Posted May 24, 2011 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Features
 
 

The Cast: X Men


It’s been over ten years since X Men first graced the big screen and now the Marvel superhero trilogy is back to quench its fans thirst with an origin story.

It’s been over ten years since X Men first graced the big
screen and now the Marvel superhero trilogy is back to quench its fans thirst
with an origin story.

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy claim the roles of
Magneto and Professor X, originally played by acting royalty Sir Ian McKellen
and Sir Patrick Stewart. Beside these two, X Men: First Class is packing some
serious talent, including Mathew Vaughn in the director’s chair. Heidi Vella caught up
with co-screenwriter Jane Goldman (Jonathon Ross’s misses), James and Michael,
acting legend Kevin Bacon and newbie Zoe Kravitz (Lenny’s daughter) to find out
what it feels like to be a part of one of the most successful superhero
trilogies of all time.

James, what was your introduction to the Marvel comic
books?

James McAvoy: I was really aware of the
cartoon growing up. They started showing it on Live and Kicking and I would do
that thing of watching the first half of the cartoon and then they would make
you wait and hour and a half to see the second half, which was really unfair!
Anyway, I was a big fan of that and the first couple of films I was really in
to, too.

What bits of the characters did you take from the comic
books and what bits from the actors before you?

McAvoy: The
comic book is really different from the films. In the books my character is
American and Fox decided to make that character English when they cast Sir
Patrick Stewart. I had to go with the film. So I watched the films then we
acknowledged this was a prequel, so it had to be different, because the
franchise needed to be freshened. It needed something new; there is no point
having that same character just being played in the same way, because it just
doesn’t validate the movie. So I took a lot of notes on Sir Patrick’s
performance, but it was more about seeing how I could make him different. So,
where Sir Patrick was wise I would be foolhardy, where he was chaise I would be
randy and by the end of three films, if we make any money and make three films,
I will play him more like Sir Patrick.

Michael Fassbender:
At the beginning when I found out I had got the job I thought about perhaps
studying Ian McKellen when he was a young man on screen. Just studying his
physicality and voice. Then I sat down with Mathew and discussed it and he
decided that wasn’t the way he wanted to go.

Were you worried about keeping the film accurate to the
other X Men stories? Did you have to do lots of drafts?

Jane Goldman: I
think it would be impossible to write any script that fits in entirely with the
X Men universe because even the comics don’t have total continuity. They have
alternate time lines and times when different writers came in and the films
also are a world of their own. I think the most important thing is to tell a
good story, with good material and be true to the spirit of it.

McAvoy: I
think one of the things that always runs through the X Men movies is they’re
largely about people who feel like outsiders; who have a certain amount of self
loathing and are afraid of themselves; don’t like themselves; want to be normal
or rejoice in the fact they are not normal and it is one of the key elements
you [Jane] managed to put in there.

There is a humorous moment at the end of the film when
you say that you might be bald when you are older, how do you see that
happening in the future?

McAvoy: In the
comic books he loses it the day his powers are activated and when he is very young.
We decided not to do that. Maybe it’s a smart move in an origin movie, we
explore why he can’t walk in this movie so we’ll get to see why he loses his
hair in another movie. We need to embrace the change. I’d be happy to do it.

Kevin [Bacon], you have now added mutant to your long
list of roles, what was it like playing a mutant?

Kevin Bacon: Great.
If you look at this movie, aside from the powers and mutations the characters
have, they are, compared to many other comic book movies, really human in a way
that they feel things; they get jealous, they hate and they get drunk together.
That was kind of a challenge from an acting point. I constantly bring it back to the human side. There is also
a responsibility to the fans of the comic books and I hope there won’t be too
much disappointment in the fact that I don’t look anything like Sebastian Shaw.
When I first read the script I went online and Googled my character and saw
this massive guy, with a pony tail and dressed like George Washington, I thought
‘How am I going to do this?’ Eventually Matt said I was the direction he wanted
to go in.

James and Michael, was it difficult trying physically to
show your power? Did you feel a bit silly at times?

Fassbender: I
just thought ‘how can I physically represent constipation through my hands?’
That was kind of my inspiration. Obviously that manifests itself in some very
physical attributes, erm, no I didn’t really know what to do. There was an
element of me that, obviously, feels like a bit of an idiot as a grown man
trying to lift metal things with my hands. I wasn’t even sure if I should have
physicalised it with my hands. But the safety net of Erik at the time is that
he is not really sure how to harness these powers, so it is a little bit
haphazard and random. I was really pleased to see in the film that I was
echoing what the young Erik had started off as I hadn’t seen any of those
scenes.

McAvoy: I saw
what everybody else was doing and they all got to do cool ninja stuff and I
didn’t really get to do anything. So I thought ‘I have got to physicalise my
power in some way’, so I came up with the master stroke of touching my temple!
I went through three months of intensive training with a couple of temple
ninjas and that was a really great experience [laughs]. In the beginning the
actions are quite flippant, just part of their everyday life and not made a big
thing about and I quite like that.

Jason Flemyng: He is
just trying to justify why his looks more like he works for Carphone Warehouse!

How do you feel about appropriating the cold war into the
movie?

Bacon: It
could go two ways – it could be kind of silly – but it is handled very well and
in a compelling kind of way. There are a lot of things that are historically
inaccurate when it comes to making films and TV but that is basically what we
do. If you want to see real history, watch a documentary. I think that if
nothing else, if a kid sees it and has absolutely no idea about this time in
history maybe it could inspire some further research.

Fassbender:
There was something really interesting things going on in that time, everyone
was unsure, people were building bunkers outside their houses, they were
stocking up on three years’ worth of canned goods and no one really knows how
close we actually to nuclear war and what was actually going on behind the
scenes – there is a mystery to all that.

McAvoy:
Narrative manipulation has been going on for a long time, I don’t know, it
really appeals to us that maybe something else was really going on…

Jason, you have worked with Mathew Vaughn on lots of
films, now he has doing a blockbuster do you think his methods have changed?

Flemyng: His
working method stays the same and it is great to see the same sound and costume
boys from Lock, Stock. Basically, the truth is I was cast so that when he got
annoyed with this lot and couldn’t say anything he could turn to me and say ‘Flemyng
you’re an idiot’ and I would just take the abuse.

James and Michael, in the movie there are some subtle
bond references and both you two are reportedly front runners for the new bond
role…

James McAvoy: Well,
he [Fassbender] told me he really wants to do it.

Fassbender: You
told me that too.

McAvoy: Yeah, we were
peeing at the time. I think this guy [Fassbender] does a really good job of
doing that in this film, but for me, that was never my remit.

Fassbender: It’s very
flattering, of course, and Mathew had mentioned it in some of the earlier
meetings but for me approaching the character of Erik I didn’t really go down
that route. They dressed him in clothes that were pretty cool; bespoke suits
that hark back to the early Bonds, but I never approached it that way. In terms
of what do I hope or expect in the future? I never try and plan anything, I
never expect anything and I think Daniel is doing an excellent job. Let’s deal
with this first.

What was it like acting opposite January Jones cleavage?

McAvoy: I had
to rugby tackle January Jones’ cleavage with you [Fassbender].

Fassbender:
That’s right. You took the cleavage I took the bottom part.

McAvoy: If you watch the
film I think you’ll see it’s the other way round, my friend.

Fassbender: To be honest,
you try not to make her feel uncomfortable. It’s a difficult scenario for her as
she’s dressed in skimpy clothes. There are a plethora of fans who get excited
about it, but you are there working as a professional. It wouldn’t work well if
you brought that kind of giddiness into it.

Zoe Kravitz: I was
always staring at her tits. How can you not?

As private people do you worry about your fame blowing up
after this film?

McAvoy: I
don’t. I mean people have been saying that to me since I did Narnia and I have
been recognised in the street since then only about 10 times. It never really
worries me that stuff.

Fassbender: And
that’s only when you’re phone rings.

McAvoy: Yeah, I stand
outside schools and go: “Please recognise me you’re my key audience.”[laughs]

Fassbender: What can you do?
Hopefully it is not going to change anything regarding my everyday life. I
don’t think it has to. I was lucky enough to work with Viggo Mortensen last
year and we walked all around Vienna and he was part of one of the biggest
franchises in the world. So far it hasn’t been a problem.

There are different ideologies in this film – Charles’s
and Xavier’s – but who is right?

Fassbender: That
is your call. For me, that’s what interests me as an actor and audience member.
When I go to the cinema, unfortunately now, especially because of the big
commercial movies, the audience is spoonfed throughout the entire experience –
they don’t have to do any work. I believe if you go to the cinema you have to
invest something yourself and do a little work as an audience member. So when
you leave you should be having those conversations with yourself – if you are
crazy like me – or with friends afterwards. There should be an ambiguity; the
grey areas are what’s interesting.


Marcia Degia - Publisher

 
Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.