, but there's always a momemt. I said to Brett the first week, "Let's just get through it. Can I just watch the monitor with you?" Brett was great with me at the beginning. After the third day, it was like (clapping hands once), "There it is." I don't think all the stuff we did the first three days was useless, but it took a few days to bring me back home.

Question: Halle, can you tell us about flying and the wirework?

Berry: Yes, wirework, spinning... I know it seems like a little thing and I've been saying this since the first movie, "I just want to fly!" Storm flies in the comic book, and I've worn this cape for two movies now and never used it.

It really is part of her power and what her mutation is, and it's really nice to get to be able to use that talent and that gift in a really profound what that helps my fellow characters. I never really got to use sort of the beauty of what Storm does. She used to fly a plane but she didn't actually do what she could really do. So, as an actor, that's been fun doing it. I love all the physical work I get to do in these kinds of movies.

Ratner: And we incorporated it into the storyline. When you watch Storm fly now, it's part of the plot. Simon Crane is one of the best second-unit directors in the world and he's been shooting some fantastic action sequences with these guys. And I'll look at the dailies at the end of every day and I was shocked because ... I don't know why Halle does it, because noo ne's going to believe it's her anyway, so why waste your time?

But there was this thing where Storm, it's an action piece, where she's up in the air, hovering. And, to create a wind effect, a tornado effect, she actually spins. You're on a wire or a rope or something, and she must have done like 87 turns from here to that wall. And then the camera stops, and I just see her going like, "Whoa..."

Berry:And they say, "OK, we're done. Walk back to your trailer." So, I'm walking back, walking back, walking back, BLEUUCCHHHHH (vomiting noise).

Ratner: She didn't really have to do it, but she really did. So in the credits, where it's like Jackie Chan is doing his own stunts, Halle Berry's doing her own stunts.

Jackman: Yeaahhh!

Ratner: And the thing is when I saw the scene, the actual execution of it, I said, "Simon Crane's brilliance came in." All the action's not just action's sake. It's all motivated by the plot, it's driving the story forward and it's showing off the powers of these characters. It's using the claws in a clever way to jump down the building. Same way with Jackie Chan that we'd use a bottle of water in a fight, we're using his claws to break a fall. And on metal, so there are sparks. And it's really thought out. It's not just, "OK, let's just having him start swinging his claws around."

It's all motivated. And all the pieces are working. I'm really happy with all the action stuff.

But the truth is, the heart of this movie ... it's a small story, but it's a big film. There's a small story and that's really the relationships between thses characters, and that's why I love this film.

Question: It sounds like you're using a part of Joss Whedon's X-Men run. Are there any other parts of different X-Men books you're using?

Ratner: That's a trick question for me because if you ask me what number of the comic book they refer to, I can't tell you that. But I can tell you that every single scene in this movie, Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg, who are fantatical X-Men fans, if I ask them, "Where the hell did you get this idea?" He'll pull out X-Men #127 or whatever.

He'll photocopy it for me. So in my office here before I actually shot, there's a referene from every singe scene in this movie from a comic. And I thought some of it was made up. The execution of the script is so brilliant.

You know how they have an Academy Awards category for screenplay and then adapted script from another piece of source material? That is the hardest thing to do. The complexity of taking something from a comic, and that exists, and to put it in script form where it works in the movie universe, is not an easy thing to do. And that was incredible education for me to look at scene the way it was existed, for instance, the cure in the comic, and to see how it manifested itself in script form and then how I visualize it. It really informed my approach to it.

Whether it be one detail of one frame of that comic that something visual on it, it really helped me tell that story. And I think they did a brilliant job at taking those references -- and if you asked me specific which comic I can't tell you that -- and take it from the comic and put it into script from. It's all credible, that's what I can tell you. It's all from pre-existing comic-book stories.

Question: Can you talk about the new characters?

Ratner: Can I? I had to sign like a 100-page document.

Juggenaut, played by Vinnie Jones, is a fantastic character and just a great actor and a greay guy to work with on the set. Juggernaut joins Magneto's crew, I won't tell you how. Magneto picks him up along the way, and he becomes part of the Magneto crew.

There's Kitty Pryde, who is an X-Men who had very small parts in the first two movies and then we decided in this version to expand that character. And that's Ellen Page. She's a brilliant young actress who's done mostly independent films. She was in this brilliant film coming up called Hard Candy, and she was brilliant in that. She has a bunch of scenes in this movie; she's one of the X-Men.

Well, Beast. I can't take credit for casting Kelsey Gammer. But I can tell you now that he's put that costume on, I don't see another actor who could play that part better than. Kelsey Grammer was born to play Beast and not Frasier. (laughs) This guy, his intelligence and his voice, he's Beast personified. When I see Kelsey Grammer, I get freaked out on the set because it's not him. He's Beast. He's fantastic.

What I've done is taking the essence on Bryan Singer and put him into me. I would go, "If Bryan was directing this movie, who would he hire?" I was very careful with this movie, not because I want to make sure he's happy with the movie when he see it, although I care what he thinks because I do respect his work. It's morseo I didn't want to have a sort of all of a sudden, "Where'd that come from?"

You can't complain about Ian McKellen because he was in the first two, like Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. But, "OK, what did Brett bring to this movie as far as the new actors and new characters?" So I was very careful in choosing the new characters, the new actors for the new role and making sure that it was within the universe.

There are some other evil mutants; we refer to them as "muties." I don't want to give that away because it's not official right now. Theres muties that actually join Magneto and a very talented young actress named Dania Ramirez, who is one of Spike Lee's muses or favorite actresses, and I put her in this film. And she's fantastic.

Angel, God, that was a hard thing. Every gorgeous, young actor came in and wanted the part. Even Edward Norton, who I worked with on Red Dragon, called me and goes "I wish I wasn't in China right now making a movie. I want to play Angel." It's like everyone's favorite character.

For me, the important thing was to get a great actor. In the comic, it's drawn as kind of a beautiful, angelic -- it make sense -- actor, but I wanted to go with the guy who could personify. Angel is a pretty tormented character, and one of the most powerful scenes in this movie is with Angel I believe, emotionally.

I saw hundreds of actors, but Ben Foster just came in and stole the part. He was just like, "I am this guy," and I believed him. And he's done a fantastic job at acting out the complexity of Angel. Because you could have been safe and just had a beautiful young man who can spread his wings and fly.

But there's more to that. These actors and these characters have a lot of dimension, and you need an actor that can bring a lot of dimension to the role, and Ben Foster definitely did it.

And as far as he's worked out harder...he's like Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull. This guy works out like 12 hours a day, and his body, he's completely transformed himself for the part. Because they're heavy wings. You can't just be a skinny little Jewish kid and carry them on your back. You have to have some muscle, and he's put some mass on. He's devoted to the part.

Question: To the actors, you've been in this series all along from the beginning, and worked up the chemistry you have with each other and how the ensemble works. What is it like for having new people, like when Kelsey comes along?

Jackman: I think it's fantastic. I did a little phone interview today and someone said, "So all the cast are back, that's really unusual." I said, "Yeah I suppose it is," especially considering no one had to come back contractually. Everyone wanted to be her because as Ian was saying and Brett was saying, we're all proud of it. I'm incredibly proud of what had been created in X-Men 1 and 2, and I think X-Men 1 forged the way for comic-book movies. You guys probably know better than me. It seems it broke new ground and really laid the groundwork for Spider-Man, "Batman, etc. that has come.

And it was done by making a character-based movie, so it's an ensemble piece and every character matters and the relationships matter and we're all actors who love working with actors. When I first auditioned and there was Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, I was as a student of theater, I said for me, "This is De Niro and Pacino. You've got to be kidding me!", So with Halle Berry and all these people, I thought, "This is amazing."

There's certainly no sense of, "We're the club" and new people come in. I think we're incredibly lucky to have a series that's successful that great actors want to come aboard. And great actors auditioning, and great actors not even getting parts! We really are very lucky with every actor that comes onboard and I don't think they feel ostracized. I hope not. Although Wolverine gives them shit, but apart from that. (laughs)

Ratner: It's exciting for me because yesterday for instance, Magneto and Beast had their first scene together. And I didn't realized that because I'd seen a lot of Beast and a lot of Ian, and all of a sudden they see each other and say hello and it's like, "Oh my god this is so exciting, they've never been together before." So everyday is a new day on this movie and it's fun for me watching it. You know when you're in love with a girl and you can't wait to go home and tell her about your day? I can't wait to get to the set to direct these actors. So for me it's like a dream come true.

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