X-MEN | Blog | 10 December 1999

Magneto's Lair

Click to enlargeIan McKellen
From the Set of
X-Men

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"On the set of X-Men last week the mystery ripened. Who was sneaking information to the outside world (if fanboy sites can be so categorised)? Who had seen the poster for example? Well, I for one - it is displayed in Bryan Singer's trailer in the car park just by the door leading to the studio labelled 'CLOSED SET.'

"Could the informer be a friend of the director? Hardly, - if she/he wanted to remain a friend. Bryan, like me, wants our film to be released in whatever orderly way 20th Century Fox decides, and advance notice of what might otherwise be a surprise is a bit unhelpful."

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Director Bryan Singer enjoying a bit of breakfast on the set of X-Men, Toronto, a Sunday in December 1999
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Hugh Jackman ("Logan") and Ian McKellen ("Magneto") in Toronto, November 1999

"That said, it crossed my mind that the fansites could just be being duped by the canny distributors who might deliberately distribute selective information to excite the easily excitable fans. ("Fan" of course is short for "fanatic")! But the more reasonable explanation is simply that some people are incapable of keeping a secret - it makes them feel important to boast that they are close to the decision-makers. I hope their anonymity is causing them a little anguish."

The real poster will be public knowledge soon enough - at the beginning of the new year when the first teaser-trailers are scheduled to appear in US cinemas.

As for  other recent revelations - the costume designs will probably begin to appear once the official X-Men website is up and running. That is when Magneto's Lair will have fuller details of my own frocks. Don't get worried - "frocks" is theatre argot for "costumes." Magneto's outfits are as butch as they come.

X-Men Designers
Costume designer Louise Mingenbach (L) and key makeup artist Ann Brodie confer on the set of X-Men
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Clare Higgins (Liz) and Ian McKellen (Garry Essendine) in Present Laughter
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Director Jude Kelly and Ian McKellen (Prospero) at The Tempest dress rehearsal

It is clear that the spy has seen some genuine design plans which are partially correct. But his/her comments are way off mark. There is nothing, for example, about Magneto's appearance that invokes the Third Reich and I have been puzzled by my correspondents' concern that somehow I intended to interpret Erik Lensherr (as he once was) as a Nazi-sympathiser. Then it clicked - Singer fans who have seen Apt Pupil have assumed that this actor only has one performance in him and that inevitably Stephen King's Dussander could not transform himself into Magneto. As reassurance - since the Nazi I have played an English gay film director in Gods and Monsters, a Russian family doctor in Chekov's The Seagull, an aging matinee idol  in NoŽl Coward's Present Laughter and a ship-wrecked magician/politician in Shakespeare's The Tempest.

But back to the "frocks." The vituperation against the modernity of Louise Mingenbach's designs is misdirected. She is following the vision of the director and the producers with, of course, the enthusiastic approval of Marvel Comics. I challenge any of the fanboys to name a living actor who possesses the cartoon torso of the original comic strip character. It obviously can't be stressed too often for those unfamiliar with the problems of adapting material for the cinema, that what works on the page (novels and plays included) has to be adapted (which means changed) to work on the screen.

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Should Magneto's  cloak be colored blue?
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. . . or should the cloak be red?

I break no confidence in telling you that the spirit of the movie will accord with Marvel but the look will be different. I have been through all this before, when translating Shakespeare's play of Richard III into a movie. If you are interested, read my introduction to the published screenplay available from this website. There I explain why it is necessary to alter, adapt and interpret. A movie is not a play. Nor, equally, is it a comic. If it were, there would be no point in spending $78,000,000.

Further, I have no time for those constipated purists in the arts who think that there is only one way of telling a story. Would they really want the movie script to follow the over-explanatory monosyllabic dialogue of the comic strip? If such critics had their way Verdi's Otello would be accounted a failure because Shakespeare's Othello needs no music. Titanic, Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare in Love would all be condemned because they mix fact and fiction.

Think positively, as you await Summer 2000. Then the film will be in cinemas across the USA. Eventually you will be able to add the VHS or DVD to your shelves where it can nestle up against your collection of X-Men booklets. You may still prefer the original, but Fox, Singer and the rest of us are not intending to be destructive. The comics will still exist and new issues continue to be published. Our discontented spy will still be able to drool over the exaggerated muscles and primary colors and fantasticated skintight overalls. The rest of you, I am hoping, will be ready for new excitements.

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. . . or should it , maybe, be  lavender-grey?

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"I've read rumours on the Internet that the movie's release has been postponed and even that Bryan Singer has been replaced as director! I checked these out with Singer this morning and he said: 'Just remind folks that our original release date was to have been the upcoming holiday period [December 2000]. We are getting the movie right and making it better and better - just like Titanic did.' Then with a huge grin: 'Yes! they did try and sack me but I shouted and shouted and they gave up!' "  — Ian McKellen, 10 December 1999

 

NEXT: 21 January 2000

X-MEN (2000)

X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003)

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

Ian McKellen's Home Page

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