|The cautious approach seems even more relevant
now we have been filming for four weeks. Dougray Scott has become a victim
of scheduling and is now withdrawn from our movie as he completes "Mission
Impossible II" with Tom Cruise in Australia. So, lucky Hugh Jackman, whom I
first met at the Royal National Theatre singing,dancing and acting in
"Oklahoma" is now a tall, handsome Wolverine. (Over in New Zealand, Stuart
Townsend has left "The Lord of the Rings"
and has been replaced by Viggo Mortenesen.) It's not all over in the opera
'til the fat lady sings or in the theatre 'til the curtain falls; and in
movies everything is unpredictable, until the assistant director announces a
final "Wrap" ("Wind Reel And Print").
Ian McKellen (Cuza) faces the monster in Michael Mann's
Ian McKellen as Captain Hook under the stage, below the waves, at the
National Theatre in "Peter Pan"
In Ontario,Canada the weather
has joined in the fun, or at least its forecasters have, regularly
confounding our plans to film "X-Men," with their warnings of rain that
never fell and of dry nights that were washed out by storms. So it has been
in Hamilton, 70 minutes north of Toronto, where the open-air part of
Magneto's Lair is constructed in a forest clearing.
|It has been distracting waiting for the right
weather; it sets me on edge so I can't read anything more complicated than a
crossword puzzle or the ingredients on the delicious chocolate milk provided
by Craft Services (the non-stop fast and free food truck). I lounge in my
luxurious Winnebago trailer (nextdoor to Patrick Stewart, who drops in from
time to time for a reminiscence about the British theatre of our youth,
before he trekked or we both discovered film as a way of life.
Ian McKellen in fight rehearsal as
at the National Theatre ("the model's underwear are his own")
||The location filming in Hamilton has been
through the night, for a week, from dusk til freezing dawn. Adjusting the
inner timeclock is akin to the worst sort of jetlag but everyone suffers
together, which adds to the camaraderie. But pity Rebecca Romijn in her blue
Mystique disguise, a makeup that takes four hours to apply and leaves her
almost naked with no protection against the night cold. Never a word of
complaint, though. In comparison I am molly-coddled, with warming tights
under my outfit of grey sweater, black pants and knee-length boots.
|Magneto's work-uniform is a tight fit, inspired
by the comic strip design but influenced by the latest catwalk fashion. It
involves a maroon-lined cloak, a steel-grey tunic and pants and boots and a
deep-red fiberglass helmet. I hope it looks as good as it feels to wear.
And, yes, Magneto has a wide metallic belt as X-Men fans would expect.
Ian McKellen as "Death" in Last Action
(Polaroid makeup-test shot)
Ian McKellen (Dussander) in Bryan Singer's
|Magneto's closest brethren are Sabretooth and
Toad - hirsute Tyler Mane striding out at 7'4" and Ray Park, his complexion
painted bright green. The makeup effects are achieved by a team led by Ann
Browdie, my compatriot whom I worked with on
"A Touch of Love", my first film. The makeup and hair trailer, specially
designed to accommodate up to a dozen actors and technicians, is a nest
amongst the jungle of vehicles that convey the film's support system. It is
warm with efficient heating and good humour, melting early morning or
late-night thespian grumps.
|The interest in our movie is intense, witness
the gossip and speculation on the various websites. Our producers should
consider selling tickets to the comic fans for studio or location visits and
begin to pay off the 75million dollar budget! A few guests, friends and
family of the crew, have been allowed on set. I watch their initial
excitement as they anticipate the thrill of seeing their favorite characters
made flesh and hope to somehow join them in the action. But what action?
Filming is boring for observers who don't have a job to do. As they wait for
a scene to be plotted and lit and prepared, their keenness visibly wanes and
I can see them slipping off to Craft Services for a sandwich.
Chauvelin (Ian McKellen) faces
The Scarlet Pimpernel (Anthony Andrews)
in a duel with foils.
|Yet surely when the camera crew is ready and
the actors makeup has been touched up, surely then, as total silence falls
in response to the shouts of "Rolling!" and then a quieter "Action!", then
the spell will be cast over the workers and visitors alike. Well I don't
think so. As the actors mumble into their hidden throat mikes and the
technicians bend forward to check lighting, focus, makeup, where is the true
action taking place? Where in that moment of recording for posterity
(assuming the shot makes it into the finished movie) is the essential
"X-Men" experience? Where to look?
|Given the choice, the visitor would want to be
as close as possible to it but then, what is it? Would they want to look
with Tom Sigel down his camera's lens - is that the centre of it all? Or
would they prefer Bryan Singer's view, round the corner from the set,
hunched over the flickering video version of the camera's view? The
cameraman and director both spy an image but they don't participate in the
reality. Perhaps the visitor should be happy with the distant view, taking
in the whole but not permitted to enter or fall, like Alice down the hole.
Ian McKellen as Will Gates in Restoration
|The essence is a secret, one that is kept by
the actors. They alone feel and experience it and it is they whom the
celluloid and the sound-tape capture. We are the lucky ones and ours is the
thrill. If you want to share, you will have to become an actor. Otherwise be
content - keep away from the set and wait for the film to reach you
onscreen. Then you will know where to look.