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The Jakarta Post

'X-Men': Superheroes Against Prejudice
- Kenny Santana

Since its first installment was thrown at moviegoers in 2000, Marvel's X-Men was a standout among films of the same genre. The theme speaks volumes and reaches out to people everywhere. A bunch of mutants, who have to find their own way in the world, mirrors our lives in this one, where people are treated differently because of what they are.

In the third installment X-Men: The Last Stand -- allegedly the final one -- the mutant beings must face the government, which comes up with a "cure". Being what they are and the abilities they're born with, it's on their shoulders to stand up to this new threat against their very existence. In the X-Men world, finally, the freaks are actually the superheroes.

At the film's world premiere in Cannes on Monday, the cast of The Last Stand and director Brett Ratner (who replaced previous X-Men helmsman Bryan Singer), talked to the international press about companionship, working together despite the generation gap, and what it's like to be different in society.

Question: Brett, how has the experience been to fit into a group that has been together for years?

Brett Ratner (BR): I have to say that these actors completely welcomed me, I think because they have the love and passion for this movie and for these characters... I have to say they were completely welcoming and treated me as if I was there from the beginning. I did not feel like an outsider. I felt completely at home and they supported me.

And these actors, believe it or not, have a very specific opinion about their characters. And they're very forthright and they'll come forward and say I believe my characters would do this and not do this. I was very appreciative of their collaboration, which is why I felt so confident and comfortable in directing this movie -- because I had their experiences before me.

Patrick Stewart (PS): Perhaps if there was one fear that we all shared, it was we might've been told, "that's what you did before and that you have to change it all and we're making a fresh start". But Brett was honest and smart when he said, "I respect everything you've all done before, let's just take that and develop it and moved on from there."

The movie is an ensemble piece. Where did you find the balance for all these characters and for the egos of all the actors?

Ian McKellen (McK): Any theater actor knows it's within a company of friends and colleagues you've worked for a long time that you do your best work as an individual...

It depends on the audience. I'm sure each of the audience knows who they think is leading this company. And they probably all disagree. And that's fine, we're generally doing this together.

What is it that inspires you from personal lives playing these characters?

McK: As a gay man who some people think, oddly, can be cured and made normal again, I do find it as offensive as saying to somebody they should have a cure for the color of their skin or a cure for their inborn race. This particular story was close to my heart and has an important message to particular young people who may, for one reason or another, be disaffected with society because the society points out their differences and says they're inferior to the rest of us.

Shawn Ashmore (SA): I think it's important for all of us to play these characters. There's an underlying theme in X-Men that inspires all of us, (that) has got to do with being an individual, accepting that, dealing with the prejudice of society. I think we've all felt like that, we've all gone through it, we all kind relate to that in our characters.

What was it like for younger actors to work with more experienced actors?

SA: I think I can honestly say that coming in as a younger actor it was a bit nerve-wracking, you sort of look up to these actors and respect them. I was really nervous coming in, but then you spend a day on a set and realize that they're very generous people, and generally very nice, so it's easy when you get into it. There's an initial stage feeling that you have to step up and not let the team down. That's part of the challenge... It's great.

Hugh Jackman (HJ): I wanna tell a story, when I first arrived on the X-Men set in 1999, I came to the audition, and the film was already a week or two into production. I came from L.A., both Famke and Anna were shooting that day... I was supposed to do the audition with the director but Anna stuck around for 10 hours, ran lines with me, hung around, we were like friends by the time we went to audition.

Famke had been shooting for 14 hours, and voluntarily -- she asked, "Do you want me to wait? I can shoot the scene with you." This is for someone who walked on the set, first job in Hollywood.

I really put (that) down to what I think is the elite in terms of Ian and Patrick. They set an example, that we're actors, we're in it together, it's an ensemble. It doesn't matter whose trailer is the closest to the stage door. What matters is we're making a great film.

McK: When I was just starting out, what's the most thrilling thing is being treated as an equal, as a colleague, by people three generations older than me, being able to hang out with them -- very unusual that.

But now it's just as thrilling, as impressive to me, that younger actors will give their time to me, as I did when I was their age to other actors. It's almost the best thing about this job, that age means nothing -- it's the attitude that's important.

Rebecca, is the make-up process this time more bearable?

Rebecca Romijn (RR): I sort of readjusted my attitude, and realized that the actual job was sitting in a make-up chair, and sitting on set all day with that make-up. Which is, like, a little crazy... Once I made that readjustment, it helped...

The process itself is that the costume is really fragile... It requires a lot maintenance, which is psychologically challenging. We started putting liquid silicon on the back of all prosthetics, which is very painful to take off at the end of the day. It's like ripping duck tape from your entire body everyday. But I hate complaining about it cause I'm really happy to be a part of (the film).

McK: She never complained, ever, ever. She's absolutely great. I was very close to Mystique physically all the time. And (it was) a privilege because she never complained. In the middle of the night, it was freezing cold, this gal was wearing very, very little, and just smiling. She's a total heroine.

The movie has an important message, is that why you took the project since the beginning?

BR: For me, that is what made me want to do this film. Because it's not only a huge spectacle, a huge action movie... It's really about something, it's a movie that was thought-provoking, people walk out of the theater and think about their choices in life -- The concept I was truly attracted to is the fact that Jean Grey the Dark Phoenix dealt with love and friendship. At the end of the day, that's where the emotion and heart come from.

Halle Berry (HB): I'm emotionally connected to this project. Being a woman of color, the thought of my government enforcing an antidote that would make me wake up one day devoid of the thing making me my color is horrifying. I totally hold emotionally to that subject and to this script. That's what really X-Men is all about.

That's one of the reasons when I first got asked, I immediately said yes... Art doesn't always have such a soul-searching significance like this movie does.

McK: If just one kid somewhere being bullied in the playground, despised because of something they're born with, is going to feel a little bit more at ease with themselves because of this story of these mutants who do stick up for themselves, the film would be worthwhile.

HJ: I have two children, 6 years old and 7 months old. I watch my 6-year-old go to school, change schools, I drop him off at class, he's walking in the playground in the new school, looking around, frightened, and I wanna be there with him. It's very hard -- all of a sudden what seems a black-and-white issue for me has become gray.

I'm thrilled to be a part of a film like this -- he's not old enough to watch it yet, but in a few years he will be -- and he'll watch people that he admires, that are fantastic. I mean, these characters that we're playing are extraordinary and yet incredibly vulnerable, human. And that the idea of a cure is not an answer. But it is not an easy road, not an easy question. I watch him through it everyday. I'm just thrilled that this movie brings this up.

X-Men: The Last Stand opened in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The Jakarta Post