“X-Men: First Class” just hit shelves on Blu-ray and DVD, a good reason for Hero Complex contributor Jevon Phillips to catch up with one of the top influences in the X-movies: producer Lauren Shuler Donner. Donner was excited about the release, mentioning that “every drawing and concept art and costume change” were saved to help fill out the release for fans.
Jevon Phillips: This installment was one of the best-reviewed films in the franchise, why do you think it connected so well with critics?
Lauren Shuler Donner: It was a couple of factors. First, we grounded it with a real historical event, and didn’t skirt around the fact that this story would’ve taken place in the early ’60s. By basing it around the Cuban Missile Crisis, it gave it some credibility and took itself very seriously. Second of all, I think we reinvented the franchise, making it feel a little bit more James Bond and a little bit less comic book. And then lastly, we just cast it well. All of our actors were incredible and gave those characters a reality that I think the critics really appreciated.
JP: For the story itself, and with all of the X-Men stories that were out there, how did you choose to tell the story of a prequel?
LSD: It sort of happened during “X2.” During a lunch break, I said, ‘You know, wouldn’t it be funny if we could see young X-Men. Like a young Cyclops and a young Jean Grey, as they first visited the mansion. We all thought it was dynamite, but then you get consumed with the movie that you’re doing. Years went by, and Simon Kinsberg went into this executive’s office and said ‘Hey, there’s this comic book — ‘First Class’ — that would make a really good X-men movie.’ Then the executive e-mailed me and said ‘Hey, I figured out how to do young X-men.’ And that’s how it happened.
JP: What, for you, is the draw of doing comic-book based films? Or is it just that you like the X-Men?
LSD: Well, I like all kinds of comics. But I find, that of all the comics out there, the X-men are some of the most well-drawn characters. Psychologically complex, and in may ways, psychologically damaged — which makes sense — and that makes me want to go on a journey with them and makes them, to me, very compelling. They’re all very flawed and they’re all very real in that sense. So since you’re going into a world that doesn’t exist, the only way for me to do that is to ground it, and I find that with their characters, there’s a lot to work with.
JP: With the new Blu-ray/DVD release, there’s lots of featurettes and behind-the-scenes stuff on there. Do you have any favorites that may or may not be told on the DVD?
LSD: Favorite stories can’t be told! But we had a really good time. The cast got along very well, which you’ll kind of see in the Blu-ray. Everybody dances around and everybody fools around. Hmmm, but specific stories…?
JP: How about the Hugh Jackman cameo?
LSD: That was a fun day! But that’s Hugh. He came at the end of the shoot at a time when everybody was tired and worn out and just making this huge effort to finish the movie — and he just comes in there with his sunny disposition and all of his energy. I mean, I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna, but he was just a breath of fresh air.
JP: You have Wolverine and an upcoming Deadpool possibly … do you think that any of the characters from “First Class” could break out for a solo movie?
LSD: Well, you never know. At one point we were going to do the Magneto movie, but it was always Magneto and Charles. They’re two sides of each other, although they were raised very differently. Could any others spinoff? I really don’t know. I think this particular strain, this franchise, is going to work as a team.
JP: You said that you were into comics … with the DC relaunch and everything, do you have an opinion of how things are going in comics?
LSD: I’m not qualified to speak about DC, but I am a huge fan of Geoff Johns. I am such a fan of his. I would just say, in general, that this business, and yes comic books are a business, that there’s always many voices in a decision. It’s not one single voice. I think that Marvel has Kevin Feige driving what movies they’re going to do, and that’s a very good thing for them. They’ve followed their own comic book timeline and that’s really, really smart. So, the state of comics today — I think they’ll go digital like books and business in the rest of the world.
– Jevon Phillips
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