“X” marks the spot! (Sorry, had to go there.) After a long wait, at least quality-wise, the mutants are back and “X-Men: First Class” has arrived and opens in theaters nationwide today. This super hero film also lands with a rather huge sigh of relief to three distinctly different groups of people. 1) The fans: after having to endure two mediocre to abysmal installments of the ‘X-Men’ series (“X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine“), the Matthew Vaughn-directed “X-Men: First Class,” is a nice return to form and almost on-par with Bryan Singer‘s much beloved “X2” (read our positive review) 2) The non-disastrous quality of the film is also a huge sigh of relief to the cast who were expecting something else. ‘First Class’ was shot, edited and finished in a lightning-fast 10-month period and actors have already publicly admitted that the uber-rushed-production of the film made them worry they were putting their efforts into polishing a turd. So a remarkably steady picture — also considering the myriad story threads — is not only a major comfort, it’s a major surprise. 3) The studio: Trying to get their blockbuster brand back to health, 20th Century Fox gambled big time with the rushed schedule of “X-Men: First Class,” but thanks to Vaughn they rolled snake eyes. This should be precipitating whoops and cheers from the execs, frankly.The film wasn’t cheap to make, the actual production was one huge question mark, but now their franchise is back in good standing with critics (and soon to be fans) and sequels will surely be on their way (and yes, everyone in the cast is signed up for a trilogy, as is de rigueur these days). The film’s arrival is good news to everyone.
But it wasn’t at all easy. In fact, maybe one day a “X-Men: First Class” tell-all will come out with all the dirty details. Though one could say half those nasty deets have already hit. “He’s not gentle in the way he directs, to say the least,” Kevin Bacon told the L.A. Times describing of Vaughn’s abrasive style on set. “Matthew would sit by the monitor and shout something that’s borderline insulting. But every time he said something — or screamed something — it was right on the mark.”
Vaughn has admitted that on certain days of shooting, he didn’t even know who his crew was (he apparently had to work with five different directors of photography during the shoot which is highly unusual, and borderline chaos). From everything the candid filmmaker has said so far, it seems like he had to take control by any means necessary and make the film by hook or by crook — in fact he may have borrowed a page from Magneto’s Machiavellian the-end justifies-the-means aphorisms to get the job done. It was the only option available.
Suffice to say there’s lots of good stories about the making of this film. So without further ado, almost 20 nuggets we learned from the cast, crew and writers of “X-Men: First Class.”
Jennifer Lawrence who plays Mystique in the film was initially reluctant to sign up because she didn’t want to be stuck in sequels that would eat up her acting life.
“When you don’t have a script, there’s nothing to really go by,” she said of her initial hesitation. “Then there’s the fact that the ‘X-Men’ movies are so huge and there are sequels, and it’s hard to talk about doing a movie when there are sequels and you haven’t even read the script for the first one. What if I hated it? And then I have to make it three times! So I think the sequels were the biggest issues for me, because I was thinking I have no idea where I’m going to be in my life when these new movies come out; don’t know what kind of things I’m going to be doing. Am I going to regret this decision I made impulsively when I was 20? So I wanted to really think it through. And then, reading the script and — and really picturing James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender and the fact that they were really different — I loved it. I loved where it was coming from, I loved the idea of it, I love the idea of an origin story. So became an easy decision to make.”
As per the aforementioned opening quote, Bacon is frank about Vaughn’s method’s, but he also has a ton of respect for the filmmaker.
The actor said Vaughn was candid and not crass. “He doesn’t do a lot of takes,” he told the LAT. “He does zero in on things. I remember once he yelled, ‘Stop twirling your mustache!’ And it was totally on point. I was starting to get into some kind of idea of villainy and not staying true to who Sebastian was. As an actor, I can appreciate that.”
We’ve already heard of some of Matthew Vaughn’s sequels ideas, some of which may involve JFK’s assassination, some of which could see the films entering the ’70s or ’80s. Right now it sounds like the film would need to be a major hit for him to return.
“Yeah, if the film’s a hit, I’d be very interested in doing a sequel,” he told SuperheroHype. “I really, really enjoyed… the team I had on it were great, and the hard thing is creating a new franchise, so if it works, it would be fun. My ideas are much bigger for the next one. I’ve got some really big … I’m surprised everyone is calling this a really big epic movie, and I’m thinking, ‘Wait until you view the next one if you think this is epic, the next one you won’t believe what happens.'”
While Bryan Singer and 20th Century Foxed Picked All The ‘X-Men’ Characters In The Film Before Matthew Vaughn came on board, there was supposed to be one more mutant character.
“In the draft they gave me all the characters were in there. We cut Sunspot, because we didn’t have the time or money,” Vaughn said. “They couldn’t make him work, it was a pain in the arse.”
Michael Fassbender didn’t bother watching the ‘X-Men’ performance of Sir Ian McKellen or any of his other work.
Initially his idea was to reverse engineer the performance and work backwards, but after speaking with his director, they decided to go another way. “When I first found I’d got the job, I thought about studying Ian McKellen and getting my hands on anything I could when he was a young man on screen and studding his physicality and voice,” Fassbender said. Then I sat down with Matthew [Vaughn] and we decided that wasn’t the way he wanted me to go and so I ditched that idea totally and used the comic book source material.”
Always blunt, Vaughn didn’t worry about pleasing the fanboys.
“I didn’t give a shit, to be honest,” the director said matter-of-factly.”I got pitched a story by Fox as being set in the Cold War with the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. [They said] I could go off and make my ‘Bond meets X-Men’ movie, and that’s really all I cared about.”
While the screenwriting credits ultimately went to four people in total — Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Vaughn (and six people vied for credits) — Vaughn suggest he and his writing partner Goldman are responsible for the script you see on the screen.
These writers have all crossed paths before as well on another superhero film that Vaughn almost directed. “[Miller & Stentz] rewrote the ‘[Thor‘] draft that I did with Mark Protosevich, but I thought that draft was better and they shouldn’t have rewritten it, and we rewrote their draft [of ‘X-Men’] and made it a lot better,” Vaughn said. “[We] swapped projects and one was for the best and one wasn’t, so yeah, we did a major page one rewrite and Jane and I had to do it bloody quickly.”
Vaughn was even more forthcoming in an interview that Obsessed with Film was part of. There were other writers who’d established part of the script, right? “Not really, not that the WGA think that, the fuckwits,” he said. “No, but Jane Goldman and I wrote the screenplay, threw everything out and started again. Sheldon Turner managed to get a ‘story by’ credit , he wrote a Magneto script that none of us even read. I didn’t even know that, I mean I was like who the fuck is this guy? Hollywood’s got its own way with dealing with these things.”
With 5 cinematographers on the film, only one of them got credit — John Matheson. Why?
“Welcome to Hollywood,” Vaughn said. “How come all these people who did fuck all on the screenplay get these credits? I think John did the most though so that’s why – John Matheson did a great job by the way – 55%? I should know. He came on half way through the shoot. Again it was good for me. Normally I’m far more collaborative with DPs, here I became a bit more of a megalomaniac – as in look someone has to take control, this scene’s about the camera being there now. Normally I’d ask the DP, what do you think etc, so it was good to get out of that zone.”
“X-Men: First Class” is already almost 2 hours and 20 minutes long, but according to co-screenwriter Jane Goldman there’s a lot more that was cut. Maybe the 3-hour version on DVD?
“There’s such a lot that was shot which isn’t in the film, most of which is the absolutely right decisions,” Goldman told Bleeding Cool, noting that a lot of what was cut from the extra character elements that would have likely lent some of the heroes more depth, but would have made the film simply too long and unwieldy.
“The most important thing, and I think the intention always was that the relationship between Charles and Erik to be central,” she said. “I think that as the film evolved it became clear how powerful that was. It was important to not trivialize the differences in their ethics and outlooks by not having it to appear to be about one person. Sometimes things go just because of length, but it was also sometimes in service of actually allowing the Charles and Erik relationship.”
One of the characters who got short thrift was Rose Byrne’s Moira MacTaggert CIA agent and in doing so, the film shifted in its depiction of sexism.
“Moira is a really strong character and her involvement is massively important, but in earlier iterations, before we came along, there was a sort of love triangle thing,” Goldman admitted. “We had already very much drawn back from that but it was ultimately a matter of drawing back from that even further.When you write a screenplay, it’s the combination of things you put in that convey what you want the character to be. When it reaches the editing stage it is no longer in your hands so it’s obviously not going to be exactly the way you planned it. In service of the film, these cuts were the correct decision, but in the service of Moira’s character, it doesn’t give a full picture.”
“I think there’s definitely an element of ’60s sexism, which is supposed to be not-a-good-thing, running through the movie, though unfortunately sometimes, when a film is edited you end up with a thread seeming that you’re not following all elements of all threads. There was much more of story about Moira being oppressed.”
People like to shit on 20th Century Fox, but Vaughn says they were extremely supportive. Also Fox chief Tom Rothman may not be Satan as previously assumed.
“Fox were the best partners you could imagine and I speak my mind, and if they had screwed me around, I would be shouting it from the rooftops right now,” Vaughn said. “It was such a creatively-rewarding experience working with them and they were so supportive of everything. We had nine weeks of post basically to finish this movie from when we finally wrapped and I was like, ‘We’re never going to do this,’ and they just rallied around me, gave me every tool imaginable, and just kept me feeling like we could do it. (Tom) Rothman and Emma Watts were true allies. They gave me brilliant notes and never tried to interfere, just tried to make the film better. I have no idea why Tom has the reputation he has now, because I would let the guy be my ally on any film I made whether he was a head of the studio or not.”
The cast are happy the film is not in 3D
“Well, it’s not in 3-D, that’s a start,” Fassbender told MTV when describing what separates the film from other super hero films coming out this summer. “It’s not in 3-D, thank the heavens,” McAvoy agreed. “I think the X-Men, the X-people, mutants, they use their powers for good, just like a superhero does, but they don’t feel like superheroes. They feel like real people more — maybe that’s the thing that sets it apart.”
Presuming they return screenwriters Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz are also already thinking sequels and characters they’d like to introduce.
“We would like to introduce Cable. He’s such a cool character and we haven’t seen him in any of the films yet,” they told Gigwise of the futuristic character with ties to the “X-Men” past. “Avatar” actor Stephen Lang is apparently already interested in the role and Cable co-creator Rob Liefeld previously issued a plea to 20th Century Fox, singling Lang out as the ideal actor to play the character. “Dear 20th Century Fox, Please sign Steven Lang as Cable and put him in your next X-men film. Thanks, Rob,” he wrote on Twitter.
Jennifer Lawrence sought advice from Rebecca Romijn about the lengthy make-up process.
“Her advice was mostly just kind of, ‘Don’t worry about it. Don’t listen to what they tell you,'” she explained. “Because they tell you not to drink alcohol or eat spicy food, because they remove the make-up with alcohol. And she just said, ‘Don’t listen to that. It will drive you crazy.’ “
Nicolas Hoult can thank the delays on “Mad Max” for getting the Beast role.
“I actually was down in Australia, where we were beginning to work on Mad Max. But that got delayed, so I called my agents and told them, ‘I need a job,’ he told FilmCritic. “They sent me to tape for X-Men. I prepared as best I could, auditioned, and was called in to perform a screen test.”
How did the cast feel about January Jones’ ample bosoms?
“I had to rugby tackle January Jones’ cleavage,” McAvoy said. Ok then.
James McAvoy is looking forward to potential sequels (and going bald when playing Xavier) he just hopes 20th Century Fox and the producers don’t fuck up the films.
“We can’t start the next movie with him bald. Not only is that easy and cheap, we’d be passing up an opportunity for a cool story point,” he told the LA Times. “I don’t know what it is — we need to come up with something that justifies doing it. Maybe he got some dodgy Australian shampoo….” As for those potentially looming sequels he says, “I just hope that, if it happens, they make it because they found a story they like rather than making it just because there’s more money to be made. I’ve lots of ideas. I know Michael [Fassbender] and I are very much on the same page all the time and we’ll be weighing in to protect that relationship between the two characters. [Their relationship] is much more sophisticated or complex [then the earlier “X-Men” films], at least, and we need to come up with a way to [keep] that moving forward. The next movie, if there is one, shouldn’t just start off with them being pals again, but I think it also shouldn’t be like the first movies only set in the 1960s. If we get another, let’s not just make Magneto the bad guy; of course he’s a bad-ass and of course he has a whole different ethos, but making a movie that is black-and-white is going to lose the [special] thing that we have in this one. McAvoy also thinks Vaughn, who has already been giving away some of his sequel ideas, should save some of them, “at least this movie has come out.”
If case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a lot of gossip surrounding “X-Men: First Class.”
We’ve heard rumors that the hook-ups on the film were like summer camp, but you don’t need to listen to our hearsay. These type of rumblings are all over the web. E!Online started the scurrilous rumors suggesting that Michael Fassbender had impregnated January Jones during the film (she still has yet to say who the father is) and hooked up with Zoe Kravitz. Then rumors started circling that director Matthew Vaughn was the father (he’s currently married to Claudia Schiffer) and his lawyer quickly blasted those claims.
As for those summer camp rumors, well… “We [Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Michael Fassbender] were living in London for four months and it was like X-Men summer camp, so we all hung out at each other’s houses after filming, went out to pubs…,” Zoe Kravitz recently said. Her and Fassbender have been spotted together in New York, so it looks like at least two relationships and one baby were made during “X-Men: First Class.” Mazel tov!
“X-Men: First Class” hits theaters this Friday, June 3.