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May 2006
X-MEN: The Last Stand: An Interview with Brett Ratner

X-MEN: The Last Stand: An Interview with Brett Ratner
By Wilson Morales
May 22, 2006

When it comes to successful films and its sequels, well, basically, franchises if you call them that, the main ingredient to its success is the ability to keep the cast the same, and that also includes the director. With the exception of the James Bond films, where the directors and leads have changed over the years, most franchises employ the same personnel. When Bryan Singer decided to leave the X-Men franchise and go direct "Superman Returns" at another studio, the fans were stunned and wondering who would step up to the plate. Fox brought in Brit director Matthew Vaughn, who had previously helmed "Layer Cake" with Daniel Craig, the latest James Bond. For whatever reason not clearly established, Vaughn left the project before it got underway and Rush Hour director Brett Ratner was then brought in. The word on Ratner wasn't initially positive as to being on this film. Singer had done such a wonderful job on the first two films, folks wondered if anyone could really take his place? Well, having done well with the Rush Hour franchise, though it's no comparison to the X-Men films, Brett did his homework and went to the comics for reference. Judging from what some of the cast had to say on the matter, Ratner did a splendid job. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Ratner talks about his experience working on the "last" of the X-Men films, as well as what he wants for "Rush Hour 3".

You ended up coming in late to the movie... not that it was your fault, but just the way it happened...

Brett Ratner: It was my fault. (Laughter)

You also knew you'd have less time to prepare, so what made you think that you were up to that challenge?

Ratner: Well, the script was fantastic. I really found it was a much more emotional story, and it was thought-provoking and it was something that I just said, "Wow, if I can pull this off, this is going to be a good movie." And it was the final chapter. It felt like that when I read it. I didn't know it was going to be called "The Last Stand" at the time, but it read like the last stand. For me, it was a huge challenge. I've never done a movie like this before, and I thought if I could pull this one off, it would be exciting.

Was it disappointing that you'd be doing a movie like this but you wouldn't be able to shepherd it because it was developed by another director?

Ratner: It really wasn't developed by another director. I think Matthew Vaughn came on very late, too. He was only on for a few weeks, also. It takes years to develop something, really. They started developing this right after "X2," so it wasn't really... I don't really hear much in the media about who did what. At the end of the day, I directed the movie, so that's what I care about.

Was there a DVD crew on set for extras?

Ratner: There was, and I didn't allow them... they have some EPK crew come by once in awhile, but I had my own "making of" that I'm shooting, as I'm making the movie. I have a team that I've done all my movies with. They get a very intimate, inside look, so there probably will be a two-hour "making of"‹or maybe hour and a half‹of very private and intimate... my point of view, instead of being the EPK crew where everyone is acting when the lights are on with the EPK crew. "Hey, the EPK crew is here! EPK crew on set today!" and everyone's like, "Oh, this is great!" I get stuff where the drama ensues.

And deleted scenes?

Ratner: There aren't many deleted scenes, believe it or not. There's alternative versions, alternate versions of these scenes. There aren't many deleted scenes.

The gay metaphor has been discussed when it comes to the X-Men films. Did you think of that while working on this?

Ratner: Well, I think it relates. I'm not going to just narrow it down to the gay community, but it affects everybody, blacks, any minority, anybody who had prejudice against them. It's a very contemporary relatable subject matter, and it's really about a choice. Do you choose to retain your uniqueness or conform, and what are the implications of that? I think it definitely has a lot of importance. The gay community will see this and go "Wow, what if they offered a cure for being gay?"

This touches more on the science and isolating the "gay gene"...

Ratner: Are they working on that really? It's interesting. I don't think it's the choice of the parents really. That's the thing.. it's pro-choice, it's abortion, all those issues can relate, and I think it's up to the individual. (SPOILERS) And that's why I had Rogue at the end take the cure, even though at the very end you see that maybe it wears off and doesn't actually work where Ian kind of... his powers are coming back. Yeah, I think that every single character in this movie is going to have an opinion about it. If you ask them, "Would you take the cure?" "Well, maybe when I was 12 I would, because I felt very different and alienated and picked on" but then the person matures and grows up and they feel like, "Hey, this is who I am and I'm proud to be who I am." Probably young people of any gender or race or sexual preference is going to feel different and consider it.

If your mutation is that everyone thinks you're hot though...

Ratner: I would never change that.

How did coming into this project so late affect casting since obviously Matthew cast Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut, because he was a good friend of his. There were probably some things that maybe you didn't have as much control over as some directors might like. Did you think that you could work with whatever cast they gave you?

Ratner: Well, once I came to the movie, I was the director. I could have fired Vinnie Jones, but I thought that Vinnie Jones was perfect casting. If it wasn't, I would have fired him, but I thought it was brilliant. In between, from when Matthew Vaughn left and when I came on, they hired Kelsey Grammer, and Kelsey was a brilliant, brilliant choice. I thought, "Wow, this guy personifies Beast. " I couldn't come up with a better idea than that. It was amazing. So yeah, I go with what works. If you watch the movie, I didn't try to reinvent it. I tried to make it part of a trilogy and part of the three. I wasn't trying to make my version of it. Unless you're a very sophisticated viewer, I don't think you'd be able to tell Bryan Singer's version to my version. Could you?

Several of the actors say that you feel comfortable on the set with mayhem. How much does accident play in your creative process?

Ratner: It's not just my creative process. I think any creative process. I think some of the most brilliant stuff comes out of just putting all these great actors in a real setting in these costumes and magic is going to happen. The perfect example of that is "Apocalypse Now." You get these brilliant actors and you go to the jungle for two years with helicopters flying everywhere and loud noises and they're eating their rations, and magic is going to happen. And the guys with Marlon Brando around. This is a very complex story, so there's not a lot of room for improvisation but I think some magic did happen out of just us being there. I have brilliant Shakesperean actors, and Patrick Stewart says "Well, Brett, don't you think I should say this?" and I'm like "Great! Yeah, let's do that!" These guys are really smart and thet have an opinion and they vocalize them and they encourage that.

What were some of the accidents?

Ratner: I can't even remember. It's a hard question and there were accidents for sure, stuff that happened.

Dialogue, too? Did you have the writers there on set?

Ratner: I had the writers there. The story never changed, that's what I loved about it. I completely changed the third act, but not the story. The story was there. It was just the location changed, because the third act was ending in Washington, DC. I said to the studio that these movies always end in Washington, DC. I've seen it so many times. (SPOILERS) And the thing that they did is that they had this incredible set piece, which is this bridge sequence, but it was in the middle of the movie. Originally, there wasn't that truck sequence with the prisoners? They were on Alcatraz Island, that was a prison, and Magneto came to the prison to break them out of the prison and used the bridge to get them off the island. So I said, "This is crazy!" This is the biggest set piece in the entire world, that I've ever read, and it's in the middle of a movie. We have to move this to the end and make it part of the plot. Breaking them out is just one part of it, but where are you going to go from there? So I convinced Tom Rothman, the head of the studio, to move it to the end of the movie and put the Cure on Alcatraz Island and put a face on The Cure with the little boy, and have the reason they're bringing that bridge over is that it just connects the dots even better, I think.

Can you talk about picking some of the mutants? At one point, they said you were going to have Stacey X, the hooker mutant, which might have been a joke...

Ratner: So get this straight, please, cause it's so ridiculous. Making this movie is a strictly confidential process. We can't let people... because there are so many people wanting to get this information, there's so much that is made-up. I literally went through the Mutant Encyclopedia, the X-Men Encyclopedia, and just went like this... turn the page and went BOOM! (sticks finger down on page).. Stacy X, because we couldn't tell them who they were auditioning for. And we had the writers write sides for a character that wasn't in the movie, but then all of a sudden, I'm in the paper saying that I'm putting whores in the movie. (laughter)

You brought in Bill Duke, was that your choice?

Ratner: Yeah of course.

Why change his character from the comic book more than with anyone else? Was there a reason for that?

Ratner: Yeah, because it has to service our story, I mean, this is not a comic book.. this is a comic book movie, but the comic book is not the script and if you see what Bryan Singer did, if they followed the comic book, Wolverine would look more like me, a short stocky RRRR bulldog, you know? So you have to interpret the comic and work for the cinematic world and Bill Duke's character. I didn't want the government to be villainous. I didn't want them to be a cliché, which was in the other movies but is what worked, but I didn't want to do it again. I didn't want the bad guy, the villain is somehow the Cure, even though you could see both sides of the cure. So I didn't want it to be about the government, I wanted it to be about this cure. The President wasn't quite Bush, but he wasn't quite Clinton. I was kind of like trying to find a middle ground. I didn't want the villainous Trask in the comics to be a villain, a bad guy.

Was there anyone else you brought in besides Duke?

Ratner: Yeah, a lot of the actors. Ellen Page, Ben Foster, I mean all the new characters.

How did you pick the mutants though, particularly the new characters with new powers?

Ratner: I just went through the comics and the materials and thought "this is cool"..they're what I thought was cool. Callisto and the sidekicks of Magneto, whoever I thought was a cool sidekick and I just wanted to go in and put some color into it. It's a multi-racial comic and I wanted to put some color to it. Halle Berry was the only person of color in the last few movies, so I wanted to bring some flavor, as they say.

But it seemed like a lot of them were actually created like the spikey guy, the Asian character..

Ratner: They were inspired by the comics. I took... for instance, Spike started as Kid Omega, but there was another character. I found one character that I liked and then I took the powers. For instance, Callisto has the power of another character who moves fast and has the telepathy thing. The girl from the wall looks like Psylocke but she has the power of one of the other characters. So I mixed and matched powers to service the story. Instead of having ten more actors in the movie, I just said, "You're going to have these three powers."

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