Mutant royalty were in London to promote X-Men: First Class - Matthew Vaugh's prequel in the mutants franchise - and we got to talk to them! The flm explains how Professor X and Magneto became best friends before turning into arch enemies.
Here, the cast and Jane Goldman, one of the writers, tell us a bit about filming, how the Cold War fits into the mutants universe and what the worst possible super powers would be.
Q: How familiar were you with X-Men - the comic book, the cartoon or the films - before you did this film?
Kevin Bacon - I didn't grow up so much with comics, I had a few but they weren't a big part of my childhood. I knew the films and the day I got to Pinewood Studios the guys from Marvel came down with this gigantic bible of everything that has been written about X-Men - and that was probably 75% of my research handed to me right there. It was great.
Michael Fassbender - Ditto.
James McAvoy - Are you done? [laughs] I was really aware of the cartoon when I was growing up, I was about twelve years old and it was on Live & Kicking [BBC Saturday morning kid's show]. I was a big fan of that and then the films as well.
Jason Flemyng - Matt [Matthew Vaughn] flirted with doing one of the other X-Men films early on so I was aware of the comic book and I was interested on the character of the Beast… I could have been big, blue and hairy but instead I was bright, red and slightly out of focus.
Jane Goldman - I was very familiar with the comic book which made writing the script more exciting.
Q: Professor Xavier and Magneto are famous characters from the comic books but are also played on screen by two other great actors. Which one did you look to more when creating your take of the characters?
JM - The comic book history is really different from all the X-Men movies that have been made and even the cartoon to an extent. In the comic book my character is American and [20th Century] Fox decided to make that character English when they cast Sir Patrick Stewart. So I had to go with the film - I watched the films with the knowledge that this was a prequel, it had to be different as the franchise needed to be fresh and have something new.
Also, there's no point in having that same character played on the same way in a different suit because it just doesn't validate the movie. I looked at Sir Patrick's performance and took a lot of notes, but it was more to see how I could make it different. Where Sir Patrick was wise I would be full hardy, where he was chaste I'd be randy. By the end of the three films, I'll end up doing something more similar to Sir Patrick Stewart.
MF - At the beginning when I found out that I got the job, I thought about perhaps studying Ian McKellen, get my hands on anything from when he was a young man on screen and study his physicality and voice and what not. Then I sat down with Matthew and he decided that it wasn't the way he wanted to go. I ditched that idea totally and used the comic book material.
I was spoiled really, there is so much on the character's biography that I could just draw from there.
Q: How tricky was it to write this film having with so much X-Men history havin already been written? Did you have to do many drafts?
JG - I think it's impossible to write any story with every single part of the X-Men universe. The comics have alternative time lines and different writers and the directors had their own take on the films. The most important is to tell a good story but being respectful and true with the spirit of it.
JM - Just to add to that, one of things that's always drawn me to the X-Men movies is that they're about people who feel like outsiders, people who have a certain amount of self-loathing perhaps and they're afraid of themselves, they don't like themselves, they want to be normal or rejoice the fact that they're not normal. This is something that has been in all the X-Men films and it is on this one as well. It is one of the key elements of it.
JG - Yes, I think that is the illustration of the spirit.
Q: There is a great funny bit towards the end of the film when you say that you might be bald when you get older. How do you see that being addressed in the future?
JM - He either shaves it or he loses it, we don't know how. On the source material of the comic book he loses it when his powers are activating when he's very young. We decided not to do that. Maybe it's a smart move as we spend some time on this movie explaining why he can't walk. We get to see why he looses his hair or shaves his hair in another movie. Because we haven't taken the explanation from the comic book, we need to come up with a good explanation of why it happened.
Q: Didn't you recently have your head shaved for a film?
JM - Yes, I did indeed.
Q: Was it really cool?
JM - It was a joyous time. [laughs]
Zoe Kravitz - It grew back so nicely!
JM - It did grow back nicely, thank you very much!
Q: Kevin, were you looking forward to have Sebastian Shaw's sideburns?
KB - A lot of people have asked me about the responsibility to the fans of the comic books - which I think that there is certainly a responsibility to the fans. I hope they won't be too much disappointed that I look nothing like Sebastian Shaw. After I first read the script, I googled him and I saw this massive guy with a pony tail dressed like George Washington and I thought - I just don't know how I'm going to do that! Eventually I heard from Matt that it wasn't the direction he wanted to go with it.
Q: Shaw has a real swagger - did you come up with it?
KB - I was telling someone earlier today about deciding the voice, the look, the clothing, the hair, the walk... and he said: the walk? You made a decision about the walk? Of course I did - it's an intrinsic part of who a person is, it's the way that they move. In this case, he's a very very confident man. Even at the end when everything is falling apart, he's confident that it will be fine. I think that's reflected in the way that he moves.
Q: Michael and James, it must be surprisingly difficult to evoke a lot of emotions by pressing your temple...
MF - Well, I thought, how could I physically represent constipation through my hands? That was kind of my inspiration. I really didn't know what to do, there was an element of me that feels a little bit like an idiot as a grown man trying to bend metal things in my head and I wasn't even sure if I should physicalise it with my hands. The safety there was that Erik at this point in his life is not really sure how to harness these powers - it's a bit hazardous and random. It's only when he meets Charles that he unleashes his full potential. I was really happy when I watched the film, as I haven't seen the young Erik dealing with metals before and I was happy that I was echoing what he had already started off.
JM - Everybody else was doing cool ninja stuff and I didn't get to do any of that. So I thought I had to physicalise my power I some way - that's how I created the master stroke of touching my temple. [laughs]
Q: And for you, Zoe, was it difficult to film your flying scenes?
ZK - Yes it was. After a while it becomes painful around the... hm... crotch - the happy parts.
Q: Picking up a point that James made earlier, X-Men seems to attract quality actors. Is it because the quality and depth of the actors is different from other comic book adaptations?
MF - I don't know, Robert Downey Jr is a quality actor...
KB - The Dark Knight had some good acting as well. For me, to have the chance to work with the finest young actors today was a thrill. It's just a kick-ass cast - no pun intended.
JG - Thanks!
KB - I think it just all laid in and the choices that Matt made about the actors he picked. It is one of the great strengths of the movie.
Q: Jane, did you have an input on the choice of the actors?
JG - We had conversations about it but the director's decision is final.
KB - You didn't call me until a week before shooting, so... [laughs]
Q: There is a real sense of duality in the film because we are constantly presented with both Charles' and Erik's points of view. Who is right?
MF - That is your call. That's what interests me as an actor and also an audience member when I go to the cinema. Unfortunately nowadays, especially with big commercial films, the audience is spoon fed through the entire experience and they don't have to do any work.
I think that when you go see a film you have to do a bit of work as an audience member, so when you leave the cinema or the theatre you should be having those conversations either with yourself - if you're crazy like me - or with your friends afterwards.
There should be an ambiguity, the grey areas that are interesting. I don't like when there is a villain and a hero - it's too easy for the audience.
Q: The film is rated as 12A - what would be the youngest age you would be comfortable seeing this film?
JG - I think it depends on the individual childhood. A parent shouldn't make the decision for his kid.
JF - What rating was Stardust?
JG - 12A too.
JF - Yeah, there were some witches on that one that really scared me. It depends on what you believe. I used to get scared by frogs and stuff. Something could scare one kid but not the other.
JG - I hope the kids don't think that the missile crisis had to do with mutants!
MF - You don't know that! But going back to the point, the alienation issue that is shown relates to today's society and many people have dealt with it during their lives unless they're the golden child. That's something we all need to address.
Q: How did you feel about the Cuban missile crisis being used as the backdrop to the movie?
KB - It could go two ways, it could be silly but it's handled very well in a compelling way. There are lot of things historically inaccurate when it comes to filmmaking - that's what we do. If you want real history, watch a documentary. If nothing else, if a kid sees it and had absolutely no idea about this time in world history where you had a cold war and the battle between democracy and communism, maybe it could inspire further research.
JM - There was a movie when I was a kid called Young Einstein and it was about Einstein in Tasmania. It was a comedy and I loved it, loved it, loved it. I knew nothing about Einstein before this - didn't know who he was or what he did. I found out. I was shocked that he wasn't a farmer who invented the electric violin in Tasmania.
MF - We'll never know exactly how close we were from a nuclear war, so there is a mystery there that should definitely be exploited.
Q: Do you think Watergate will be featured in the next one?
MF - Watergate is baby infants comparing to what is going on in the world right now.
JG - It was not a gimmick, it was a terrific idea that Vaughn came up with.
JF - Maybe a mutant's miners strike for the next one!
Q: What would be the worst ever super power?
JF - Oyster-O! He can top up your oyster card with the power of his mind.
MF - How about that one with OCD mutant powers?
JF - Yeah, he could look at your DVD collection and organise it in alphabetical order. Those are the lame powers.
Q: How did you manage to film it with January Jones' cleavage on camera all the time?
MF - Well you have to try to make her feel not uncomfortable, it's a difficult scenario for her wearing skimpy clothes all the time. Obviously there are lots of fans excited just with the prospect of it, but we were there working with her as a professional it wouldn't do well if you brought that sort of giddyness into the room.
ZK - I was always staring at her tits. [laughs]
Q: Do you worry about what fame could bring after this film?
JM - I'm dealing with fame since Narnia and I've been recognised on the street about 10 times... It never really worries me this stuff.
MF - What can you do? Hopefully it won't change much on my everyday life. I was lucky enough to work with Viggo Mortensen last summer and we were walking all around Vienna all the time and he was part of one of the biggest franchise in the world. I can't really answer until I'm confronted with it, but so far it hasn't been a problem.
Q: Was there anything about you when you were on your 20s that you wanted to change about yourself?
MF - I used to have bad acne.
JF - My wife said, when she was asked about me after we first started dating, 'he's ginger but he's really lovely'. That's how people judge people without realising they're doing it - it's also part of the X-Men story.