‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’: Hugh Jackman, Fan Bingbing bring mutant sequel to China
Sunspot (Adan Canto), left, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) prepare for an epic battle to save their kind in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)Link
Ian McKellen returns as Magneto in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)Link
Young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets his older self (Patrick Stewart) in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)Link
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)Link
Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage, seated) plots to eradicate mutants in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)Link
Beast (Nicholas Hoult) unleashes his inner animal in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)Link
Ellen Page, left, as Kitty Pryde and Shawn Ashmore as Iceman in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)Link
Hoping to rack up serious mainland box office, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” premiered Tuesday in Beijing, with cast members Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinklage and Fan Bingbing strolling the red carpet in the Chinese capital.
Hollywood superhero films are doing strong business in China of late. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has taken in $55.6 million in its first eight days of release — $5 million more than the first installment earned in 2012, film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway said Tuesday — while “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” has topped $115 million on the mainland.
The “X-Men” sequel is set to open in China on May 23 – the same day as many other countries around the world.
The film adapts one of the most popular storylines from “X-Men” history, a two-part saga from Chris Claremont and John Byrne that originally ran in 1980. The story takes place in two time periods: in a dystopian future in which mutants are hunted by deadly robots known as Sentinels, and in the 1970s, shortly after the events of Matthew Vaughn’s recent prequel “X-Men: First Class.”
It unites the casts of both the original “X-Men” trilogy — including Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as professor Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen as his friend-turned-foe Erik Lehnsherr, better known as Magneto — and Vaughn’s 2011 prequel, which featured James McAvoy as a younger Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto and “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique, a role played in the original films by Rebecca Romijn.
Also featured are Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, Halle Berry as Storm, Omar Sy as Bishop and Evan Peters as Quicksilver.
Jackman has been a particular draw for Chinese audiences going back more than a decade. Last year, “Wolverine” rolled up $38 million on the mainland, while “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” did $12.5 million worth of business in 2009. Way back in 2003, “X2” notched $1.4 million, before China’s box office began its meteoric rise to the world’s second-largest market, behind only the United States.
Other Jackman films, including “Real Steel,” “Les Miserables” and “Australia,” also were granted theatrical release on the mainland (though “Movie 43,” in which Jackman’s character plays a man who wears testicles draped around his neck, was probably a bridge too far for China’s censors).
“It hasn’t been by design,” Jackman said Tuesday in an interview, about his solid fan base in China (where he’s widely known as “Uncle Wolf.”) “I’m thrilled. I love coming here. I’m thrilled [my films] connect. ‘X-Men’ is becoming more and more international, which reflects our world.”
The Aussie actor called this “a smart thing by the writer and director, not only in story but also in casting.”
Fan’s casting as the character Blink – who can teleport herself and others — has been big news in China. Though the part is minor compared to those of Jackman and Dinklage, the latter of whom joins the mutant franchise playing the sinister Bolivar Trask, who creates the Sentinels, Fan – a major star in China – received significant attention Tuesday at press events for the film, where she promised her presence in the movie would help boost its box office receipts.
“‘X-Men’ itself is a brilliant film; its box office will certainly do very well in China,” she said. “But I believe, because of my participation, the box office will be even better, there’s no doubt about it.”
Unlike her part in “Iron Man 3,” which was trimmed in the version shown outside of China, Fan’s performance as Blink will be viewed worldwide. Asked if she and her fans were satisfied with Blink’s screen time, Fan was diplomatic:
“I think sometimes we think too much about the result, how much I appear in the film and whether it suits [fans’] tastes, etc. … I love this film very much; I love the character of this film very much; I enjoyed shooting this film very much, therefore the people who love me will also enjoy it.”
Asked about the “Chinese elements” in the film, Fan said that while there is a temple or monastery in the story identified as being in China, “it is not complete Chinese, because some of the pillars are very European.” And thanks to contact lenses, her character was given green eyes, she noted, making her “not totally Asian.”
Jackman said because China’s movie market is booming, films are increasingly “going to reflect what [Chinese audiences] might want.”
“I see collaboration in every way is a positive,” he said, while adding: “At the end of the day, audiences sniff out cynicism. They sniff out if something is just a marketing-driven thing, and they sniff out a good story. And as we’ve seen repeatedly, good movies people will go and see.”
Jackman had nothing but praise for Fan’s efforts to cross over into Hollywood fare, noting that his own attempt at singing in Mandarin in the 2011 film “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” yielded middling results.
“I remember performing it, and the director was like, ‘Oh my god, that was fantastic.’ And then the truth came out when the movie was almost ready,” Jackman recalled.
In post-production, the director called him back to do additional dialogue – all for the song, “Give Me a Kiss.”
“I said, ‘I thought we did this?’ and he goes: ‘The recording was fine but it’s just we can’t understand a word you are saying. ‘ So I had to sing it all over again,” Jackman remembered, laughing.
“After trying to sing a Chinese song – very badly – in a movie, I have such admiration for anyone who’s acting in a language other than their own,” he added. “It’s hard enough acting in your own language.”
— Julie Makinen, reporting from Beijing; Nicole Liu in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.
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