“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the ultimate “X-Men” ensemble, combining the casts of the first three “X-Men” movies and 2011’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” In “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” the superhero mutants fight a war for the survival of the species across two time periods. The beloved characters from the original “X-Men” film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from the past who were introduced in “X-Men: First Class,” in order to change a major historical event and fight in an epic battle that could save our future. At 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego, most of the stars from “X-Men: Days of Future Past” gathered for what may arguably be the most star-studded press conference at the annual event.
The “X-Men: Days of Future Past” team at the press conference were Hugh Jackman (who plays Logan/Wolverine), Ian McKellen (who plays older Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto), Patrick Stewart (who play older Charles Xavier/Professor X), Michael Fassbender (who plays young Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto), James McAvoy (who plays young Charles Xavier/Professor X), Halle Berry (who plays Ororo Munroe/Storm), Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Raven/Mystique), Ellen Page (who plays Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat), Shawn Ashmore (who plays Bobby Drake/Iceman), Nicholas Hoult (who plays Hank McCoy/Beast), Evan Peters (who plays Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver), Omar Sy (who plays Bishop), Peter Dinklage (who plays Dr. Bolivar Trask), director/producer Bryan Singer, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, producer Hutch Parker and screenwriter/producer Simon Kinberg. Here is what they said on the panel, which included the first public showing of sneak-preview footage from the movie.
What kind of challenges did you have to go through in making “X-Men: Days of Future Past”? And what role will Kitty Pryde have in this movie?
Kinberg: It was important to us, as Bryan has been in the past, to be really loyal to the original books. And this is one of the most beloved storylines, and it’s beloved by us. I think in approaching any adaptation of a comic, it’s about figuring out what’s fundamental about the characters and themes from the original run. We were loyal to those original characters and themes in the storytelling.
The biggest difference is that Kitty is not the one who goes back in time. Kitty is the one who sends someone back in time. As people will see in our reel today, Wolverine goes back in time. That’s the biggest change.
Singer: Initially, it began with the goal of making a film that would bring this cast together in some way, and time travel or time displacement of some kind would be a tool that we could use to do that. Essentially, the Wolverine of the future, his consciousness is sent to his younger self. It's nice that Hugh was able to play both parts because the character of Wolverine is ageless, which is extremely unique. It was great to be able to place him in both of these worlds as a character, and for me to reunite with this original cast and to get work as a director with the new cast.
To the original “X-Men” cast members, what's it feel like to return to these characters? And to cast members who joined the franchise in “X-Men: First Class,” what’s it like act with the original “X-Men” cast?
Stewart: Well, these things have a strange life because you start out and it could just be a movie and that’s it. Hello and goodbye. But then it develops its own life force ... The best part about this movie has been for me knowing that at an earlier time in my life, I was James McAvoy.
McAvoy: And if I have to grow up into being somebody, how cool is it to grow up being Sir Patrick Stewart, star of stage and screen? It was a big kick getting to work with Patrick. I got to be in the same room as Ian and Hugh and Ellen and Shawn. And I actually got to act with Patrick. I’ve been a fan of his for years, so it was a real kick.
But just dramatically, the whole idea behind “First Class,” kind of rebooting, but also showing who we were when we were younger, I never thought for a second I'd actually get to work with Patrick. So it was just quite interesting to show the two opposite sides of these people at different times in their lives and their personal adventures.
McKellen: I'm looking forward one day to being as dashing and successful as Michael Fassbender. [He says to Stewart] We can't really believe our luck, can we, that we're still allowed out. Also that playing a character over two, three, four [“X-Men”] films we’ve now, it's fun to go back to the character and realize that he's still lurking inside you. But these stories are so need to be told, that's what I like about the X-Men.
These aren’t casual movies. They aren’t summer vacation movies. They’re classics. So to be allowed to be associated with them is a genuine honor. It doesn’t matter how little I have to do in the next one, Bryan, I’ll be ready and waiting.
Stewart: Hear, hear! Me too.
Berry: I think it’s nice is that we all love the films, but what's nice for me is that in the first movie, we all became such good friends. We really like each, and we like being around each other. So to have a chance to do the work that we love but to hang out with the people that we really admire, respect, and like to be around, for me is the joy of coming back to do these movies. The beauty is, because we are good friends, we pick up as if we just saw each other yesterday. I was really happy to see everybody and meet the new cast and hang out with my old friends that I really love a lot.
Lawrence: The same as what everybody said. We became so close on “First Class,” and after I got the movie I went and watched all of them, and I’m a recent and huge fan. I never thought that I'd be able to meet some of the original cast. So it’s really great.
Singer: I built the old hallways from the “X-Men” 1, 2 and 3. It's the fourth time we've built these blue hallways; they’re kind of iconic in the “X-Men” films. It was really fun when they walked on the set because they'd been in an “X-Men” movie, but not with those hallways or with Hugh as Wolverine. Jen was standing in the hallway and we were looking at one of your costumes and you were like, “Can I see Cerebro?” And I was like, “Sure, I'll show you Cerebro.”
McAvoy: That's not a euphemism, by the way. She was already cast at this point.
Page: I was in the third [“X-Men”] movie. I was 18. It feels like a while ago. I had just done a movie called “Hard Candy,” and I was on the [“X-Men: The Last Stand”] set and had never done anything remotely on that scale. I just felt so welcomed from obviously not just an incredibly talented group of people but the loveliest, sweetest people who were so kind.
Never did I think I’d be back playing Kitty Pryde again. I was just so thrilled to be back with everyone and exploring something new and something different. I just had a great time every day working with everybody.
Hoult: What Bryan was saying, when we walked into those old corridors for the first time, I looked over during a take and I saw Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and sat there and I started to panicked and freaked out a little bit. Those were films I grew up watching. “First Class,” even though it was an “X-Men” movie, it didn’t feel like the “X-Men” movies that I knew.
McAvoy: I had a weird experience when I did “Narnia.” I walked into K&B, the prosthetics house in L.A., and in that room was like a massive lion and it was Aslan. I was a huge fan of these books growing up and I saw Aslan and went down on my knees, going, “My king!”
And I've never really had that experience again in my career, but weirdly, doing my first scenes with you guys — Hugh and Patrick and Ian and all that — I wasn't down on my knees, if you know what I mean, but it did feel a little bit like I was touching kind of an icon, you know what I mean?
Lawrence: And you were on your knees?
McAvoy: I was touching their icons whilst I was on my knees. It’s crazy how this stuff creeps up on you.
Will “X-Men: Days of Future Past” be playing with the continuity of the series?
Singer: Of the universe as established in the movies? Yes, there is some of that. Whenever you go back in time — and this is every bit as much a time travel movie as it is an “X-Men” [movie] — there are those risks. So some of that's going to happen and yet there are some things if you believe in certain physics and multiverses, and you also have a respect for the continuity as we have, then I'm less so entrapped in the previous films.
Again, I'm not the audience, I'm just the filmmaker. But I do believe in certain continuity but some things will change. It's the nature of time travel. You go back and mess about, then things happen, so some of those rumors are true.
Will the younger and older versions of the same characters be in the same scenes?
Singer: Primarily, since Wolverine is the journeyman, his interaction with the younger cast is primary. There is a moment … where these two characters [young and older Charles Xavier] come face to face, the younger self and older self. We're trying to do it in a unique way. It's been done before but my first opportunity to make a time travel movie really wanted to do my very best to create a set of rules and respect them, create a continuity within those rules, but there's a bit of interaction like that.
Hugh, who is your favorite “X-Men” character besides Wolverine?
McAvoy: No pressure.
Jackman: Yeah, no pressure here. Storm. It’s a very difficult thing. Storm. But it’s also hard to separate an actor from a part. Storm. My general rule is to do as many movies with Halle Berry as possible. Is that all right to say? We’re both married.
Going back to the very first question. I’m in perhaps a unique position on this panel, because the very first film I did in America was given to me by this man [he puts his hand on Bryan Singer’s shoulder]. The film was “X-Men,” and that was 14 years ago.
Everyone on this side of Bryan feels how incredibly unique, rare, lucky and blessed we are to, 14 years later, come back together. You knew me before I had kids. My son was born just as we were making the first one. So much has changed that we’ve gone through together. If you were lucky enough in your life to be in a film with just these actors, you’d count yourself as lucky as you can be as an actor.
If you look to the right of Bryan, you realize this is what you get paid for as an actor. In honest truth, this movie is two great movies in one. I can’t believe the embarrassment of riches I have that I get to work with all of them here. And the truth of the matter is, you’ll never get me to say who my favorite is. Storm.
Singer: It’s also nice that when we started, even though they’re theater icons, Patrick and Ian, they didn’t really know each other much. And bringing them together in this science-fiction comic-book movie, now they’ve worked together in the theater. They’ve done incredible shows together.
They’re doing “Waiting for Godot” and “No Man’s Land” soon together, which is going to be amazing, on Broadway. And that theater moment is a function of this comic-book film. And that’s kind of cool, in a theater-loving way.
McKellen: That’s absolutely true. So Michael and James, how about working together in the theater? What about playing our matinees for us?
McAvoy: You want to do a play?
Fassbender: Yeah, we’ll do the matinee. That’s perfect.
What was your first reaction to “X-Men: Days of Future Past”?
Singer: It’s an “in-between-quel.”
McKellen: It’s in the spirit of the comics, isn’t it? They go forward and back and change the history. You’re not quite sure where you are. They change the look of the characters. The movies are the mayhem of the “X-Men” world, but running through it is a very important story, a very important message. It’s about our lives, however fantastic the characters are.
Stewart: I heard about this movie, and I was immediately filled with such sadness, because most of you probably won't recall but at the end of [“X-Men: The Last Stand”], I was vaporized by Jean Grey. And that really hurt, by the way. I hope that never happens to any of you.
So my assumption was it's going to be Ian, Halle, Hugh and everybody back, but it won't be me. But something happened, which I'm not allowed to talk about. Am I? [He says to Singer] Oh, you can, if you want to.
Singer: Characters come back to life in the comics. Whenever I do something, I can't just do it flippantly. I have to at least believe in the idea, the conceit. In my own mind, I understand how Xavier is alive from “X-Men 3.”
There's a beat at the end of “X-Men 3” after the credits when his consciousness is alive inside a woman in the hospital. Then you take that, mix it with some powerful mutants — mutants can do a lot of cool stuff — and so you can imagine anything's possible.
Stewart: So does that mean Xavier is back, Bryan?
Singer: For the moment.
McAvoy: That should be the tagline for the film: “X-Men: Xavier is back!”
Singer: For the moment.
Stewart: But this is science fiction, and “the moment” can be anything you want it to be.
Jackman: You’re digging a deep hole here, guys.
Singer: But in seriousness, another thing about the movie that’s different about the previous “X-Men” films is there is a science-fiction aspect to that as well, the technologies, the Sentinel program, which is something that is going to be part of the picture. So we’ve got the time travel and the science-fiction elements of things that haven’t been explored in “X-Men” films in the past. So that also made it a challenge and fun and unique.
How did you feel about the costumes in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”?
Lawrence: [She points to Berry] She's pregnant. I'm naked. Come see the movie. It’s great. I personally loved the ‘70s. The moments I get to wear ‘70s clothes, I really enjoy them, because I really like that time. And I really like wearing clothes when I can. The Mystique look is a little bit different. We’re still using the same paint.
Singer: Jen wanted to make sure this Mystique was less innocent, evolved, getting closer to where Mystique was in “X-Men 2.”
Lawrence: She’s also more comfortable. When we left the movie she was mutant and proud. She was struggling with that problem a lot of normal human people struggle with about being insecure about how they look, so she was very covered up in the first movie. But this time she is mutant and proud.
McAvoy: My threads are awesome: lots of flares, chunky shoes, psychedelic shirts, There’s a lot of brown jackets going on with very violently colored psychedelia-inspired shirts underneath.
Jackman: In the future, the X-Men suits are unbelievable. First of all, hell of a lot more comfortable to wear than “X-Men” 1 and 2, but they look really amazing. People in the future wear suits who have never worn suits before. That's all I'm going to say.
Fassbender: Louise [Mingenbach, costume designer for “X-Men: Days of Future Past”] is amazing. And it’s a very collaborative thing. That’s what I found on the project … The clothes that we wear, the Magneto outfit, being on set.
McKellen: Do you get to wear the helmet?
Fassbender: Oh, yes!
McKellen: The best thing about playing the old Magneto this time: no helmet.
Fassbender: You don't like the helmet?
McKellen: Oh, no.
McAvoy: When you have a face like that, who needs a helmet?
McKellen: We'll talk about helmets later.
For more info: "X-Men: Days of Future Past" website