HeyUGuys recently joined several other film news sites at a round table interview with X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn.
The interview lasted over 45 minutes, and because it was only for sites that write about film (unlike other round tables where we share with all sorts of outlets), it’s pretty much concentrated on things that should interest you. It certainly fascinates us.
This second section of the interview (2 of 3 that will be published) is about the production process. It also features a few spoilers and some swearing. We’ve put an advisory notice before and after the spoilers.
To read the first section of the interview, which concentrates on Writing and Character, please click here and check back later for the final part of the interview, which will look closer at the relationship between Vaughn’s film and the comic books.
Q: So how come John Mathieson gets the DP credit, and we don’t see any other names?
MV: Welcome to Hollywood. How come all these people who did fuck all on the screenplay get these credits?
Q: What sort of proportion is his work?
MV: I think John probably did. He did the most, that’s why. John did a great job by the way. I’d say 45%, 55%. I don’t know. I should know. He came on half way through the shoot.
Q: It looked pretty coherent though.
MV: As I said, it’s – you know. But we got through it. It was good for me. Normally I’m far more collaborative with DPs, here I became a bit more of a megalomaniac, ‘cause in the end I was just like, ‘look, someone has to take control, and the scene’s about the camera being there now’. Normally I’d ask the DP, ‘what do you think?’ So it was good for me to get out of that zone.
Q: Did you know you wanted McAvoy to play the role from the beginning?
MV: He was top of my list. When we talked about who could play Professor X, I thought McAvoy was perfect. So I sat with him. Then I think he got pretty annoyed at me, because I made him audition with every single actor who came in for Magneto, because if we were going to do the Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid thing of chemistry, I think it’s really, really important that you see that chemistry beforehand.
The poor guy, I was wheeling him in every day saying, ‘you’ve got to read with this actor, or this other actor’, and then when Michael came in, after twenty seconds of the two of them together I was like, ‘OK, I’ve found [Magneto]’.
Q: So was that in the US, or in England?
MV: In England.
Q: There’s a big push now with 3D. Just about every superhero/comic-based film is coming out in 3D now. Were you asked to make it in 3D?
MV: I’m sure if we’d had more time they might have brought it up. I’m not a big fan of 3D. I think Avatar works for 3D, because they really shot and designed it. Half these films I see, it’s sort of…
Q: Tacked on.
MV: Yeah. It just doesn’t feel like they’ve designed every shot to be3D. Yeah, they have something coming towards the camera now and again, but what I love about Avatar [is that] they made it to give it more depth, and you can just tell that Cameron knows what 3D means, but the rest of these directors. – You know when they do this post-conversion shit, and then you can’t even – It cut’s too quick. They’ve cut it in 2D, and in 3D, you’ve got to slow it down. I find the glasses annoying, and my kids hate it as well, and they take the glasses off halfway through. I’m like, ‘no, you’ve got to watch it with them on’, and they don’t care. Maybe I should be more of a fan, but for me Avatar’s the only 3D movie where I became immersed in a world. Doesn’t Cameron call it Real-D or something? He’s right. I think Hollywood’s fucking up 3D now as well. They’re cheapening the process so that people don’t care anymore.
Q: You say that you only saw the finished film five days ago. Are you happy with it?
MV: I think so. I’m just so close to it. Normally in this process, nine weeks after finishing filming, I’m nearly close to having a director’s cut. That’s when I show it to friends, and get about 50 people to see it. Then I get all their input, and then I go off and spend three or four months tweaking and changing. I think I am. I don’t know. I’m astonished by it. It’s weird. When I say ‘seeing it for the first time’, we only got all the visual effects finished about ten days ago. It was odd. I was so used to cutting it with all these bad pre-vizes in it, and I was scared that the movie felt too small, because of all that big stuff I hadn’t seen. Watching it suddenly give birth, I think the actors did a great job on it, and we seemed to get away with having different DPs, and I think Henry Jackman did a great job with the score, because we were writing music three weeks ago. I was still sitting there on a piano with the guy going, ‘what’s Magneto’s theme?’ [Vaughn taps rhythmically on the table, and hums a couple of bars of the tune] . It’s been so, – I cannot explain how crazy the process has been right now, I think that’s why I’m sick now, because it’s finally finished and my body’s just gone, ‘what the fuck?’ But ask me in a year, it normally takes me about a year to know whether I’#m proud of a film as well. You need to get away from the film and watch it – not that I made the film, try to watch it as a movie.
Q: So would you like more time?
MV: Fuck yeah.
Q: With that comic book style, you had to juggle that with the period style. Yours is quite subtle, and I enjoyed it from the point of view that, all the girls are quite leggy, and you’ve got that dark undercurrent of morality.
MV: Well, we tried to capture that 60s misogynist vibe.
Q: There was a bit where he looked a bit like Doctor Evil, with January Jones in that Submarine.
MV: We were doing nods to all the 60s films, but we tried to make them feel more ‘real’ in a sense, but at the same time it’s a movie, so we try to heighten it,, but in a way that you just went with it.
Q: Did you apply a comic book style to the movie?
MV: It’s funny, because people are always asking, ‘what’s your style as a filmmaker?’ and it’s very simple. I just want to tell a story, and every shot, keep that narrative drive moving on, and I don’t like throwing the camera around.. I see these movies where I have no idea who the fuck is doing what to who, and what characters are meant to relate to. Because this is set in the 60s, I tried not to shoot it in a very modern style. I tried to go back to the Frankenheimer, very traditional framing, camera movement when it needs to move, not just throwing it around and whizz-bang. I tried to keep it as ‘classic’ as possible, and tell a story. The thing I like about this movie is there’s a good story and good characters, and that’s what traditionally has been missing in a lot of the superhero films;, it’s just like people blowing up buildings and flying around.
Q: It looked like a lot of energy had to be spent making some of the tropes of the comic book work though, from the suits they were wearing, to the reason Emma Frost is dressed as she is. Did you ever think, ‘to hell with this. I wish I didn’t have to deal with these trappings, and I could just not have them call each other ‘Beast’ and ‘Mystique’’?
MV: I love the X-Men world, so for me that was fun. It was fun to look at the comics, and see how the characters dressed, and give them to the costume designer and say, ‘take that blue and yellow thing and’ – The blue and yellow outfits, no offence to Fox, but they kept looking like Fantastic-fucking-4, and we were like, ‘we can’t have that’. There’s a lot of great stuff in the early 60s X-Men comics., we had that everywhere, all the panels of how they looked, how they dressed. Sammy [Sheldon] is a brilliant costume designer, and she just managed to make it fit into the real world.
Q: We even had the CIA agent wearing a miniscule skirt…
MV: But that whole mysogenist thing, we thought, ‘let’s dial it up’. It’s actually quite weird, because as a director, remember the line ‘there’s no place for women in the CIA’? When we did it, Lauren Shuler-Donner was going, ‘you’ve got to get rid of that line. I hate that line.’, and I was like, ‘Lauren, I don’t believe that, but that was what it was like back then. Why do you hate that line?’ and Lauren’s very sensitive about her age, and she’s from that period, and she then opened up saying, ‘that’s what it was like’, and I said, ‘we’ll that’s the whole point. If we’re going to recreate the 60s, we should recreate the 60s, and that’s how the attitude was, and that’s why they dressed like they did, so let’s keep that’. I was trying to put as much reality into some pretty silly moments, but I’m a big believer that if you ground it in a way that you can relate to it, then you can get away with blue murder.
Q: Getting back to the Bond theme, I thought Kevin Bacon was fascinating, but he was very much a Bond villain, was that deliberate? Was Bacon your choice?
MV: You Only Live Twice, I don’t know if you guys remember that, was all about trying to create a nuclear war, so You Only Live Twice was very influential on that .
Q: Was Bacon your first choice?
MV: There were two actors I was thinking of, either Colin Firth, or Bacon, and they’re best friends, which I didn’t realise, really fucking close, so they knew about it as well, because I was talking to both at the same time. But Fox were very nervous about having another Brit in there, because I thought it would be very interesting to see Firth playing a villain, this was way before King’s Speech and getting Oscars and shit, but I think he’s a great actor, and it would be interesting to see what he could have done with it, but also I’ve been a fan of Kevin’s for a long, long time. Kevin had that bravado that Shaw needed.
Shaw’s a difficult character, that whole thing about absorbing energy, and I thought, ‘how do you do that?’ and then when you see him, with the pony tail, and the dressing up in the cravats and all that shit, I was like, ‘OK’. If you get it wrong, I don’t want it to be like Stormbreaker, where you get to these villains, and you can’t take them seriously. SO I sat down with Kevin, and said, ‘look, let’s make him like a Bond villain, where he’s suave, debonair and charming’ and you sort of just buy him, but getting his power right was, fucking hell, it was very tough. And how do you kill someone who absorbs energy? It was a real, coming up with the coin in his head, Fox were like, ‘how do you kill him with a coin? Do you do it really fast?’, I was like, ‘no. The problem is, if you did it fast, it would just bounce off.’ I think Shaw was the hardest character to get right.
Q: Talking of Bond, the scene in the Argentinian bar, you’ve got Eric’s gunshot to camera…
MV: I want the Broccoli’s to regret never hiring me. I loved the Bond movies, and my son now, we’re watching them all again with him, and he loves them, so I couldn’t help but put a few nods in there.
Q: With your supporting cast, you’ve got Flemyng and Oliver Platt. What made you choose well known character actors, rather than someone who’s not so big?
MV: I think every character in the movie is – people with one line are just as important as someone with 1000 lines. It takes one bad delivery to remind an audience that they’re watching a film, and it just takes you out of the moment, so if I can get away with casting great actors in smaller roles, I’ll take it. And they all said yes. I remember with Flemyng, when he read the script, I said, ‘come on, play Azazel’. I had to bullshit him that in the sequel he’d have a much bigger role, because he hated it on Clash [of the Titans], all the prosthetics he had to do on Clash, and I said, ‘no, it’ll be fine’, and then he signed up, and [said], ‘fuck me, I’m red!’
Azazel, although he hardly speaks, he’s still a character, and you’ve got to believe the moves that he does, or the looks in the background. Casting good actors makes movies better, and I believe every role – I shock my casting directors, because I say names for people with two lines, and they say, ‘you’re not going to get that’, well, there’s no harm in asking them.
Q: Have you got a role for Dexter Fletcher in the sequel?
MV: Actually we were thinking of Dexter to play the Oliver Platt role. He came in and auditioned for it, and again, I get why Fox were nervous, saying ‘you can’t have all these Brits,’ but I like working with my friends. It’s so much easier to turn up with my mates on set, you have a laugh. I don’t have to pussy foot around, I can just say, ‘do this’, ’do that’, and they get on with it. If I could cast my mates in every movie, I would.
Q: Talking about your collaborators from previous films, Take That do the end theme. I was surprised when they did it for Stardust, and again for this film. How did it come about?
MV: I think this movie, out of all the X-Men movies, and correct me if I’m wrong females in the room, I think there’s a lot for women to enjoy in this film, and we had the philosophy , remember Armageddon, the Aerosmith song, that got girls, who probably wouldn’t have originally gone to see Armageddon , they saw heard there was a love song, and were like ‘oh, maybe there is something in the film’. I bumped into Gary in LA, and we were just talking, and I said, ‘do you want to come and see a rough cut of it?’ and they came, and they wrote the song, and I listened to it, and I said, ‘I think it’ll be a hit’, and if we can do a video which gets girls more interested, and they’re going on tour, so they’re playing to one and a half million people who traditionally might not be interested in X-Men, and we might get them to come and watch it. So it’s pure commerce, to be blunt, and I want women to see this film.
Q: How hard was it to get the physical makeup effects right?
MV: Fucking hard. I felt sorry for the actors as well, because they’d sometimes spend eight hours in makeup, and we’d all turn up going, ‘God I’m knackered, let’s start filming’, and they’re looking at you going, ‘I’ve spent eight hours getting ready for this’. And then, [Jennifer Lawrence] had some real problems. It kept breaking during filming, or she’d get rashes, and – I don’t normally have any pity for actors, but I did feel sorry for – the prosthetic work is pretty horrible, really horrible. And also very hard to act; for a performance to come through when you’re under all this rubber, it’s very difficult for emotions to come through under all that. I remember when I was on set looking at Beast and Mystique talking, I was panicking because you’ve got two blue people. Trying to get that emotion to believe it. There were moments I was panicking going ‘Christ, I’m going to get laughed at’. You show a movie to someone and people start laughing when they’re not meant to laugh, it’s the worst feeling in the world. It was tough, it was a challenge.
You can check out our review of the film here, and check back later for the next final part of this interview.