When much of the X-Men: Days of Future Past cast—including stars Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ellen Page, and Peter Dinklage—came to New York to promote the newest X-Men adventure, they were completely glowing at what was just the beginning of a positive wave of media reaction for the superhero flick.
Indeed, long before I wrote my review for the movie, I had to tell Lauren Shuler Donner, Days of Future Past executive producer and franchise shepherd, that this movie was genuinely fantastic, and possibly the best the series has had to date. She, like the rest of the cast and crew, seemed pleased with the strong feedback the movie was already receiving. So, when they sat down to unwind in front of a group of journalists, they appeared as nothing short of bemused at how enthusiastic the movie’s reception has been, from Jackman joking about Wolverine’s proto-1970s hairstyle to Stewart slyly musing about the flying sequences and how “all actors have a Peter Pan in them somewhere.” Though for some, it’s a Tinker Bell, he added with a smirk that defined the easy-going acting troupe’s rapport.
“It was like an incredible reunion for all of us,” Jackman said about doing the film’s future scenes on a set with the same director and much of the same cast that he started the franchise with 14 years ago. “Then on came the young and inexperienced actors,” he added with a pause for laughter. Once Stewart finished riffing with Jackman on that punch line, the latter became more earnestly reflective on how the series continues to impress and work from one cast to the next.
“I remember very clearly sitting at the back of that private plane watching these two guys [McAvoy and Fassbender] go at it. And I say this absolutely sincerely: I never thought it’d be possible to fill the shoes of Ian [McKellen] and Patrick, and what they did in X-Men. When I saw First Class, I realized these guys did it with such aplomb and confidence. Not only did they feel like the younger [or] more inexperienced versions of those characters, but they have also made it their own.”
Of the actors present, Stewart and McAvoy were the ones who shared the odd chore of playing the same character in the movie and even, for a brief moment, in the same scene. Both were complimentary in analyzing their dual perspectives of what McAvoy described as a “crucible” film for Xavier, and one where his true motivations are forged by fire.
Thinking back to that single scene where they shared the frame, Stewart found it amusing that it was his last day of filming and McAvoy’s first.
“I’m not quite sure how it came about that we were nose-to-nose like that, but I can’t think of any other possible way of making this scene work, because you’re looking into the eyes of yourself.”
McAvoy, for his part, saw this brief passing of the torch moment as a chance to be excited and honored to share the scene.
“I’ve been a fan of Patrick’s for long, long years,” McAvoy said. “I watched him for seven years on Star Trek and Dune. So, getting to come and do my version of a character that he’s been in charge of for 14 years at his face was quite nerve-racking. So, you’ve got the two choices: get nervous and let it overcome you or get quite excited that you might fail. So, it was good fun!”
“The key thing,” McAvoy continued, “was watching the empathy that pours out of you in the previous movies. I hoped in First Class to emulate that, because it’s sort of the prime characteristic of Professor Xavier, this willingness to care, to reach out, and help, and touch.”
In response, Stewart lightened the mood with the deadpan of wanting to reshoot the original trilogy having now seen the two most recent ensemble X-Men pictures.
Says Stewart, “It made me feel that I’d really like to go back and shoot all the other movies again, now that I know exactly where I came from and what I was. I could get so much more James McAvoy into that thing!” Being teed with such a perfect set-up, McAvoy added with a far less Xavier-earnest tenor, “I think everybody needs a little James McAvoy in them.”
Michael Fassbender meanwhile reflected how he did not even talk to Ian McKellen until the San Diego Comic-Con 2013 panel for X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was a happy moment. However, he also admitted that Magneto is far more modeled after Ian McKellen in this film as opposed to in X-Men: First Class. On preparing for the role, Fassbender spoke of how he looked to video footage of McKellen’s youth on the stage.
“For this one, I had basically this thing on YouTube, which was Ian McKellen in the ‘70s giving a workshop of Macbeth. And it ran for about 10 minutes, and that’s what I had. So, I was just sort of playing that over and over again, trying to get the rhythm and tone of his voice.” Still, Fassbender laments that he didn’t share a scene with McKellen, speculating with a laugh that they flipped a coin, and James and Patrick won the toss.
Thus compared to the other leading men in the film, Jackman could sit back and smile that the younger version of himself is the ageless Wolverine, whose only noticeable change is the consistency in his claws. In fact, Jackman openly states that Days of Future Past covers Wolverine in his prime.
“For Wolverine going back to the ‘70s—I think it’s just perfect. I don’t think Wolverine ever wanted to leave the ‘70s! The hair, the mutton chops, the clothes, the cars. I think the moment that Tears for Fears, Flock of Seagulls, Wham!, and Duran Duran came along, Wolverine’s like ‘I’m out!’”
The rapport was so strong that it seemed slightly wrong to think that this might be the last X-Men movie for one cast or the other. While the actors graciously left the question of who will appear in the next movie to screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg to skirt with a non-answer, Stewart at least offered this observation:
“Where we leave James in this story, we are waiting to see the transition—the reformation if you like—to happen. That’s a movie I would pay money to see.”
Now that he mentions it, so would we.