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
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
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
|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 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