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Apt Pupil

Production Notes and Commentary
by Ian McKellen

I am familiar with the glamorous cut of Fascist uniforms - Countdown to War (in which I impersonated Hitler, using his own words), Richard III (Oscar-nominated designs, inspired by the Third Reich) and Bent, where for once I was the victim of fascism.

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This collage substitutes my face for Heinrich Himmler's, inspecting actual inmates of a Nazi labour camp:

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Ian McKellen as ex-Nazi Commander Kurt Dussander

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Bryan Singer and Ian McKellen

I was very impressed by Bryan's first full-length feature The Usual Suspects and I checked with Kevin Spacey that he'd enjoyed filming it.  Bryan casts his actors well, often taking risks. On set, he will not leave a scene until he has seen just what he needs for later editing.  He watches filming on a video monitor, often with a visiting group of friends, whose comments encourage him.

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This is Dussander slumped at home, television-bound, half-drunk before his restless peace is shattered by the arrival of Todd's accusations.

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Todd supplies Dussander with a fancy-dress Nazi costume and revives the old man's latent violence by forcing him to march up and down his kitchen. I did the routine a half-dozen times on film - the sinister panic of the finished scene, depends mainly for its effect on the music and film-editing of John Ottman.

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This was the day of the Cats - there were four identical ginger toms. The docile cat which could be thrown and shaken and swung in the air and just miaowed for more. The cat which could move to order. A third who could eat on cue. Then there was the feral cat only to be approached by its trainer, wearing an armoured glove! All feline manouevres were achieved by the bribe of edible paste, overseen by an animal rights official, who was on set to protect the 4 pussies. At the end of the very long day, the cat-defender paid me her greatest compliment: 'I have been watching films made for 20 years - Sir Ian you are as charming and as talented as any animal I've ever worked with.'

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It's a Wrap! (L to R) Bryan Singer, Ian McKellen, and Brad Renfro at the end of filming
April 4, 1997

This was my last day of filming interior scenes at Occidental Studios, built for Mary Pickford and the oldest working studio in Los Angeles.

Brad Renfro was a good pal to me.  From opposite positions of age, experience, nationality and temperament we met and at once trusted each other.  He was not yet 15 years old. His brio and enthusiasm for all aspects of filming were contagious.  During shooting Apt Pupil, he wrote directed and acted in a short video of his own devising.

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