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X-Men 2 - X marks the laughter spot



Feature by: Jack Foley

IN TERMS of subject matter, the X-Men franchise would appear to be one of the more mature and worthy comic book to screen translations, given that it deals with the issue of tolerance and, in terms of the sequel, genocide.

Certainly, Sir Ian McKellen was under no illusion as to the weight of the subject matter, when first offered the part of Magneto, by director, Bryan Singer.

"He said this is about gay politics, Ian," he explained. "You know, what do you do if society treats you as a mutant? Do you say, well ‘I'm sorry, but let me join in’, or do you say, ‘right, I'm going to take you on’."

But while the X-Men movies certainly strive to explore some timely and timeless issues, members of the cast appeared content to have as much of a laugh, on-set, as possible.

Speaking at the London press conference for the film, on the day before the glittering world premiere, the talk was less of politics, and more of the tomfoolery which existed on-set throughout the production process.

"It was only up until they yelled 'action' that we got it together," recalls Rebecca Romijn-Stamos," who plays Mystique.

"It was actually remarkable that we got this movie made," adds James Marsden.

Certainly, from hearing the tales of singing and dancing which went on, it sounds like the filming process was a blast for all concerned.

Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine, recalled the day his sister visited the set, and dressed up in his make-up and costume.

"Everyone has a different opinion of who you look like, but as soon as she came on set - she's a triathlete, so she was muscular - everyone was saying, 'my God, you look like your sister'.

"So I said to her, 'tell you what Sonia, why don't you go and put on my double's wig?' And she went off into the make-up trailer and my make-up artist came out, and said 'you've got to come, you've got to come'.

"It wasn't only the wig, they'd put on the mutton chops as well, and the costume. And instead of laughing hysterically, I was sick. It was disturbing. It was me! I thought I'd spent these two films kind of creating a this very macho, kind of very vital and unique character, and there was my sister, who pulled it off just like that.

"So, we snuck her onto the set, while we were shooting the scene in the hallway where the ice wall appears... and I did two takes. On the third take, however, I put my sister there to test it out.

"Forty five seconds went by, after action, and we were rolling, and Bryan yells out, 'Hugh line, Hugh line!'. I'm in hysterics, and the whole camera crew are laughing, and then I walk into the shot, put my hand on my sister's shoulder and say, 'I'll take over from here sis'.

"And all I hear is 'Oh my God, Oh my God'. Bryan had no idea, and he said, 'she was making some really interesting decisions...'"

The pranks appear to be very much a mainstay of the shooting process, with several members of the cast recalling funny incidents.

Romijn-Stamos, who appeared to be a perpetual joker at the press conference itself, related a story of Sir Ian McKellen’s method ‘madness’, when asked whether she had ever gone to him for acting tips.

"Of course, everyone has these very different backgrounds, but we still had such a great time together, and they are hilarious; I mean, those guys are as juvenile as we are," she observed.

"But, for example, Sir Ian is very method, he's always got to know what his motivation is. There's this one scene, where I'm in Stryker's lair, doing all this typing, and the X-Men all have to come in, which they had just added that morning, and none of us knew what the context of the scene was to the story. Ian had to run in and say, 'have you found it?'

"And so, we'd been there for 15 hours, and he started going, [in Sir Ian’s voice] 'I don't know what it is, what is it'? And everyone's like, 'oh please, Ian, don't ask, because that would be another half hour...' But he kept going, 'what is it?'"

And what was it, asked one journalist?

"I have no idea," laughs Rebecca. "And I found it!"

There were also numerous song and dance routines in between takes, with Rebecca confirming that she and Alan Cumming [Nightcrawler] had their own ‘blue dance’, while Sir Ian would regularly ask Jackman to sing, in order to lighten the mood.

"If ever we were having a hard time, it was always me who came up and said, 'please, would you sing?'," he added, before Jackman revealed that there had been a singalong every Saturday night.

In fact, far from taking anything seriously, the mood at even the press conference remained light and frothy throughout.

When asked whether any of the cast had taken time out to research the source comics for X-Men, Famke Janssen [Jean Gray] responded with an embarrassed giggle and recalled:

"No, but we did look at Latex Men!"
Adds Rebecca: "My friend went to a comic book convention and brought back this pornographic version, which was very dirty. So we all had a look at that."

And did we dare ask what Latex Men’s powers were?

"Let’s just say it was X-Men United, but in a different way," teased Rebecca.



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