X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class is an upcoming superhero film based on the comic book superhero team. It is the fifth film of the X-Men film series and a prequel to the first three movies. Matthew Vaughn is directing and Bryan Singer is producing, and the film is scheduled for release on June 3, 2011. It concerns the early years of
Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, and their dealings with The Hellfire Club.

James McAvoy...Professor Charles Xavier

Michael Fassbender ... Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto
Rose Byrne...Dr. Moira MacTaggert
January Jones...Emma Frost
Kevin Bacon...Sebastian Shaw
Jennifer Lawrence...Raven Darkhölme / Mystique
Nicholas Hoult ...Hank McCoy / Beast
Jason Flemyng... Azazel
Oliver Platt...Man in Black
Lucas Till...Alex Summers / Havok
Caleb Landry Jones...Sean Cassidy / Banshee
Edi Gathegi...Darwin
Álex González...Janos Quested / Riptide
Zoë Kravitz...Angel Salvadore
Ray Wise...Secretary of State


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

IGN: James McAvoy Interview *SPOILERS*

IGN interviews James McAvoy:


IGN: So James, were you into the X-Men comics as a kid?

James McAvoy: To be honest with you, I wasn't. Only because we didn't really have comic books when I was growing up. I don't know if it was just my little life that didn't have comic books, but none of my mates were into them, you know? I never even thought to seek them out or anything. But, I was a huge fan of the cartoon from the age of 10 upwards which we got on Saturday mornings on Going Live. My favourite character was Gambit. So it's quite nice to be involved in X-Men actually, and then also being a fan of the first movies as well, it's great. But also just the best thing really is going back in time.

It's not really a reboot this; it is a prequel really so we don't get that thing where you go, 'Right, we're just going to make it really dark and deep and we're going to really reapproach and redefine the way we approach a film.' But, you have set it in a completely different time and you are also taking these people to a much earlier point in their personal development as well as their physical and super development. What's fun is you get to figure out who were they in the other films. For me, Charles Xavier is a monk. He's like a selfless, egoless almost sexless force for the betterment of humanity and mortality. And getting to kind of go, 'Alright, well he's got to be different from that.' It's quite fun because the complete opposite of that is an ego-fuelled, sexed up self-serving dude. And not going too far with it, but he's definitely got an ego and he's definitely got a sex drive as well.

IGN: Would you say he's a cad?

McAvoy: Yeah, he's a little bit of a cad. It's quite nice to play that because throughout the course of this movie the characters are actually... it's quite interesting, but if we do a two and a three -- if this one makes any money and we do get to do more -- then you've got a really nice start. Not only is he newly having to deal with the fact he no longer can walk, but whether he's to challenge Magneto or not is a big deal.

IGN: So does that scene with his legs happen in the film?

McAvoy: Yeah, it does. We see why he can no longer walk and why he is in a wheelchair. And hopefully we'll find out why he lost his hair as well. In the comics he loses his hair when he sort of gains or discovers his powers. But obviously that is not the way they wanted to go in this case.

IGN: Were you wondering what you would look like with a shaved head?

McAvoy: Yeah, I shaved it not that long ago, so when I started this my hair was particularly short and they wanted me with long hair. It was one of the only studio notes I got, they wanted me to have hair. So we had a lot of extensions for the first month. But yeah, I was kind of up for shaving my head. The only thing with shaving your head, there is just so much make-up that has to go onto it and so much CG-ing ultimately and dialling down with lighting tones and stuff, because basically if you shave your head you just look like a guy who shaved his head; you don't look like a guy who is actually bald.

IGN: So did you plough through the comics when you got the part?

McAvoy: It was honestly based on the script because we do mess with a lot of the chronology. There is a lot of -- even with the other movies -- there are inconsistencies. So where I took it from was the script but also First Class, the comic as well. But again, it is utterly different from the comic. So you have to go on the script. And we started working on the script when we came on board. We didn't have much prep time on this because it was a quick sort of, 'Let's get it going and get it out there quick.' But Matthew is very keen to, if we have two minutes, to use that two minutes to make it better. And also there's a lot of character development in this film, it's not just a kind of superhero action movie.

It's what you want from all your decent character-driven superhero movies or action movies these days; you want to get character development and real investigation. We've got a lot of that and a lot of it comes from the fact that all these guys have no idea that there is such a thing as the mutant race and that it's happened to anybody else other than themselves. I've met Raven when I was 12 in this film, but other than that we could be the only two freaks out there, you know? I think there is a lot of isolation. So a lot of the character development comes out of realizing that you are not alone and communicating with people for the first time about what you are going through because they have a shared experience.

IGN: Bryan Singer's X-Men films are very much about prejudice and the mutants being an underclass. Does this film pre-date that?

McAvoy: Yes. Anybody who has any kind of mutant power in them is leading a very secretive and sometimes messed up life. I don't think there is the sense yet that they are appreciated as the underclass or feared yet, but we do get to that stage where we all start to realize that: OK, there is a group of us, and we go through our sort of period of fraternity time where we are all having a great time because we realize we are not alone and suddenly we are making connections for the first time in our lives. Then things get serious and ultimately we realize that it is not just going to be a case of, 'We've got these great powers, aren't we a great addition to the Planet Earth?' There is a lot of fear attached to it and that ultimately sort of explains the split between Erik and Charles, because one is an optimistic and one is sort of a fatalist really, or a realist maybe you could argue.

IGN: How much of the history and the politics of the time is touched upon in this film? Are you involved in world events or are they happening in the background?

McAvoy: Yeah, they're huge. I mean the Cold War plays a big part in it and the manipulation of history is quite a nice thing. So we sort of attach ourselves to history really closely in quite a strong way, but then we also mess with history quite a lot and re-write it a little bit. We don't change the outcome of any world events, but the explanation and the kind of machine behind those world events we kind of play off the mutants, which is great. And I think that's kind of fun. A lot of kids who are watching these films don't know much about 1962, but people my age and people in their 20s, you hope they will have some inkling of the kind of paranoia of the Cold War and the touch-and-go nature of the stability of the world. That for me helps ground it a little bit. You know, we can talk about people who can fly, people who can do this and do that and shoot energy out of their chest or spit acid or change into other people or whatever. That's all fantastical, but to base it in something that actually happened then makes a big difference. 

IGN: Is there any kind of comparison to be made between Charles/Erik and Martin Luther King/Malcolm X in terms of a peaceful approach versus the more violent approach?

McAvoy: I think so. I think that is something that is really strong in the X-Men dynamic between these two men who both want the same thing really. Well, they don't both want the same thing actually. A lot of the time... in the comic books, Erik comes and goes; he goes back and forward really in what he believes and how he is going to achieve it. And in this film it's sort of like meeting them at a point where they are still finding out who they are and you are still seeing some of the events that shaped them, not through their early life, but some of the key events in the sort of equal rights or civil rights struggle that helped shape them. But that is something that Michael [Fassbender, who plays Erik] and I have talked about a hell of a lot -- that dynamic. And you know, you can't go for it too much because you don't want to... in no way would you ever want to sort of trivialize the civil rights movement, but it is just sort of abundantly transferrable really. You know? You've got to try and look at how the rest of the world reacted to that and it really informs how the rest of the world reacts to the mutant struggle in this film.

IGN: At a certain point in the previous films, Xavier and Magneto are basically the good guy and the bad guy; it's pretty black and white. Is there more of a grey area here?

McAvoy: Yes, I think so. Erik definitely is not a force for bad. What he is doing is a good thing. That's arguable. You can argue that killing people is never a good thing, but he's killing some pretty bad people that did some terrible things to him. He is definitely a lot more sympathetic anyway, whether he's doing bad things or good things. You know, the first time we see him as an adult he is chasing Nazis. You know why he's doing it and I don't think even if you are a pacifist, even if you don't believe in carrying guns, you can understand and empathize with exactly what he's going through. Where that takes him in the film is something that hopefully we would all fear because he takes quite an extreme approach. Whether he has been harbouring that for the entire story or not or whether that is something that is growing from a particular event or particular moment in the film is something that I'm unclear on actually.

But, I think that Professor X senses that and being the optimist that he is, believes that he can be helped, that he can be sort of manipulated and manoeuvred away from the dark side of human nature, you know? And that plays into Charles' ego as well. I think he wants to be the leader; he wants to be in charge of all these people. He wants it to be a family and he wants to be the figurehead of it and he thinks he can fix everyone because he has this huge, amazing superpower, but basically it's just amplified empathy. I think he thinks he can understand and fix everybody, which is ultimately wrong and proves the undoing for him and Erik.

IGN: Does that give him a little bit of a God complex?

McAvoy: I think so, definitely. Again, there is something that hopefully we can have a lot of fun with in sequels; on the route to becoming Patrick Stewart.

IGN: So how do you approach playing a young Patrick Stewart? Are you mimicking his voice?

McAvoy: No. At one point in very early rehearsals Matthew spoke to Michael and I about doing a voice and we did for about two minutes and he just kind of scotched that straight away.

IGN: So you are just going your own way with that aspect of the character?

McAvoy: It's definitely hard because you've got to see where they come from. There is almost no point in doing the film if its two lead characters or the recurring characters from the other movies are just exactly the same as they were. One of my biggest notes on the script to begin with was Charles was too much about mutants and humanity getting along and all that. As much as he would believe that, it wasn't something he quite arrived at yet; there was no fear that they wouldn't. It just all kind of echoed too strongly the kind of dialogue that Patrick had in the other movies, so we changed that. So we have really not been trying to mimic too much, except for the fact that Patrick... not Patrick, sorry, I keep calling him bloody Patrick... except for the fact that Charles I think is a bit more... as much as he's a bit of a cad he's a bit of a drinker and he's got a bit more of an ego, he is a bit less dangerous than Erik just in his nature. So he might still be a different person, he still might go many different ways from the person in the other films, but he is ultimately not a bad guy. He's not as messed up, he's not as screwed up as Erik. He's not had the sh*t happen to him that Erik's had happen to him, you know?

IGN: Have you enjoyed that interaction between Charles and Erik as it sounds like we're at an interesting point in both of their lives?

McAvoy: I think they have a little bit of a… not struggle but there is a little bit of vying for who is in charge... that tension carries on through the movie, as well as 'did Magneto listen to that or did he not,' you know? Has he taken on this sort of therapy that Charles is trying to give him? This pseudo psychology. And that's the thing, it is pseudo psychology but at the same time I see inside his mind and I know everything about him and I feel everything he has gone through. One of the things we wanted to get in the relationship between Erik and Charles that isn't necessarily touched on -- I don't know about all the other stuff -- but Charles has this empathy for everybody; he has this connection to everybody because he can feel their experiences and see their experiences. Their memories are his memories. But, he wasn't looking for Erik; he didn't know Erik was there and he suddenly felt Erik and perhaps he has never connected to anybody quite the same way that he connected to Erik. Maybe because of the nature of the horrible things that happened to him and the level of anger that he carries. And that makes a big impression on him, not just because he feels empathy for him but also because it's a big challenge to fix someone and try to help someone like that. So that is something that we are trying to get in quite a lot.

IGN: You get a love interest in this film in the shape of Rose Byrne's Dr. Moira MacTaggart. Is it fun injecting that into Charles' life because he's so serious in the other films.

McAvoy: Yeah.

IGN: And is there any kind of a love triangle element involving Erik or is it just a bit of romance between you and Rose?

McAvoy: Between me and Rose... it's just me and Rose. There is a love triangle between me, Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence who plays Raven. It's not a love triangle... basically she's my assistant in this film, and obviously by the other films she is not my assistant anymore; she is very much not my assistant. Actually that's quite good fun to see how that relationship disintegrates as well and why she ultimately goes over to the dark side as well. But yeah, it's fun to inject a bit of romance into Charles' life and not always to see him welcomed with it as well. He's a little bit forlorn and he doesn't really take 'no' for an answer. He's not forceful in any way, but I think he's used to using his powers to get what he wants as well. I think he has abused his powers a fair few times to get ladies into bed. I don't think he's mind-f**ked anybody into bed, but he just goes, 'Ah, she likes a Tia Maria and coke. Hey, buy you a Tia Maria and coke? How did you know? Lucky guess. Hey, you've got a nice ass.' Yeah, all that kind of stuff, which is quite good fun.

IGN: This is moviemaking on a huge scale. Does it help your performance to work on these huge sets and in these massive man-made environments?

McAvoy: Yeah, walking around Cerebro [Xavier's device for detecting other mutants] for the first time, it's quite good fun. Did you get to see Cerebro?

IGN: No, just a model.

McAvoy: Yeah, that is pretty cool and as much as its massive and big and all that, it was still dead-60s, so it's almost quite low-tech. Low-tech in the way that they didn't have a microchip so the computers have to be massive and hanging off the walls everywhere. There are lots of flashy lights and spools of films. That was fun. It is quite nice but the weird thing is in all these films you've got to try to get it; you've got to try and bring yourself down in the moment between the two and three and four actors that are there and try and make it as vital and real and from moment-to-moment as possible, otherwise it does just become a bit set. 

IGN: So what's it like working with the younger members of the cast?

McAvoy: It's fantastic. They're all really good. It's quite tough, too, because it's such a big ensemble cast. There is so much talent, and quite often people are sitting around. I kind of wish there was more movie to get everybody in because they are really, really special. Jennifer is fantastic, man, really, really terrifyingly good. And the other younger guys who play smaller parts, they don't get to show off as much. I think they are going to be great as well. Caleb Landry Jones and Lucas Till. Nicholas Hoult is just brilliant, man. What a lovely story to see a child actor come out and become a good adult actor. That doesn't always happen, does it? And be such a nice guy with it, too. Lovely, lovely fellow which doesn't really make a difference to anybody but it does help. It's quite nice too... because I know when Michael and I got cast there was that feeling of right, everybody else should be 19-years-old or something like that. I can't really speak for Michael but I was going, 'Oh, not everybody. Come on, don't make me the oldie.' So I think there was a feeling that there would be groups, do you know what I mean? There would be pockets of sort of generations.

IGN: Does that make the dynamic work quite well given the fact that you and Michael are a little bit older and dealing with youngsters, as in the movie?

McAvoy: Yeah, I think so. There is a scene which you guys were meant to come to...

IGN: The one where they are messing about with their powers?

McAvoy: Yeah, it's basically like the first night of their new mutant existence and they all get a bit drunk and show their powers off to each other, wreck the fucking joint and then CIA come in and go, 'Oi, for God's sake, you're on Presidential money here at the moment. We've got some work to do.' And I never liked the scene, but I realized the reason I didn't like the scene is because I shouldn't be in it and neither should Michael. They ultimately at the last minute wrote both him and I out of it, which I am really grateful for because it was a scene for the younger element. And I think it does help that we are a bit older than... there is a real teacher/pupil dynamic going on in Charles' eyes anyway; not so much from Erik but in Charles' eyes anyway I think he quite likes that dynamic, I think he wants to cultivate that.

IGN: So is Charles going through a similar experience to the kids, discovering this whole wider world of mutants?

McAvoy: Yeah, I think so. I don't feel like he's a scientist. And you know he's been studying genetic mutation theory for the last 12 or 13 years. Now he gets to study it in practice and he's got a bunch of guinea pigs there. I think that is another part of it. But I also think there is a sense at the end of this film of the approaching storm and all that kind of stuff. There is a storm coming and you need to set up your keep, you know what I mean? Ready your castle and create your place in the world.

IGN: Finally, this summer season is quite a crowded marketplace for superhero movies, so what in your opinion is going to set X-Men: First Class?

McAvoy: I think the fact that it's a period film is quite a different thing for superhero movies and action movies. Well not action movies, you see a lot of war movies, but hopefully the setting will help to elevate it. You've already got the franchise there, it's not just a sequel, and it's not just what happened next. It's, 'We know you like these movies to a certain extent. Here is why they happened.' I think there is always an interest in seeing how we got to a point -- we have already taken the story on board and we've already processed it and already decided we like it enough to see how those things came about and how those people came about. Hopefully that will kind of assist. If not, we're screwed.


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