The X Factor; Given the Commercial Success of the First X-Men Film It Was a Sure Bet That Marvel's Gaggle of Genetically Mutated Superheroes Would Be Back. Rob Driscoll Meets the Heroes (and Villains) of the Piece Who Tell Him Why This Time the Public Can Really Believe the Hype
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the leader of the mutant packYou might think that Hugh Jackman's three-year-old son is not the ideal target audience for Dad's cinematic alter ego, Wolverine, the razor-clawed, butt-kicking, attitude-heavy, down-and-dirty mutant hero of X-Men and its inevitable sequel, X2.
Yet young Oscar (now there's an optimistic name if ever I head one) has taken Wolverine to his heart, or at least the plastic doll that bears his name.
``It's about a foot high and it's quite squishy,'' enthuses the 33-year-old Australian, whose star status has gone stratospheric, thanks to all things X. ``You press its belly button and it's voice-activated with my voice, and it says things like `I'll slice you in half!' My boy's really taken to it.
``I'll go into his room and he's hugging the toy, subliminally getting these violent messages. I'm sure he'll need therapy at some stage...''
Probably not. As Oscar grows up his mates will just reckon he's got the coolest father on the planet, never mind that when Jackman was initially cast as Logan/Wolverine, six weeks into the first movie's shoot after Dougray Scott dropped out, all those anorak fans of the original X-Men comics were mighty sceptical. So how does this genial, poster-boy 6ft 3ins Australian with a history of song-and-dance theatre turn into a psychotic yet loveable big-haired hero with retractable metal claws and an animal-like fury?
Even Jackman himself freely admits he had never heard of the comics when the offer came his way, but now he's besotted.
``I never read comics as a kid, and when I was slipped the comics under my trailer door Bryan Singer (the director) didn't want us to read them. He was very frightened that we would come out with these 2D characters, and I was amazed at how helpful they were, the images more than the story.
``The images, and how they capture emotion or an action sequence in just, say, three images - I have to say I used them as inspiration for some of the fighting stances or techniques, the way Wolverine stands and how he looks. I think the stories, as well, are epic.''
Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier, the world's most powerful telepathYorkshire-born actor Patrick Stewart boasts one of the best-known bonces in Hollywood. Having made possibly his last Star Trek movie earlier in 2003 with Nemesis, he's moving on with the X-Men franchise, in which he plays Professor Xavier.
But it nearly didn't happen at all - as he thought he was being offered a role in an X-Files movie.
``I was an absolute novice about X-Men,'' confesses Stewart, fast turning into a cult sci-fi icon, what with Star Trek's Captain Jean-Luc Picard now being followed by his Professor Xavier.
``When our producer Laura Shular Donner held up a cover of the comic book, I didn't know what she was talking about. I thought, `X-Files? She's got it wrong. I don't do TV series!''' What a difference a box office hit makes. Never mind Spider-Man, it is unquestionably the success of X-Men - earning $54m in its opening weekend alone in July 2000, and going on to cash up $300m worldwide - that truly reinvigorated the new big-screen super-hero genre, paving the way for the recent Daredevil and the forthcoming Hulk and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, among others.
But as far as Stewart is concerned, the financial success wasn't a factor in his decision to do the follow-up.
``I though the first X-Men was an expensive trailer. ``It was a film that was there to introduce the world of the X-Men, what their powers were, what the roles were. What is a triumph with this film is that it just goes straight into the story and we don't have to do a lot of complicated background work.''Sir Ian McKellen as villainous MagnetoIt was purely down to director Bryan Singer that Sir Ian McKellen, also known as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, was cast as Magneto, the mutants' powerful arch-nemesis who can control and manipulate metal. …