Warning: This Q&A session contains some spoilers. As with previous articles, spoiler sections are labeled clearly and "whited out" to avoid inadvertant reading...
In Comics2Film.com's final installment of the 'X-Men: The Last Stand' roundtable coverage, thechrisbrown sits down with director Brett Ratner.
Brett enters the room like a ball of concentrated energy, as was described by other members of the cast. It's true. So, he excitedly sat down and discussed his take on X-Men, his decision to make a film that fit into the established continuity, lightening a tough day of shooting, and he even explains why he tacked on that last five seconds after the credits.
Q: So, it happened, it's done.
BR: Can you believe it? Actually, I'm checking the prints now. It's, like, the last thing I have to do and then I'm done.
Q: Can you recount the whole process of how they approached you about this since it was at the last minute ...
BR: I kind of put out in the universe that I was going to do Superman, and then Superman didn't work, I was like, oh (unintelligible), you know, Singer's got his X-Men, Raimi's got Spider-Man and now Chris Nolan's doing Batman, I was hoping to be offered Batman or something, and then it didn't happen, they gave it to Chris Nolan, who did a great job by the way. And then, I thought I'll never do a superhero movie, then Bryan left, but then they hired, uh, someone ...
Q: Vaughn ...
BR: Yeah, then I was like, Fuck! Because I kind of put out in the universe that I wanted to make a superhero movie, and, um, then when Vaughn left, I went, I want that job, I need that job, I want that job. I wanted to do the first X-Men. I'm a big fan of X-Men, so, then I got it.
Q: Now, you've said this is really the end of a trilogy, is there talk now about a new trilogy, an X4?
BR: I don't think there will be an X-Men 4, I think there will be a Wolverine, or ...
Q: Would you do Wolverine?
BR: Yeah, oh yeah.
Q: Have they talked to you about it?
BR: No, don't look to me, maybe you know more ... (everyone laughs) ... I'd love to do it, hopefully, or maybe Bryan can do that and I can go do Superman 2.
Q: So, I hear ...
BR: Not true.
Q: Was the movie screened for Bryan recently? Has Bryan already seen X3 The Last Stand?
BR: What, they didn't tell me. I don't think so. I'd show it to him, but he's busy in the edit room and I'm busy, but he'll see it. I can't wait, I can't wait for Bryan to see it. I'm excited for him to see it. I'm nervous for him to see it. Shit!
Q: So, how do you, when you have, what, like four weeks of prep time, which is basically no prep time, what do you do?
BR: It wasn't actually four weeks of prep time, but I gotta tell you, the script was pretty much finished. It wasn't like I was, it's not like it was an issue. I had 125 days of shooting. I mean, how many more days do I need? The rush was because visual effects, the development of visual effects have to be done, and the big set piece has already been, the bridge sequence was in the movie, I had just moved it from the middle of the movie to the end of the movie. So, the development of that, the design of that was when I came on I approved it, or made the adjustments. But I didn't change the story, what I changed was kind of the order of set pieces. I'll give you an example: When I came on the movie, remember the prison truck? That wasn't in the movie. But they did have a scene breaking out of the prison, so the story never changed, just the set pieces changed. So, the prisoners were on Alcatraz Island, which makes sense because it's a prison, right? Magneto used the bridge to help them escape. He brought the bridge over, and I said to Tom Rothman, 'This is the biggest set piece I'll ever shoot in my entire life, that we'll ever see, this is insane, how can we have this in the middle of the movie? We have nowhere to go. Let's make it more part of the plot, and not just the breakout, and put it at the end of the movie, make Alcatraz the island where the cure is being kept or manufactured. Then the movie can build and we have somewhere to go, so the bridge gets dropped on the island and then they you go in and put a face on the cure with the little boy. So, that's what was changed, so structurally I changed it, but it affects a lot of different things. So, then we have to come up with a way to break the prisoners out, that's why a local prison, then you have to write that into the dialogue with the President, so it just changes, that's the types of changes that we made, but the story was there, the story was fantastic.
Q: Were there any directorial decisions, though, that you felt you would have liked to have more say on, or that you missed out on, precisely because you were brought on so late?
BR: No, I don't think there's, does it feel like ... to me ...
Q: No, it totally felt similar to the first two.
BR: Well, that's what I was going for. I wasn't trying to really reinvent the genre or the films. I wanted, I think Bryan did a brilliant job of setting up and establishing the tones of this movie, and I said okay this is going to be the easy part, now I've got to focus on the emotionality of the story and the characters. And, if anything, because I came on, and they, you know, I was like, okay, I'm the hero now, I come in to save the day, this is what I want to do, and so I sat down with the writers, I said, what is it, because Zak Penn was on the second movie, said, what was it that didn't make it into the second movie? He said, 'Well, the Danger Room.' They actually built a Danger Room, but never shot it. I said, 'Well, why did that happen, do you think?' He said, 'Well, it felt like an appendage, it didn't really feel integral to the story.' And we said, okay, we have to find something that the fans love from the first ... we found something that the fans love that we can incorporate into the Danger Room that's going to pay off in the third act. That way, when the studio sees this, my new version, they wouldn't say, 'Oh, just lose that, it's too big, too expensive.' Because, so, that was the Fastball Special. Okay, when we paid that off in the third act, there was no way they could say you gotta lose that, because the payoff was so integral to the telling of the story. And that's what I was able to do, incorporate it and make the Danger Room, and put something in the movie that they've never had in the other movies. Oh, and I knew about the Sentinels ...
Q: So, you dressed up as Wolverine and memorized two pages of dialogue ...
BR: Oh yes, who told you that?
Q: Hugh and Halle. Halle said she had a good time seeing you dressed up as Wolverine.
BR: She was cracking up. She was distracting me, I was, my dialogue was messing up, she kept laughing.
Q: How did you come up with that?
BR: Just to blow off some steam, you know, you've gotta, like, it was the hardest day of shooting, and I showed up and I had the costume on. I didn't include it in the dailies because if the studio sees this, they're going to be like, what the fuck is this guy doing?
Q: Is it going to be on the DVD?
BR: I hope so. I don't know. I don't know. If not, it was a good little joke for us, an inside joke, but I made a Christmas card out of it.
Q: So, did you direct in the Wolverine, the Logan costume?
BR: I did, but it, he ... let me tell you something: I don't envy these guys. That's the most painful thing I've ever worn. That leather suit, okay, maybe it's because it didn't fit me, but because it pulls, it connects into the zipper, so it's pulling down here (motions to his shoulders) and up here (motioning below the belt line), so it's like, pulling in your groin area really hard, and pulling down on your shoulders. It makes you, notice how everyone's kind of stiff, walking like this. It is the most painful, I needed, like, a four hour massage. I', telling you, this outfit was ridiculous.
Q: You wore it all day?
BR: I mean, it just started coming off piece by piece, I mean, first I took the wig, then I took the, I was trying, but people kept laughing when I was coming out to give direction. I said, I'm going to take these claws off, then I came out with just the wig and the suspenders without the top part on and my belly was sticking out, and Halle just couldn't hold it together, and I said okay Halle, I'm going to take this off.
Q: Did you wear Hugh's costume?
BR: That wouldn't fit me ...
BR: Actually, you know, Yes, I did wear Hugh's costume. If you see the pictures it was, like, three times too long, I'm like the Jewish version of Wolverine, I'm like Wolver-Stien.
(Brett laughs, the room laughs.)
Q: How does a director deal with an actor that's "difficult" or "demanding"? What sort of ...
BR: Slap 'em ...
Q: Well, yeah, do you take the iron fist approach or the velvet glove approach?
BR: Do I? I've never really had a ... I'm the type of guy, normally, that will jump on a table, I mean Chris Tucker, people may say he's difficult, he's not, he's one of my best friends, but when he resists something I'll jump on the table, I'll beg him, I'll act it out, I'll plead, I'll, "Pleeease ..." you know, I'll do whatever I have to do. I've never really had to get tough. I get tough, sometimes, with my crew and I get tough with adversaries, like, sometimes if the studio wants to put, to tell me to do something, but otherwise I'm not very, you know, I love my job. I'm a happy guy, it's not that difficult, I mean, it's a difficult process, but I try to make it fun for everybody. I'm like the kid who would get the whole neighborhood out to play baseball, 'Come on, let's go play baseball." I've got to get everybody excited about the whole process, it's a really tiring experience and opposed to sitting around and waiting, and you know, all the time in between, and all the sets and all the coverage I do. So, I kind of have to kick the energy up so that everyone's feeling, 'Okay, I can do this, I can do this.' So, I'm leading that, and it kind of gets everyone ...
Q: Do you think directors get too, become too internalized or wrapped up ..?
BR: I don't know, I've never met any directors, really ...
Q: One of the things, you said that sometimes you have to be confrontational with studios, but it looks like Fox, on X-Men, gave you full support, even up to the last minute Tom was giving you more money for more shoots.
BR: Oh, 100%, Tom was just amazingly supportive of the whole process. It was just incredible how much, how smart they are about this, especially because this genre, they really get what this is supposed to be. At the end of the day there's some really controversial things happening in this movie with the cure and Rogue, and those decisions and at the end of the day Tom left it all up to me, he said this is your film, you have a voice, you can back this up. So, there might be some controversy over it, but ultimately, which I really believe, is in a movie about a choice, you need to see both sides. If you only see one side, it's kind of a letdown.
SPOILER WARNING: The following passage reveals key plot details for 'X-Men: The Last Stand' and has been whited out. Please swipe your mouse cursor over the passage if you wish to read it...
Q: Now, Patrick Stewart said when you shot the final scene with Professor X still possibly being alive, he said no one else in the cast knew, it wasn't on the call sheet ...
BR: Nobody at the studio knew ...
Q: No one at the studio knew, okay, that was entirely your decision?
BR: I shot it without putting it on the schedule. I shot it, I didn't even want anyone to know about it.
Q: Now, why did you choose to do that?
BR: It's a spoiler, I just wanted people to, you know, it's a wink, it's not. Death isn't relevant in this universe anyway. I just thought, I got the idea when I read the script about the ethics class, where you can put the body, this consciousness of the person into this body. I said, oh, Professor X is such a beloved character, I said maybe he comes back and, there's a whole lot of story, and real hardcore fans will get that there's a whole thing about him having a twin brother that died at birth. You know, there's some crazy backstory shit going on, so is that the brother who's brain dead, grew up?
(Everyone pauses, and reflects.)
BR: Now, he can show up in the Magneto film, or Wolverine ...
Q: So, music videos or Movies?
BR: Videos, I don't want to shoot another movie again.
(Brett smiles, the room laughs.)
BR: Thank you, everybody ...