X-MEN | Blog | 21 June 2000

Magneto's Lair

Notes from
Ian McKellen

X-MEN fans and journalists have questions.
Ian McKellen has answers.


Any day now, X-MEN will be completed, locked off and ready for us all to see at last. After three years of planning and filming, Bryan Singer can't take the vacation he deserves. Now he has to be a crucial part of the imminent publicity junketting in New York where the world's media will be waiting to ask their questions. Let me guess what the most popular questions will be.

1. Before you started work on X-MEN, were you a fan of the comics? 

2. Is X-MEN just another action movie?

3. Do the X-MEN wear spandex?

("No", "No", and "No" are the answers.)

Ian McKellen (Magneto), Bryan Singer (Director), and James Marsden (Cyclops)
at Universal Studios Hollywood
April, 2000

Magneto (Ian McKellen) takes in the view from atop the Statue of Liberty

I don't know which of the cast members will be free to meet the media but I will be with them - my yearlong schedule on THE LORD OF THE RINGS has a convenient space so I can attend the movie's official opening on Ellis Island below the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour on 12th July. In the meantime, I have talked to a few enthusiastic journalists by e-mail and telephone and I expect the more enterprising of them to plunder Magneto's Lair and X-MEN E-Postings. Remember you read it here first.

Or did you? It's surprising how many e-mailers go on asking a bunch of burning questions that I answered months back. But I know that when it's a matter of the streak (or not) in Rogue's hair or the cut of Magneto's trousers, desperation overtakes research and so I receive another message to delete. Others send long revelatory autobiographies that end "doubting you will ever read this," blackmailing me for a reply. Or are they just foolhardy? After all, anyone in this wicked world might be reading his or her confessions.

Worry not. Only my webmaster and I see the mail, (unless we post an extract, in which case we ask first), but for how much longer I am not sure. Perhaps not after THE LORD OF THE RINGS ends in December. Perhaps my fan fever will have cooled by then and mckellen.com can modestly revert to its origins as a catalogue of a career. The trouble with the Internet (unlike writing a book or performing a part) is that it never ends; it is ever-present and looking to the future. There is nothing more off-putting than a website that admits way down that it was last updated in June 1998. I'm sure Keith Stern ("St. Keith the Good") won't let that happen with our venture. [Webmaster's note: Aw, shucks!]

The most entertaining aspect of playing Magneto has been the fanboys (and girls) and their passion, plus the more temperate comments and advice which have been offered here — at least during the last 5 months since my principal photography ended in snowy Toronto. By this time, often, I have lost track with a film two or three jobs back and, in one or two cases, I have forgotten to go and see its release. I still haven't seen THE SHADOW or, if I have, I can't remember. X-MEN, though, is rarely out of my mind, as I read and am infected by mailers' enthusiasms and anticipation. Then friends in USA, where newsprint is much honoured, snail-mail cuttings and photos, with all the gossip and speculation.

Apart from that in-house screening last month of a partially-cut, partially-dubbed version, without proper music or effects, no-one has seen the near-complete X-MEN THE MOVIE apart from the director, his editors, and the producers.

Tim Curry and Ian McKellen in The Shadow


Last week I did some more work on the film. Nothing sinister here - no last minute panic - just tidying up a few disjointed moments on the soundtrack where varying pitches of voice betrayed the editors' artistry cutting between one take and another. Bryan Singer also needed to clarify the plotline with a couple of brief extra phrases that I could speak when my back was to camera. The session took two hours with me in London (during my hiatus from LORD OF THE RINGS) and Bryan in Los Angeles. We were separated by eight hours so he was up early but very chipper. He is not counting down the days to the premiere, just concentrating on completing the music with Michael Kamen.

I have now seen all the toy figures of the X-MEN characters and given samples to close friends and relatives. I shall not identify the distinguished film director in Los Angeles, who fed Magneto to his dog, which chewed my head as if it were a plastic bone. My five young cousins (ages 9-14) in the north of England were more respectful and just threw them about like miniature American wrestlers. In their carpet bouts, Sabretooth seemed to win every time - so much for the Master of Magnetism and Wolverine's almighty claws! But then Tyler Mane knows all the best wrestling moves.

Marvel, in the meantime, have commissioned extra Magneto and Wolverine dolls. They must have been talking to my cousins.


View from Ian McKellen's trailer on the X-MEN set, Toronto
I am happy to report that Bryan Singer is feeling good as he approaches the finish line tape. Not that he's been in any sort of race. He has had an army of talented advisors and creators. But the film belongs to Bryan.

That is why he is good to work for. On X-MEN as on APT PUPIL, Magneto and Dussander were Singer characters as much as the screenplay writers'. He didn't write their dialogue but he could quote every line long before I learnt them. Over months he had considered every twist of thought and intention (much as a stage actor does in rehearsal) and on set he could answer every single question I had. He doesn't always clearly expostulate the style of the film, although it is in the forefront of his imagination and every effect, costume and performance is expected to contribute to it. That's why I am so excited about seeing his final cut - I just want to see another Singer movie. Whatever else takes your fancy in it, it will have style.

P.S. I've been worrying about those journalists whom I shall meet in NYC. From previous experience, I know how little time most of them get face-to-face with the actors as they are shunted from camera to microphone to shorthand notepad. So, for them alone, here are a few rumours that would spice up a column. Only one of them is true.

1. Under Magneto's stylish clothes, designed by Louise Mingenbach, I wore the traditional spandex bodysuit.

2. I have slept with one of the X-MEN cast members. 

3. In one shot of Cyclops in his mask, he is played by Bryan Singer.

NEXT: 17 July 2000

X-MEN (2000)

X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003)



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