First nights in the theatre are exciting for the cast, sharing their experience of the play with an audience for the first time. However, I don't much like sitting in a first night audience; I'm too nervous for the actors. Film premieres are different - the performers are in the audience. There may be plenty at stake (and so plenty of excitement) but nothing is to be done about it. Everything is settled and no amount of first night nerves can affect the production. So it was with relish that I looked forward to Wednesday last (12 July) in New York.
Referring to the movie's climactic scenes, which involve Magneto flying atop the Statue of Liberty, X-MEN had its first public showing on nearby Ellis Island, the old arrival point for immigrants to the United States. The Registration Hall had been equipped as a movie theatre for the night but it was sobering to remember its original use. I needn't, though, have worried that ghosts might haunt the fun as the 700 revellers disembarked.
With early responses from critics and fans very favourable it seemed an evening for celebration. Early evening, my friends and I joined the rest of the mutants on the "talent boat" at Battery Park at the northern tip of Manhattan Island and made the 15 minute crossing, accompanied by friends and family of other personnel, all of us watched over by a sinister X-MEN blimp floating in the cloudless sky. The cast of X-MEN and the Brotherhood then had to pass the test of the media, reined behind ropes as at the Oscars. We were photographed a thousand times or more and answered friendly questions from TV and radio reporters from across the globe. By the end of the line, I was parched and glad I had worn my comfortable new sandals. I rejoined my mates for the screening.
My real date was 11 year old Dashel Hammerstein with his grandmother as chaperone. As Dash declared the movie "awesome! and number one with 'Matrix' " I shan't bother reading the reviews with too much attention. What's more, his grandma enjoyed herself just as much. They about cover the demographic extremes.
My own view of the film is a bit skew-whiffed. To begin with I was sitting plumb behind Tyler Mane and his relatively tiny children but that suited the family atmosphere. Patrick Stewart behind me squeezed my shoulders once during the first reel, which I took as a compliment. My own scenes brought back all the offscreen life of Toronto last year and I found myself admiring the editing rather than getting lost in the action. Other people's work was easier to enjoy, particularly in scenes that I knew nothing of except reading them a year ago. For example, Wolverine's introduction is masterly from the actor and director and Hugh Jackman's mighty energy and presence throughout is starry, yet fully in character. His new fans will be surprised how lissome and boyish he can look in person. I hope his acting range gets fully explored by the film industry. It's what I hoped for Brendan Fraser after "Gods and Monsters". Incidentally, the day before I flew to NYC, I visited Rachel Weisz (The Mummy, Swept From the Sea) and Brendan on a night shoot for The Mummy 2. They were on Tower Bridge where it crosses the River Thames close to my house in East London. Brendan is planning a major theatre project - meatier than any role he has so far played onscreen, meatier even than Clay Boone, James Whale's gardener in Gods and Monsters.
I met Stan Lee — the originator of X-MEN — and his successor Chris Claremont. They were both as ecstatic about the movie, as Avi Arad, head of Marvel. Avi warned me to hold on to the Magneto figures that hit the USA shops last month - they have been superceded by one that is more accurate and subtly coloured. Anyone having an original still in its packaging has a "collectible".
After the screening I found a dessert (spelt "desert" on the invitation!) and oohed and aahed at a fireworks and laser display that rivaled some of the effects in the film itself. The sail back was balmy and the Manhattan skyline welcoming. Then it was on to "Fun" nightclub but by the time our party (minus Dash and Grandma) got there, we were redirected elsewhere which turned out to be a non-starter. We declined a third change of venue and headed uptown in the Fox limousine.
Magneto images © Copyright and trademark of 20th Century Fox, Marvel Comics