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X-Men: First Class - Kevin Bacon interview

X-Men: First Class

Interview by Rob Carnevale

KEVIN Bacon talks about playing new X-Men villain Sebastian Shaw in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class and why he was relieved sideburns and ponytails were out, and a confident swagger was in.

He also talks about the decision to draw on real historical events as part of the backdrop to the film.

Q. How familiar were you with X-Men prior to being in the film?
Kevin Bacon: I didn’t grow up so much with comics. I had a few but it wasn’t really a big part of my childhood. But I knew the films and one of the great things about working on the thing was that the day I got to Pinewood, the guys from Marvel came out with this gigantic bible of everything that had been written and drawn about Sebastian Shaw, so that was like 75% of my research just handed to me.

Q. What was it like playing a mutant?
Kevin Bacon: It’s great to be a mutant! It’s the first time that I’ve played a mutant, so that was a great opportunity [laughs]. I think that if you look at this movie, aside from the powers and mutations that all the characters have, they are compared to many other comic book movies extremely human in the way that they feel things. They get jealous and they have hate and fear and they get drunk together. I think that was kind of a challenge, from an actor’s standpoint to, in a way, forget about your powers, because they were going to just be there and taken care of. So, you’re constantly bringing it back to who am I on the human side. For me, I’ve never played a billionaire playboy megalomaniac, so that’s cool!

Q. How relieved were you not to have Sebastian Shaw’s sideburns from the comic books?
Kevin Bacon: Yeah, that’s the other thing have asked me about… the responsibility to fans of the comic books. I think there certainly is a responsibility to fans of the comic books. I hope that they won’t be too much disappointed with the fact that I don’t look anything like Sebastian Shaw. When I first read the script, I went online and Googled him and I saw this massive, kind of Lou Ferrigno kind of guy with a ponytail dressed like George Washington and I thought: “I just don’t know how I’m going to do that!” But that’s not the look that Matthew [Vaughn] wanted to go with. And a lot of the things that I’ve read about him in research was applicable, whether or not he looks the way he does in the books.

Q. Shaw also possesses a real swagger. Did you come up with that yourself?
Kevin Bacon: Yeah. Look, somebody said to me earlier today… I was talking about the voice, the look, the clothing, the hair, the make-up, the walk… and they said: “The walk? You made a decision about the walk?” I said: “Of course you do.” It’s an integral part of who a person is. It’s the way that they move. He’s a very, very confident man. I mean even at the end of the movie when everything’s turned to shit and his whole plan is going wrong he says: “No, it’s going to be fine.” So, he’s very confident even then and I think that’s kind of reflected in the way that he moves.

Q. Is part of the appeal of appearing in a movie like X-Men the complexity of the emotions and the big themes that come with the stories – perhaps more so than other comic book movies?
Kevin Bacon: Well, for me to get a chance to work with some of the finest young actors that are working today, who are either blowing up or about to blow up was a thrill. It’s just a kick-ass cast – and no pun intended! – just the way it all played in and the choices that Matthew made about the actors is one of the great strengths of the movie.

Q. How did you feel about such an important historical event such as the Cuban missile crisis being appropriated for this movie?
Kevin Bacon: I think it could go either way. It could be kind of silly and you sort of go: “Why are they using that piece of history?” But it’s handled very well and in a compelling kind of way. There’s a lot of things that are historically inaccurate when it comes to making films, writing books and putting on television shows… I mean that’s 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 who has absolutely no idea about this time in American and world history, where we had the Cold War and this battle between democracy and Communism, maybe it could inspire some further research into exactly what did happen.

Read our review of X-Men: First Class