The Man Behind the Mutants - Chris Claremont Interview

"When you’ve had your hand in the fate of the X-Men for something like 17 years, chances are you’re most likely going to be asked to be involved in the film adaptation of the comic in some way."
Anyone who has read the X-Men comic has probably heard of Chris Claremont. They've definitely heard of his storylines: "The Dark Phoenix Saga," "Days Of Future Past," "X-tinction Agenda," and the list goes on. In fact, it is nearly impossible for any X-Men fan to not know his stories; he wrote the book for seventeen straight years, and, after a nine-year absence, returned in 2000. Currently writing X-Treme X-Men for nearly two years, Claremont extended his hold to the X-stables to adapting this summer's big screen sequel to the printed page. I talked to Chris about adapting the movie into novel form as well as his take on our favorite mutants.

UGO: After logging nearly two decades on these characters, you've come to write the novel adaptation of the sequel to the 2000 blockbuster movie, loosely based on your 1982 graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills. Is there a feeling of full circle here?

Chris Claremont: Not quite full circle, but there is a feeling of accomplishment, of completion. It's fun (A) to see the characters on the screen and (B) to be in the peripheral part of it.

UGO: How did you become involved with the novelization?

CC: Well, I actually was interested in writing the novelization of the first movie. But then I was in an executive position at Marvel Comics as an editorial director. And there simply weren't enough hours in the day to do the work I was doing with the X-men and do my staff job, and to do a novel in the three and a half minutes that they have budgeted for it in terms of the deadline. So, that gig went to someone else -- Kathryn Rusch. So when this one rolled around, especially given the connection to God Loves, when I heard from Steve Sapphel that Del Ray was very much in the hunt for the license, he and I talked about it, and I said, if they indeed did get the license, to give me a call, because I'd be very interested in doing it. And so they did. He and [Del Ray Editor-In-Chief] Betsy Mitchell gave me a call and we sat down and hammered out a deal.

UGO: How much lead-time were you given?

CC: (CHUCKLES) About twenty minutes. Basically, we had a handshake deal at last year's San Diego Con, and we got the green light on the first draft of the screenplay by mid-August. The first half was due September 13, the finished book was due October 13. So, it was basically ten weeks to turn out a novel.

UGO: That's rough. When there were script changes -- like the deleted danger room sequence -- how did that hamper or help you write?

CC: Well, the script changed every hour. For the most part, it was a matter of evolution. What I did in August was draft an outline of the book. Then, over the course of the succeeding eight to ten weeks, it was a matter of evolution to make sure that scenes that were added to the movie were included to the book, and scenes that were deleted from the movie were deleted from the book. There were a couple of instances we knew were deleted from the movie we got greenlighted to leave in the book because they were cool.

Some things were a matter of surprise. For example, in the earlier drafts of the scene in the American History Museum, Kitty Pryde is one of the courtside attendants in the lunchroom scene, along with Iceman, Rogue, and Pyro. By the time we got to the following draft, she had been pretty much excised from that particular sequence. So, we had to make some last minute adjustments, which, I gather from some online correspondence, we didn't quite catch every reference. What you see in terms of the novel is a snapshot of the screenplay as of the middle of November, which is when we had to lock in the book once and for all.

The fact is, they were still engaged in principal photography, they were still working on the movie. As Bryan [Singer] himself has said, the movie is actually made up of three screenplays. There is the screenplay that is written at the very start of production, which is simply used to sell the movie. There is the screenplay while the movie is being shot. Then there is the screenplay that is written during the editing process. In certain respects, the evolution from the first iteration of the screenplay to the last iteration of the screenplay, from the first words on paper to what you actually see in the theater, can be extraordinary.

So, I would expect there are a lot of surprises in store for the audience come May.

UGO: What was the biggest challenge on this project?

CC: Hitting the deadline. Writing a book in ten weeks is quite an adventure.

UGO: You probably didn't have time for anything else.

CC: Not really. Unfortunately, life doesn't stop for deadlines. But the challenge was to be true to the characters, be true to the canon, be true to my own instincts as a writer, and be true to the story. The idea was to create a piece of work that does justice not only to what I have to contribute to the project, but to the source material, which in this case, is the movie.

UGO: What was your target audience? Was it the general public who, perhaps, saw the first movie and never read the comic, or was it for the fans?

CC: Both. The idea is to create a book that avid and longtime readers and aficionados of the X-men would enjoy, but at the same time, the movie opens up a potential audience for that concept to a much broader, deeper spectrum of people. So, my challenge is to, in effect, satisfy both audiences. Make it totally clear for someone who had never encountered the content before, but also totally irresistible, so that if you read the book, you want to see the movie. But if you read the book you might be intrigued enough to go out and look for the comic and see what that's all about.

UGO: In the book, you mention characters like Rhane Sinclair and Moira McTaggert. Were they actually referenced in the script, or was that a bonus for fans?

CC: Six of one, half dozen of the other. In some cases, they were me, in other cases... The delightful thing about the screenplay is that it was not a significant stretch, not a stretch at all, really, to go from the characters defined in the movie and the characters that have been defined in the comic for the last thirty-five years. In their essence, in their heart and soul, the movie has captured what makes the X-Men the X-Men, both as individuals and as a team. To me, they are actually the theme of the screenplay. The theme is the people I've been writing since... the Ford Administration. So, I felt I had to be true to that vision as they were true to, for want of a better term, my vision. But at the same time, I wanted to make it enticing and exciting and irresistible to the broader, general interest populace. I basically want every reader I can g
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