Last week we managed to tap into our dormant mutant powers and attend the press conference for X-Men: First Class to hear firsthand experiences of the production from key members of the cast and co-scribe Jane Goldman. Our review of the film is here and you can check it out right now as it is released in UK cinemas today.

Everyone appeared to be in a fun and playful mood (probably bolstered considerably by the more than favourable feedback the film is currently receiving) and amongst more general chitchat, the cast was happy to discuss the more outlandish aspects of bringing comic book characters to life on the big screen.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were first asked about how they tackled the pivotal roles of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, and how much they looked towards the previous actors who inhabited both roles to inform their own performances:

Fassbender’s initial approach was to follow what came before:

“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. Then I sat down with Matthew [Vaughan] 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.”

McAvoy’s take differed slightly:

“It had to be different because the franchise needed to be freshened and new but also there’s no point having that same character played the same way in a different suit as it doesn’t validate the movie. It has to be different. I took a lot of notes on Sir Patrick Stewart’s performance but it was more about seeing how I could make him different, so where Sir Patrick was wise, I’d be foolhardy, where he was chaste, I’d be randy.

If we end up making another couple of film, I’ll end up doing something much more like Sir Patrick Stewart, but it was really important to start from a different place.”

McAvoy was asked if he has any idea how Xavier’s baldness could be addressed in a later film:

“Not sure yet. In the comic books he loses his hair the day his powers are activated but we decided not to do that and maybe it’s a smart move in an origin story. We spend time in this movie explaining why he can’t walk and so we get to see how he loses his hair in another movie. I don’t know what we’ll do it, but we need to embrace the change and not just have him at the start of another movie bald.”

McAvoy in on how the mutant abilities are portrayal in the film:

“At the beginning of the film, a lot of the powers are quite off-hand and flippant, and I like that. It made it much more part of their everyday life.”

Fassbender on who is ultimately right in the duelling ideologies between Charles and Erik:

“It’s up to the audience to decide. That’s what interests me as an actor and also as an audience member when I go to the cinema. Particularly with big commercial film, the audience can be spoon-fed through the entire experience. I believe that you should have to invest something of yourself into films and do a little work, so when you leave the cinema or theatre you should be having those conversations with friends afterwards. There should be an ambiguity and there should be grey areas.”

On using his hands to help convey Magneto’s powers:

“There was an element of me which felt like a bit of an idiot – a grown man trying to bend things, and I wasn’t sure if I should have used my hands at first. The safety net was that the fact that Erik at this point in his life is not really sure how to harness his powers, so it is a little haphazard and random, and it’s only through meeting Charles that he really unleashes his full potential. I was really happy when I watched the film with what Bill [Miner] had done with the young Erik, which was amazing. I was really happy to see in the film I was echoing what he had started off.”

Kevin Bacon is at his most suave and menacing in the role of lead villain Sebastian Shaw, but his knowledge of the X-Men world didn’t stem from childhood:

“I wasn’t a huge comic book fan as a kid, but the great thing was the day I arrived at Pinewood, the guys from Marvel came out with this gigantic bible of everything that had been written about and every sketch of Sebastian Shaw, and that was probably around 75% of my research.”

On playing his character and how to bring a reality to proceedings:

“It was great to be a mutant! When you look at this movie, aside from the powers and mutations all the characters have, compared to many other comic book movies they are extremely human in the way that they feel things. They experience jealousy, hate, and fear. They get drunk together. I think that was the challenge from an acting standpoint – forget about your powers and to constantly bring it back to who am I on the human side.

The chance to get to work with some of the finest, young actors of today who are constantly blowing up or are about to blow up, was also a thrill. It’s just a kickass cast.”

Jason Flemying (who plays the demonic Azazel) is a veteran of director Matthew Vaughan’s film work, in both a directing and producing capacity. He was asked if Vaughan’s working methods had changed at all on a huge production like this:

“I don’t think his methods have changed. He has a team of people who fluctuate between his movies. Unfortunately, I’ve done more because I’m always available (laughs). His working methods stay the same and it’s amazing to be on a movie this big and look out to the stage and see the sound boys and some of the costume people from ‘Lock, Stock’. He likes to work in shorthand. He’s managed to change genres and still nails it each time.”

Co-screenwriter Jane Goldsmith was asked how close the film fits within the X-Men universe:

“I think it would be impossible to write something that completely fitted into the X-Men universe because even the comics don’t have it totally accurate, when different artists and writers have come along and don their own take.

I think the most important thing is to tell a good story but be respectful of the source material and be true to the spirit of it.”

She talked about how much of an input she had into casting:

“I certainly had conversations about it. Of course, ultimately, it’s the director’s final choice, but I like to stick my oar in whenever I can.”

And the film’s period setting:

“I don’t think it was a gimmick at all. I thought it was a terrific ideal of Bryan Singer to come up with a story against that political backdrop.”

Spanish actor Alex Gonzalez’s approach to playing mutant and Shaw henchman Riptide, who can control and manipulate tornados:

“Riptide can control the wind and it was very helpful for me to work with how a tornado functions. When you look at a tornado from afar, it goes very slowly, but inside of it, it’s going really fast. Riptide is the same thing. He’s very elegant and calm but inside of him everything is going really fast. And yes, I was about to throw up several times.”

X-Men: First Class is released nationwide today.