'X2' director pumped about film's success

Still feeling exuberant about th
Still feeling exuberant about the success of "X2: X-Men United," a summer-kickoff release that raked in $155 million worldwide its opening week, Bryan Singer, the director of both "X-Men" films, replied jokingly when asked how he was taking in the phenomenal success, "I thought you were going to ask me what my take is."

Marvel Comics chairman Stan Lee, left, and director Bryan Singer ham it up at the premiere of "X2." The film is the fifth as a director for Singer, who says a spinoff movie is "definitely something that interests me."
Associated Press library photo

Singer, 38, is no stranger to Hollywood success. "The Usual Suspects," which he directed, established him as a filmmaker to watch. But "X2" travels into new territory — blockbuster territory.

While talking about the film, Singer's energy and enthusiasm gain momentum. The affable director speaks more quickly, displays hand gestures and gets on a roll. "I'm pleased. It's good, you know. Success sells success. You have that kind of opening, it sells to a wider audience," he said. "This film is significant."

Then Singer went on to speculate about what in "X2" attracted so much attention.

"The whole idea of 'X-Men 2' is that you don't need to see the first 'X-Men.' You do not need to be a fan of the 'X-Men' comic books. You can go see this movie and enjoy it and understand it," he said.

"In your darkest and loneliest hour, you could go to Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted in New York, where you can live a magical life, where you can be accepted and loved for who you are and help plan the world, whether or not the world cares about you," he said. "Now you got a family. It's almost a dream life, in a way."

Singer said most comic-book superheroes "fight crime or seek revenge." But the X-Men, a multigenerational group of men and women, fight "for a way of life and for their existence."

Asked whether there'll be spin-off movies involving Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Magneto (Ian McKellen) or the younger superheroes, Singer replied, "There's nothing specific that I'm involved with ... but that's definitely something that interests me."

Bryan Singer
• Age: 37

• Director of: "X2: X-Men United," released May 2; "X-Men" (2000); "Apt Pupil" (1998); "The Usual Suspects" (1995), "Public Access" (1993)

• New member of: The advisory board of the University of Hawai'i Cinematic and Digital Arts Program

Singer appeared Friday at an "X2" event presented by the University of Hawai'i Cinematic and Digital Arts Program and its co-director, Chris Lee, who had worked with Singer in Hollywood. The event attracted a crowd of mostly young and starstruck observers who wanted to hear more about the process of creating a megahit.

Many may also have wanted to catch a glimpse of Kelly Hu, 35, who joined the "X2" cast as Lady Deathstrike. Hu, however, bowed out, appearing that night on "Last Call With Carson Daly". In her place was Shawn Ashmore, 23, the actor who plays Bobby Drake/Iceman in both "X-Men" movies.

Making a film career

At the talk, Singer revealed that he has agreed to serve on the advisory board for the UH cinematic program. Naturally, Lee asked Singer how film school influenced his career. Singer called it vital.

"Not only was I exposed to many great films, and also had some exposure to equipment and technology, but I ended up interacting with a lot of great people and became partners with some of them," he said.

A graduate of the University of Southern California, Singer directed the award-winning "Lion's Den." The 25-minute film earned him the chance to direct and produce "Public Access," which received a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1993.

He went on to direct the Academy Award-winning film "The Usual Suspects," starring Kevin Spacey, which took home Oscars for best original screenplay and best supporting actor.

He followed up with the disturbing "Apt Pupil," starring McKellen, with whom Singer worked in both "X-Men" films.

"X2" screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris also were in Hawai'i for the UH event. What's most striking about them is their youth: Harris is 23 and about to direct an independent feature, "Imaginary Heroes," starring Sigourney Weaver, and Dougherty, 28, is making a name in the science fiction and horror genres.

Their advice for Hawai'i filmmakers: If you want to direct, make a short film. If you want to write, keep writing. You don't need anyone else's permission to write a script or make a short film, they said. Make your own opportunities.

Dougherty and Harris are credited as the screenwriters of "X2," but they noted that screenwriters Tom DeSanto and David Hayter worked on the early foundation of the movie.

"The key person behind the story is really (Singer)," Dougherty said.

Harris added, "He's responsible for every choice made, in some way, for this film. He's the guardian of the story."

'X-Men' scenario modified

Singer elaborated on some of this, such as his decision to modify the basic X-Men scenario: "In the original X-Men comic, Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted was basically the X-Men. Professor Xavier was their teacher. I thought it would be cool to get a school for gifted youngsters, and you get to see a student body. Early on in the first 'X-Men,' I made the X-men teachers and Xavier as the head of the new generation, to explore characters like Pyro and Iceman," he said.

As to what Dougherty and Harris contributed, Harris said, "Mike and I work together as a team. We're always collaborating, and at some point you forget whose ideas were whose."

Dougherty said, "The funny thing was, when we first started, people had the perception that I was the sci-fi/horror guy and Dan was the dramatic, dialogue guy, and I think we ended up trading those hats."

In "X2" they set up several characters who may have bigger roles to play in future films, including Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), a bulked-up guy who could transform his body into bulletproof metal, and Siryn (Shauna Kain), whose mutant power is her deafening scream.

"There was a point where in the script a kid pulls an alarm on the wall, and it felt so lame and it just felt so easy," Dougherty said. "We had Siryn in another scene. We decided to take her out of that part and move her into the mansion attack, and I think it worked great."

However, adding Colossus was a bit of a fight for a little while, said Harris.

"It was always up in the air if he'd make it in the film, only because they didn't know what the effect was going to look like. They weren't sure if it was going
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