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February 10, 2011

‘X-Men: First Class’: Bryan Singer talks about Azazel, Havok and Mystique

Posted in: Movies

The trailer for “X-Men: First Class” landed today and immediately tilted the landscape of this summer’s slate of superhero films – if this smart, sleek and sinister trailer is representative of Matthew Vaughn’s retro-mutant film as a whole, then it’s suddenly unwise to view “First Class” as a second-class citizen compared with the two big Marvel Studios releases, “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Thor.”

The makers of the Fox film, however, say they never viewed the summer season as a competition against the Marvel films or Warner Bros.’ “Green Lantern.”

“You can never think about that,” producer Bryan Singer said.  “That’s just something you can torture yourself with or stress out about, but you can’t do that and sit there and think, ‘What are they doing? We need to do that.’ That’s the worst thing you can do. You have to make your own movie. It needs to exist in its own universe in terms of perception. Your goal is to make a cool movie. You need to stay focused on that goal.”

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbinder in "X-Men: First Class" (Fox)

Singer directed the first two “X-Men” films, which became landmarks in this new age of superhero cinema. After his departure, the follow-up films were less acclaimed, but their commercial success exceeded or matched the Singer releases. This new teaming of Singer, as a producer, with firebrand filmmaker Vaughn looked great on paper, and now, with the trailer, it’s looking pretty good onscreen. Time will tell — trailers can be quite deceiving — but Singer sounded as enthused as a fan himself during a recent interview.

Asked about the new lineup — or the “old” lineup, given the film’s 1960s setting — Singer got specific about his favorites. “We have younger versions of Mystique and Beast, so I’m very excited about them and what they bring to the film. Jennifer Lawrence’s work [as Mystique] and Nicholas Hoult’s portrayal of Beast — these are characters that we’ve seen in the earlier films, but then these are very different portrayals and you have to bring a lot of attention to those.”

"X-Men: First Class" (Fox)

“I’m also excited about Jason Flemyng as Azazel, which is a really cool character. It’s like this sinister alter ego of Nightcrawler in a way, which again brings some of the things that we like about that character but at the same time has a different quality. And I really, really like [Lucas Till as] Havok, who we’re bringing in [to the continuity] at a sort of  a different time, relative to the comic book lore. It’s an extremely cool character. What’s great, too, about all of these characters is that they haven’t honed their abilities yet. Havok is a danger to himself and everyone around him. That’s where this movie is at — the recruiting of these mutants and bringing them together.”

I asked Singer about the specific relation between Havok and Cyclops – in the comics they are Alex and Scott Summers, respectively, brothers who possess raging, hard-to-manage energies within their bodies, but the decades at play now in the X-Men installments take that sibling connection off the table, story-wise.

Bryan Singer

“Yes, the timeline is different,” Singer said. “It wouldn’t physically fit for him to be the brother of Cyclops. We take some liberties on that. There are notions, but, um, I don’t want to give away certain interrelations, but let’s just say there are some things that do adhere to the comic books and do so in a way the fans will get a kick out of. And those things can, perhaps, move forward into the future…. That’s one reason we wanted to call the film ‘First Class’ even though it isn’t the [Jeff Parker-penned story arc called] ‘First Class’ in the comics as fans know it. You couldn’t really tell that story without going even earlier and explaining how they got there and how it came to be. I liked the title, so we kept it, but this is a prelude in a way that will eventually lead to the [scenarios] that fit in more clearly with the ‘First Class’ comics and situations.”

– Geoff Boucher

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