That's why they call it the blues. Stamos and Cumming talk 'X2'

Wed, April 23rd, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Rob Worley, Columnist

When "X2: X-Men United" opens in theaters May 2nd, Rebecca

Romijn-Stamos will reprise her role as the blue-skinned mutant Mystique. Joining

her with an azure epidermis is Alan Cumming who introduces Nightcrawler to

movie audiences.

Stamos and Cumming recently sat down with the press for round-table

interviews to talk about mutants, makeup and opening gratuitous cans of whoop-ass.

Comics2Film/CBR News is pleased to provide readers with an edited transcript

of that conversation. If you missed it, be sure to check out our previous

transcript with director Bryan

Singer.

Q: It must have been exhilarating that they shaved three hours off your makeup time.

Rebecca

Romijn-Stamos (RRS): That was exhilarating. I really went through it on the first one and I

complained a lot. So I was so happy that they shaved three hours off of it for

this one. I was fine. I was perfectly fine.

He didn't know what he was in for, so I think he probably had it much worse

because he was like me on the first one.

Alan Cumming (AC): Like a novice nun.

RRS: He didn't think he was going to make it through, which is how I felt on

the first one.

AC: It was so great to have someone else there who was like, 'I know.'

RRS: I totally understood. We had a support group.

AC: I'm blue too.

RRS: We have a secret blue club.

AC: Yeah.

RRS: With a secret language.

Q: I wish shaved hadn't been used in that last question.

AC: I know. I thought that every time you said that. 'Shaved three hours off

your thing.'

RRS: Oh...'shaved.' [laughs]

AC: [laughs] I get a visual.

RRS: Really?

AC: Yeah.

RRS: Wow. I hadn't thought of that. Interesting.

Q: Also, we saw a scene out in the cold and you practically have nothing on.

How long of a day was that?

RRS: That was a long day. That was the worst.

AC: It was so cold.

RRS: Of course, that was my very last day on the movie. The last day always

has to be the hardest. I don't know why.

AC: They do things...always on last days they do big stunts or big things

that you might complain about or you might die in...

RRS: ...I thought I might die...

AC: ...so they can still finish the film if you die.

RRS: But you know what about that day? First of all, we were up in the

mountains. It was snowing, ninety mile an hour winds, freezing cold, but they

put potato flakes on top of the snow to try and save my feet from being in the

actual snow, because I was barefoot, and the potato flakes literally turned to

glue on the soles of my feet. I had these big, glue shoes and they'd rush me

back into the helicopter, which is where they'd keep me warm between takes, and

Ian McKellan would pick the glue off the bottoms of my feet. It was...

AC: [laughing] ...a knight of the realm!

RRS: [laughing] ...it was the worst! There's Ian pulling glue off of my feet.

AC: I'm sure it's not the first time he's done it.

Q: What were your first impressions, the first time you actually saw what

Nightcrawler looks like?

AC: Kind of horror because I would have to be sitting there. The first time I

did it was like eight or ten hours just to get my face done. Also we went to

various textures and shades of blue and then the tattoos became a component.

Actually the first time I saw it I thought, 'oh, yuck,' because it was too

dark and I just didn't feel I'd be able to communicate anything with the

audience. I just thought it was going to be such a mask that it would be...you

know, why did they bother hiring me? They could get anyone...

RRS: That's how I felt.

AC: But then you kind of hone it and hopefully by the time you start

shooting...and then you kind of...in a way it was good because in the first two

weeks I was just on my own doing the opening sequence, where I open a can of whoop-ass sequence.

RRS: [laughs]

AC: That's my favorite phrase. That's why I said that.

RRS: [laughing] He just learned it yesterday. He's been working it into every

single interview.

AC: Open a can of whoop-ass.

And in a way you're much more concerned with the wire and hitting the mark

and kicking the stunt man and all that stuff. And then after that, when I got

more into the thing, I was more used to it by then and I could see how I could

act a bit more.

Q: You both have to do a lot of wire work, don't you.

RRS: My costume is so fragile; it disintegrates immediately, so there was no

place to put the wire.

AC: There's no place to put the harness.

RRS: There's no place for the harness. My stunt double [Vickie Phillips] is

the same stunt double from the first one, who is a gymnast, because Mystique has

this unique fighting style.

AC: So all that's non-wires?

RRS: She worked on the wires. I think they took it out in post, digitally

removed the harness, but it was difficult for them to find a gymnast my height,

because most gymnasts are much shorter than I am. Anyway, she was great.

AC: Most people are much shorter than you.

Q: That's one of those things that it looks so cool on screen, but I have a

feeling that the first time they hoist you up...

AC: I'll tell you. There's not much joy in that.

RRS: Harnesses don't feel good.

AC: No. There's chaffing involved. There're so many perils to wearing the

harness.

Q: And then you have to act while you're in them.

AC: That's kind of the least of your worries though, I have to say, when

you've got big, huge, mountaineering style straps near your groin.

And it's scary going up so high. Because you practice with a stunt man first.

Then it's really nice when the stunt man says, 'yeah! You're doing really well,'

and you're like, 'oh!'

It's like your big brother or something telling you you're good at a sport

that you're not really good at. Then when you go into the set to actually do it,

and you start getting pulled up and you can see everyone going, 'oh my God! He's

really high.'

You have to try and not be scared, because you really are!

Q: With both your characters: is it good to see the end result, when the

special effects are added on?

RRS: Yeah.

AC: Yeah. It's fantastic.

RRS: We just saw it on Friday night for the first time and we were, as Alan

says, laughing our tits off.

AC: [laughing] That's only a phrase for you.

RRS: [laughing] I love it. It's so fun.

Q: So do you do a lot of the stunt work?

RRS: I did a lot of the kicking and the punching. Then they bring us in for

the vanity close ups, like the, 'Whew.'

There's a lot of that.

For example Vickie, when I was working with my stunt double, she would come

and watch me on the set just to study how I move, because Mystique is sort of

serpentine and moves a certain way. Then I would come and watch her when she was

fighting and ask her to add in certain gestures here and there.

Q: Is there a trick to emoting through all of that?

RRS: Well that's hard. I'm covered in the silicone and my face is frozen.

It's like the ultimate botox without actually being injected. You don't know if

you're actually conveying what you're trying to convey because you can't

furrow your brow. Your face is frozen.

AC: I'm going to do it.

RRS: Yeah, I think you should.

AC: I'm getting a little wrinkly.

RRS: [giggles] It's going to be huge next year. We're doing an infomercial.

AC: Yeah...The Mystique.

RRS: The Mystique.

AC: [infomercial voice] Would you like Mystique? You've got it.

[Normal voice] I've got those little tattoo things, they're like little

raised things you do on with a thing that you'd ice cakes with. Like a syringe.

I just got those. I don't have any kind of pieces on, so...it was just the

blueness though. And it was just the things like, you can't really see because

of the contact lenses.

I didn't have any kind of physical things between me and the camera, but at

the same time it's still quite daunting. It's like, 'I'm feeling very sad right

now. I wonder if anyone knows.'

RRS: [laughs] 'I wonder if anyone can tell how angry I am.'

AC: There're the teeth as well. It's really hard to speak with the teeth in

your mouth. So when I was snarling and all that, I'd have the teeth, the bottoms

as well. But then when I was speaking I'd mastered being able to sound not like

a big, sibilant drag queen with the top ones in. So I always had less teeth when

I talked then when I was snarling. So there was a constant exchange of dentures.

Q: You were doing that and the accent.

AC: And the accent.

Q: Was that the same accent you did on 'Cabaret?'

AC: Well it's a German one. Yeah. I mean it's not exactly the same. Same

country.

Q: So that wasn't a big challenge for you.

AC: No the challenge was speaking in German, which is very, you know: I don't

read...I can get by in a restaurant in German. But the one time I went home

after a very long day and they said, 'Oh, we're e-mailing you over some new

lines for tomorrow,' and I said, 'OK.'

[it was] Hail Mary in German. And I was like, 'Jesus Christ! How am I gonna

learn this by...'

There's a lovely lady, [Producer Ralph Winter's] assistant Sabrina is

German. So she helped me with the actually pronunciation of the German things.

It's OK speaking with an accent but when you actually have to speak the...

And then they said to me, 'do you want to go to Germany for the German

premiere?'

Is said, 'nah-uh. That's like going into the lion's den.'

Q: Was it a good experience for you coming into that family environment from

the first 'X-Men?'

AC: Yeah. It was. It was nice because they'd all done it. They all knew how

to pace themselves, because it's such a long film. It's very grueling to do a

film like this.

RRS: And also, we were so happy with the success of the first one that we

were able to come back with that much more confidence and do more. We love each

other. I mean it's such a great cast. We love hanging out.

AC: So it was a nice thing to come into. I didn't really feel like 'new boy'

apart from the first two weeks when I was on my own.

Q: Can you talk about the work you did with a circus trainer?

AC: Yeah. He's called Terry [Notary]. He's really good. He used to work with

Cirque du Soleil and he did the movements for 'Planet of the Apes' and stuff. So

when I would go up for my makeup tests in the months prior to shooting, I would

go and spend time with him and do movement.

It was great actually. It was like being back in drama school again. We

worked on how he would run and things like, instead of...oh this is radio so I

can't do it...sorry...but just to get a kind of animal feel to him. We did a lot

of stuff and then we kind of toned it down so it wasn't too much but just subtle

things to sort of suggest how he might move, looking the way he does.

I like being physical in my work, so it was nice to actually work with

someone.

Q: I've noticed a pattern where actors like yourself will do a big spectacle

like this and then look for something smaller.

RRS: I went right into a move called 'Godsend' which was like a really small

crew. It's with Greg Kinnear and Robert DeNiro, about a couple who loses their

child and their child gets cloned, and I went straight from 'X2' into that. It

was so nice to actually learn everyone's name. I just played a mom. I didn't

have to wear any makeup. It was so nice.

AC: I think that's a good thing. I think that makes you a better actor or

artist of any kind, that you mix and match and you go through different mediums

and different styles and tones. You can always bring something from one thing

into the other. If you do the same thing all the time, you kind of limit

yourself.

RRS: And it gets boring.

Q: It's interesting you say you can bring something from one thing into the

other...

AC: Oh, I know where this question's going. I don't have an answer!

Q: ...in a big event movie, the character is harder...it's harder to make

that...

AC: Well, I think that you have a point but what I think works about this

film, and the last film, is that the characters are so strongly defined...

RRS: Right!

AC: ...and so carefully delineated. I suppose...

RRS: They get to open a can of whoop-ass...

AC: ...yes...

RRS: ...but they also have time to do meaningful stuff...

AC: [sensitive voice]...they have feelings too.

RSS: [laughs] ...like real people!

AC: I always thought that, when I played Hamlet for instance...I used to do

stand up comedy and I always think that when I played Hamlet, my Hamlet was

better because I'd done stand-up comedy. I understood about relating to the

audience in the soliloquies. Basically, as a stand-up comedian you're completely

just there with the peole and your looking at them.

And then, so in a way, things like working in the theater and being used to

doing things like movement and dance stuff, that helped me with Nightcrawler

because I had the confidence to kind of be quite bold in terms of you I...

So you can bring other things into...

Q: Is 'Godsend' what we'll be seeing next.

RRS: Yeah. That'll come out in the fall. I think October.

Q: And Alan?

AC: I'm adapting my novel into a screenplay and things like that. Next I'll

be in 'Spy Kids 3D' doing a little return cameo.

And then I'm going to make this film, 'Phantom of the Opera.'

RRS: Shhhh...

AC: A little-known musical.

Q: Who's directing that?

AC: Joel Schumacher. I am playing Christine, yes.

[laughs]

No, I'm playing one of the theater owners.

Q: Did I hear you're doing a TV Series?

AC: Oh yes, there's that as well. There's this thing called 'Mr. and Mr.

Nash.' I'm only doing the pilot. Steve Martin's company is producing it. It's

hilarious. It's sort of like a gay 'Hart to Hart.' It's like a gay couple who

are interior designers and everywhere they go people die and they solve the

murder.

Q: Is TV ready for another gay series, do you think?

AC: Well I don't know. What do you think?

Q: Well I think they're ready for lots more gay series.

AC: [laughs] Hey!

I think the thing about this is that actually...I think it's hilarious and I

love the idea and I'm really excited to see the script, but at the same time I'm

very cautious of it because, it could be the first time that there are gay

people on network television in America and their gayness would be secondary to

what the show is about. That, I think, is a long time coming. But there's kind

of a responsibility to get the tone of it right to embrace the fact that they're

gay but also not to make it just about that.

Q: Do we know who the other person is yet?

AC: No, actually we're having extensive casting session around the globe. No,

I don't know.

Q: Are you up for doing a several year commitment?

AC: Well, I sort of, you know, I'm nervous a bit, but I actually really like

this idea so much and I really like Steve and Joan [Stein], his producing

partner, and I just sort of thought...and also they're going to let me shoot it

on the east coast so I can still live in New York, if it goes to a series.

There's always a chance it won't happen.

I just really, if it's done well, I think it's something I would really,

really enjoy. And, also, it might not happen. It might last one season.

And if it's going really well and it lasts and lasts then, and I was really

unhappy, I could always feign a nervous breakdown.

Q: Do you have a wish list though, of who you would like to see?

AC: No. Not really. I keep forgetting. I don't know because I can't quite

work out, because I think he should be a little older than me, but I can't say

whether he should be gorgeous or not.

Q: 'Godsend': cloning has become one of those hot button, political issues.

RRS: Yeah. It started off as science fiction. Now it's just science. Science

non-fiction.

Q: Were there any discussions about the politics? You never know what the

marketplace is going to be when the movie comes out.

RRS: It's true and we still have a few more months. Who knows what will

happen between now and then. But the movie sort of investigates the ethical side

of cloning within this family's experience of losing a child.

It's interesting. I actually learned a lot about cloning. My character is in

it for the emotional reasons. She wants her son back. She's lost her baby. No

matter what she just wants her kid back.

Q: Did you change your perspective on the issue? Will the movie cause the

audience to change their minds about cloning?

RRS: I don't know. It's a thriller. It's scary. It's kind of got this horror

aspect of it, so it's not entirely reality based. It's kind of...

AC: It sounds quite gothic.

RRS: It is a little bit. It's scary, actually, hopefully.

Q: Alan, what is it about New York that you like?

AC: I think it's a really beautiful place. I love just walking down the

street and you encounter people of all nationalities and experiences. You can

have adventures there. Things just happen to you.

I find L.A. quite difficult. I don't feel like I'm in a city and real

people around me...

RRS: Yeah. Everyone's completely separated.

AC: ...everyone kind of drives to their homes. Strangely, for a country

boy, I really crave being in the middle of a city.

Q: When the blue stuff comes off, do you still have the experience of finding

it on you later?

RRS: Oh yeah. I mean I have blue on me for months and months and months. I

mean, I knew it was in my ears. I'd get on a plane to go home and strike up a conversation

with the person next to me and wonder how long it would take for

them to comment on the blue in my ears.

I sort of see them looking at it...taking a peek.

Taking it off was, you put this chemical on and it breaks the paint down.

Alan and I had a shower trailer that we shared.

AC: Yeah. It was very exotic. It was like a spa.

RRS: It really was.

AC: We had music.

RRS: It looked beautiful and they had the temperature just right. In all

there were probably twelve showerheads, but it never worked. The water would

never come on. So you'd put the chemical on your skin to break the paint down,

and it burns your skin if you leave it on for a certain amount of times. One out

of every two times the shower trailer wouldn't work and I would end up in tears

because the stuff is hurting my skin.

I remember sneaking into Alan's side of the shower trailer once and just

pulling the pieces off and Alan opens the door and says, 'Oh, I'm so sorry for

you.'

I'm like crying.

Q: Have you encountered X-Men fans?

RRS: Oh man, they come out of the woodwork. It's amazing. Most of my friends

are just like...

And the information just finds you. Everyone keeps asking us if we knew a lot

about the X-Men when we started. Once you start making these movies, the

information comes to you, whether you like it or not. You know everything about

X-Men.

AC: It's like the French Resistance. Once you're in, you're in.

RRS: You're in for the long haul.

AC: People bring you things. It's like the strangest people are all X-Menny.

RRS: [laughs] X-Menny!

AC: I'm just starting to find out about all this. Like last week I was doing

a book tour in London, so I'm signing that book and then all of a sudden there's

all these Marvel comics with my face on it. I'm like, 'Hey. How about buying a

book?'

There're just endless amounts of these things that people have now and they

get you to sign them.

RRS: I have a friend that goes to Comic-con every year and he's been trying

to get me to go. I just don't know. I don't know if that's a safe place to go.

AC: I know because there's such a feeling that you'll disappoint people.

RRS: Right. Exactly.

AC: I find that with things that you do that people have become obsessed by.

It's not just that you're scared of them, because sometimes you can be. Also,

you think, 'if you're so obsessed by this, I don't want to let you down.'

RRS: 'I want to live up to your expectations.'

AC: 'I don't want to spoil it for you.' Yeah, I would be a bit nervous of that.

 
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