25 May 2006

Ian McKellen E-Posts



16 March 2000

Q: Will Professor Xavier's name be pronounced correctly? Xavier is supposed to be pronounced "ZAY-vee-er", yet for years now it's been mispronounced "ex-AY-vee-er" It's not hyphenated like "X-ray," so the X is pronounced as a Z. You don't play the "exylophone;" you don't make photocopies on the "exerox" machine.

A. You will be relieved that the X-Men cast pronounces Xavier "correctly." But then how should "Magneto" himself be accented? In the movie they say "Mag-NEE'-to",as in the TV cartoon version. But I suspect it would have made more sense, considering his powers, to call him "MAG'-net-o".


Xavier and Magneto meet

Q: Is the film making process as grueling as everyone else in your industry says it is, because to be honest from our (the audience) point of view it seems very fun (although long and tedious).

A. "Long and tedious fun" about sums it up. Actors get driven to and from work mainly so they don't disrupt the shooting schedule by having accidents. We get up before dawn and get home maybe 15 hours later. At work we are fed for free and relax in our personal trailers. On the set we are kept warm if it's cold (as it was shooting X-Men in Toronto) or kept cool if it's hot (as it is currently in New Zealand on The Lord of the Rings).

All this attention is to prepare for the vital moment when the camera turns and we actually earn our salaries by acting. How do we prepare in the meantime? Personally, nothing too distracting a daily crossword (if I can find the London Times newspaper) or a book (currently "Harry Potter" by J. K. Rowling) or snoozing or even answering e-mail, like right now. And I read and re-read whatever scene is being shot next.

Q: Does it affect you negatively when you are portraying especially nasty characters?

A. Playing fully-rounded villains, like Richard III and Iago, I have learnt that bad guys can often feel good inside or at least have a psychological self-justification for their ill-doings. So the worst that happens (and it may be the best) is to discover one's own capacity for bad behaviour. Widening knowledge of humanity is a happy outcome of acting well-written parts.

Q: Are you signed on to do sequels for "X-Men"?

A. It's too early to think about any sequel, which will depend on the success of the movie's release. As far as I know, there are no plans for one. On the other hand, The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy and all three films are being shot concurrently in New Zealand. Now that's planning!

Q: Is Mr. Singer is directing the green-screen scenes with post-production in mind? Has he passed along the idea of what might be in store or what to imagine was really there. What mutant power effects will there be?

A. Are you expecting an ageing actor to explain the technology of modern cinema? Actually, I do know how a green screen works but I can't remember just now!

Of course I'm interested in it and, as Magneto, I worked a bit in front of a green screen. But there was mostly some quite substantial scenery to chew in the foreground so it was backgrounds mainly. Bryan Singer was always keen to explain everything about a scene and did it graphically.

Q: What was it like to work with Rebecca Romijin-Stamos, Tyler Mane, and Ray Park?

A. Rebecca is that rare sort of person who is genuinely and effortlessly friendly with everyone. I wish we had had more to do together in the film she is spellbinding.

Tyler Mane the long-suffering Tyler, who endured his daily hours of make-up with good humour. He looked so like Sabretooth that I was very glad I didn't have to have a scrap with him.

My third member of the Brotherhood was Toad/Ray Park, they are one and the same. Without recourse to silly faces or prosthetics, Ray has a knack of physical characterisation. As good an actor as he is an athlete.

Athleticism is a vital attribute for actors. My hero Laurence Olivier boasted that he had over a hundred scars from his fights on stage and screen. Remember his flying fall in his movie Hamlet? He did an equally spectacular nosedive as Coriolanus, which I saw at Stratford-upon-Avon when I was a boy.

8: Do you know anything about the score of the film? Will the theme song be the same as in the animated TV series?

A. I am sure composer Michael Kamen (The Iron Giant, Lethal Weapon) will will write and score music especially for the movie.  

Q: How come [insert favorite X-Men character here] is not going to be in the movie? He/She has to be.

A. If everyone's favourite character were to be in the movie, it would have to be as long as the comic. Are you prepared to sit through a 35-year-long film?

For more about X-Men be sure to read Magneto's Lair.

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