X2: X-MEN UNITED | Blog | Magneto's Lair | 24 March 2003

Magneto's Lair

Ian McKellen

24 March 2003

Last June I took up residence in beautiful Vancouver, BC. My rented villa overlooked the wide bay guarded by the city to the east and to the west by the city's nudist beach, as the mainland recedes and Vancouver Island heaves into view in the ocean beyond. A view for sunsets, and I wish I'd snapped them each evening so I had a sunset diary. I did blue-tac photos on the hall walls, a welcome of shots of previous dos, meetings, greetings, parties and entertainment.


Jesse Platt and Ian McKellen
Vancouver, 2002

A do on the deck
Point Grey, Vancouver
The latter was usually led by the twinkling fingers (on the living room piano) of X-Men's dialect coach Jesse Platt. Memorably, on Patrick Stewart's birthday early in the shoot (yes, we were all there to work on the return of the mutants) Hugh Jackman previewed his upcoming Peter Allen musical, Brian Cox meandered his way through Robert Burns' "My love is like a red red rose" and I did my only party-piece: "I'm Leaning on a lamp-post, at the corner of the street, In case a certain little lady comes by..." a song my music-hall idol George Formby used to sing.
I was cared for in Vancouver not only by the ministering attention of Twentieth Century Fox with their baskets of edibles in the long, long trailer but also by the personal services of a kiwi pal Steve Thompson at home. He had been physiotherapist to the actors on Lord of the Rings. In Vancouver with Steve, I ran most days and walked a bit along the beaches that were only a five minute jog away from the house. Back home, he would lead me through some simple yoga stretches and then massage away my aches. He turned on the Jacuzzi on the upper deck over the lawn which fell toward the tidal bay. The occasional brown seal and heron posed for us, among the neighbours exercising with dogs: Alan Cumming and his partner Nick Phillipou and their beloved Honey, a bewitching mutt with soulful eyes and a feathery tail. Steve also cooked vegetarian easterly cuisine every day for 15 weeks, treating me to succulent deserts which he even claimed were healthy. Yet Steve smokes cigarettes and I was starting not to. We were good company and he was a friendly support to others too. Masseurs are always popular. And he's good-looking. Straight and single.

Ian McKellen and Steve Thompson
Canadian Rockies, 2002

Director Bryan Singer and Hugh Jackman
Vancouver, 2002
The Jackmans Hugh, Debra Lee and Oscar were close by in a Hollywooden extravaganza of a palatial duplex over the suburban shops of Kitsilano. Another great place for sunsets and parties. The evenings always ended with Hugh sitting with friends round an al fresco fire (gas) and chomping on a fat cigar, Wolverine tamed into the gentlest daddy, hubby and mate. The Jackmen are a great ad for the Aussie culture. Theirs is the sort of openness which the Brits aren't good at.
Halle Berry was across town over the slender Lion's Gate Suspension Bridge (Lion's Gate Pictures released Gods and Monsters) and still further inland to a stunningly beautiful cove one afternoon. I capsized and was no fun at all.

Halle Berry and Ian McKellen
Ellis Island, July 2000

Alan Cumming
Alan C. and Nick were the closest geographically and temperamentally. We gossiped and complained and laughed most. I first saw Alan as Hamlet for the English Touring Theatre of which I am patron when he was in his mid-20's. His acting was not at all English (nor Scottish) but simple cumming, a sly enchanter, bold and anarchic, making few concessions to any tradition of performing Shakespeare and screamingly funny when he wanted to be. It's UK's loss that he seems to have emigrated and wants to be away from English behaviour and pessimism. London doesn't respond to challenging young talent with the open arms of New York where it's cheaper to live and people don't ask you first which school you went to.
And the movie? The cast agreed: it wasn't going to be easy to top the first one, which neatly introduced its selection from Marvel's gallery of heroic and villainous mutants. We were all contracted to do the sequel. Since X-Men premiered on Ellis Island and the fireworks played against the backcloth of the twin towers, Hugh has been hailed as a movie star. Halle has spectacularly won her Oscar. Gandalf too has made his mark. But who are these others assembled in Vancouver at the Sutton Place Hotel, poor dears? More actors from across the ocean, eager to work for a hollywood salary in a hollywood movie, and one they wouldn't be ashamed of being in. The only people who get snooty about my playing a superhero are those who haven't bothered to see X-Men. 
 So a larger cast has meant that the second film is led by its plot rather than by its characters and their relationships. It's no secret, for instance, that there is no major confrontation between Professor X and the Master of Magnetism, no argument about how mutants should behave in an alien world - the sort of argument which appeals particularly to young blacks, young gays and young jews according to Avi Arad of Marvel Comics, where they are really proud of all their characters and their stories and indeed their readers. The same goes for Bryan Singer.
The sequel is reassuringly old-fashioned. You meet up with old friends, although not Sabertooth or Toad, leaving Magneto prowling for recruits. The most diligent actor I know, Rebecca Romaigne-Stamos, is blue again. I wish Mystique and Magneto could show us a bit more about their relationship but sex is left to the black leather gang. How handsome they all look in their new uniforms, which are indistinguishable from their old ones. Magneto is back in the cape half-off-the-shoulder look and a new helmet which is also indistinguishable from the old one, although not, apparently, quite.
 I have been the last to acknowledge it, but Magneto's helmet was not a success in the first film. Everyone agrees on that, even the die-hardest of fans who love everything, even they agree. The helmet was a joke. The helmet is the piece of costume I treasure most, because it is very much the helmet worn in the comic. Otherwise that spandexed over-muscular, gigantic thighed Mars and I have nothing in common, to look at. Inside, of course, we are as close as close can be. I've enjoyed being back with him, although it was only for 15 days spread over 15 weeks of glorious British Columbian summer. I wish there had been more.
Wishes are magic things and they can come back to surprise you. Just as I'd earned a lazy weekend off after the opening of Dance of Death last week-end, along comes a distress call from Los Angeles. X-Men need Magneto's help, once more and at once. More to do after all, a short re-shoot, to clarify the ingenious plot. That is a good sign because Bryan is a perfectionist and would re-take anything that wasn't up to standard. This is just two lines in a campfire scene we shot in the mountains of the Canadian Rockies, with Wolverine, Storm and Miss Grey and a scene-stealing raccoon attracted not by that array of talent but by the discarded bacon sandwiches at craft services. I am promised Hugh will be at Shepperton Studios on Sunday but no other actors and certainly not the raccoon.
- Ian McKellen, London
 

DVD Release date 25 November 2003

X-MEN (2000)
X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003)
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
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