The X-Men are going retro and come June 3rd, they’re taking us with them to the 1960s for X-Men: First Class. Jumping in to the important lead role of the younger Professor Charles Xavier is of course, James McAvoy, who stars opposite Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, the two protagonists of Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men prequel..
Twentieth Century Fox is in full marketing swing as we approach the summer movie blockbuster season, and have only just begun showcasing the next installment to the X-Men franchise, from movie posters to the one official X-Men: First Class trailer.
Our friends at IGN were fortunate enough to fly out to the set of X-Men: First Class where they conducted a lengthy interview with James McAvoy. In their chat, they discuss Xavier’s many transformations, not the least of which involve his physical attributes. Read ahead for the highlights but beware – there are spoilers.
[WARNING: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS SPOILERS BELOW!]
McAvoy confirms that his younger Professor X is certainly morally reprehensible relative to the calm and collected Patrick Stewart we all know from the X-Men trilogy. He also talks about how Xavier’s character still has so much to offer if X-Men: First Class succeeds and is able to launch its own prequel trilogy.
“Yeah, he’s a little bit of a cad. It’s quite nice to play that because throughout the course of this movie the characters are actually… it’s quite interesting, but if we do a two and a three — if this one makes any money and we do get to do more — then you’ve got a really nice start. Not only is he newly having to deal with the fact he no longer can walk, but whether he’s to challenge Magneto or not is a big deal.”
He continues to confirm that we do in fact get to see how Xavier loses his ability to walk, and possibly how he loses his hair.
“We see why he can no longer walk and why he is in a wheelchair. And hopefully we’ll find out why he lost his hair as well. In the comics he loses his hair when he sort of gains or discovers his powers. But obviously that is not the way they wanted to go in this case.”
McAvoy actually had shaved his head previously and was completely comfortable in doing that for this film if necessary, but Vaughn and co. wanted him to sport long locks for First Class and during the beginning of filming, he wore hair extensions.
Moving on to the story of X-Men: First Class, McAvoy expands on the idea of mutants being new and unknown during this era, even to each other, and them meeting and showing off their powers, learning them and how/when to use them is a big part of the plot.
“Anybody who has any kind of mutant power in them is leading a very secretive and sometimes messed up life. I don’t think there is the sense yet that they are appreciated as the underclass or feared yet, but we do get to that stage where we all start to realize that: OK, there is a group of us, and we go through our sort of period of fraternity time where we are all having a great time because we realize we are not alone and suddenly we are making connections for the first time in our lives. Then things get serious and ultimately we realize that it is not just going to be a case of, ‘We’ve got these great powers, aren’t we a great addition to the Planet Earth?’ There is a lot of fear attached to it and that ultimately sort of explains the split between Erik and Charles, because one is an optimistic and one is sort of a fatalist really, or a realist maybe you could argue.”
From the trailer, we saw that First Class takes place in the thick of the cold war. How do the first group of X-Men play a crucial war in history?
“I mean the Cold War plays a big part in it and the manipulation of history is quite a nice thing. So we sort of attach ourselves to history really closely in quite a strong way, but then we also mess with history quite a lot and re-write it a little bit. We don’t change the outcome of any world events, but the explanation and the kind of machine behind those world events we kind of play off the mutants, which is great. And I think that’s kind of fun… You know, we can talk about people who can fly, people who can do this and do that and shoot energy out of their chest or spit acid or change into other people or whatever. That’s all fantastical, but to base it in something that actually happened then makes a big difference.”
With young professor being a “dirty dog” of sorts in X-Men: First Class, how does that (and his mutant powers) play into his potential love interests and character relationships?
“Between me and Rose… it’s just me and Rose. There is a love triangle between me, Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence who plays Raven. It’s not a love triangle… basically she’s my assistant in this film, and obviously by the other films she is not my assistant anymore; she is very much not my assistant. Actually that’s quite good fun to see how that relationship disintegrates as well and why she ultimately goes over to the dark side as well. But yeah, it’s fun to inject a bit of romance into Charles’ life and not always to see him welcomed with it as well. He’s a little bit forlorn and he doesn’t really take ‘no’ for an answer. He’s not forceful in any way, but I think he’s used to using his powers to get what he wants as well.”
Lastly, and certainly the most spoiler-fused snippet from the interview, describes a scene where the “First Class” of mutants are opening up to each other, showing off their powers… then dealing with the consequences [Plot Spoilers ahead].
“Yeah, it’s basically like the first night of their new mutant existence and they all get a bit drunk and show their powers off to each other, wreck the ****ing joint and then CIA come in and go, ‘Oi, for God’s sake, you’re on Presidential money here at the moment. We’ve got some work to do.’ And I never liked the scene, but I realized the reason I didn’t like the scene is because I shouldn’t be in it and neither should Michael. They ultimately at the last minute wrote both him and I out of it, which I am really grateful for because it was a scene for the younger element. And I think it does help that we are a bit older than… there is a real teacher/pupil dynamic going on in Charles’ eyes anyway; not so much from Erik but in Charles’ eyes anyway I think he quite likes that dynamic, I think he wants to cultivate that.”
The full interview at IGN also touches on plenty of other interesting tidbits, including how McAvoy and Fassbender initially tried imitating Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan respectively, but that director Matthew Vaughn quickly put an end to that. They also talk about impressive large-scale set pieces, Magneto’s God complex and whether or not he’s good/evil based on his actions and motivations.
X-Men: First Class opens in theaters June 3, 2011.
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