“X-Men: First Class” star James McAvoy was back at his home in London on Wednesday and waiting for the film’s opening weekend with the mix of anxiety and excitement you might expect. The film, directed by Matthew Vaughn, has been enjoying some stellar early reviews, and the actor who now plays Charles Xavier can’t help wondering if that means he will be losing his hair and his on-screen sense of humor in the months and years to come.
The Fox film that opens Friday is a prequel to previous “X-Men” films — this one is set in the 1940s and 1960s — and Vaughn and producer Bryan Singer have talked about two more films that would follow this new story and add chapters that would fall, chronologically, in the decades leading up to the earlier movies. In those, Patrick Stewart portrayed Xavier as a serious man with big thoughts and a bald pate (a “sexless monk,” as McAvoy has called him), and that has McAvoy thinking about the grim future and the razor’s edge.
“Ideally you have a story arc that lasts three movies and at the end of the third it leaves you ready for the story in ”X-Men 1,’ ” McAvoy said by phone. “It would be nice to explore things in two more films. In this one, Magneto has gone through his major metamorphosis; he kind of found himself. Charles is dealing with his new life and [issues that present themselves] in this movie. And we still are left with the big question: How does he lose his hair? In the comic books there’s a very clear and easy answer, but we didn’t go with that. In the comics it happened when he was very young and when his powers activated. We’ve obviously gone away from that. Now, obviously, we can’t start the next movie with him bald. Not only is that easy and cheap, we’d be passing up an opportunity for a cool story point. I don’t know what it is — we need to come up with something that justifies doing it. Maybe he got some dodgy Australian shampoo….”
What has McAvoy heard regarding a sequel?
“I keep hearing bits and bobs from the different founts that there are or the different mouths that there are on this job,” said the 32-year-old actor, best known for “The Last King of Scotland” and “Atonement.” “All I know is that if this one makes some money, they will definitely want to make another one. We’ve had pretty strong critical reaction thus far. I don’t know if they’d make it just on the back of that, if they didn’t make the kind of money they hope for. I don’t know, but I can’t see them making it just on that. I just hope that, if it happens, they make it because they found a story they like rather than making it just because there’s more money to be made. I’ve been lucky that, even though I’ve done a couple of bad or silly movies in the past, that’s the way they ended up; the studios made them because they were passionate about them. I’d hate to be in something that started right off as something cynical.”
He added: “We all want to make money, but there was also a cool idea and a cool story. Everybody thought, ‘Oh great, there’s a prequel/reboot, just what we don’t need,’ but the idea was to explore that thing that fans were crying out for, those tiny moments in the other movies were you see Sir Patrick and Sir Ian [McKellen, who played Magneto] come together. Those moments were few and far between, but they were some of the most intriguing parts of those films. I think the idea of building a movie around that is what inspired this and, for me, validated doing this.”
Vaughn is not a tight-lipped guy, to say the least, and McAvoy has read or seen the reports of the director spitballing ideas (among them the delicious idea of Magneto playing a part in the JFK assassination, a nugget reported by Drew McWeeny of HitFix), and they have a mixed effect on the actor. He likes the energy and ideas but thinks some secrets should be saved until “at least this movie has come out.” If this new retro-minded mutant franchise does get to visit the Summer of Love or Studio 54, McAvoy said, he will be protecting his character from stories that go sideways.
“I’ve lots of ideas. I know Michael and I are very much on the same page all the time and we’ll be weighing in to protect that relationship between the two characters. One of the things about this movie is: In all the others Magneto is your bad guy and Professor X and the X-Men are the good guys; in this one, it’s not like that. It’s much more sophisticated or complex, at least, and we need to come up with a way to do that moving forward. The next movie, if there is one, shouldn’t just start off with them being pals again, but I think it also shouldn’t be like the first movies only set in the 1960s. If we get another, let’s not just make Magneto the bad guy; of course he’s a bad-ass and of course he has a whole different ethos, but making a movie that is black-and-white is going to lose the thing that we have in this one…. In the comics, Magneto goes back and forth, there are times when they are friends, there are times when he’s running the school. In the first Fox movie, if you want to be a fanboy about it, Patrick Stewart says … that ‘Erik Lehnsherr helped me build Cerebro,’ which is like Professor X’s Death Star. And it is like the Death Star in the other movies, it’s forever being built or being destroyed.”
Well, maybe we’ll all find out that Xavier pulled his hair out in May 1977 while attending the “Star Wars” premiere….
— Geoff Boucher
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