As a woman of my word and a huge X-Men fan, here’s the aforementioned blog post that highlights all the insightful bits I learned from attending Fantasia’s Q/A with the surprisingly humble yet charming Bryan Singer.
1. He’s got a creative soul. Okay, this one is a no brainer. He’s a filmmaker, writer and director, which makes him a jack of all trades but what most people don’t know is that his first love was photography. He had a serious love affair that started at the precocious age of 11 years old where he had his very own darkroom. It goes without saying that this man was a definite right brainer from the very start.
2. He made his very first movie at the age of 13 . The movie was titled “Star Trek Murders” and it marked his first debut into the realms of filmmaking. He filmed with an 8mm camera and used props like ketchup as fake blood and silly costumes.
3. His inspiration? Steven Spielberg. After seeing Spielberg’s critically acclaimed “ET” he found inspiration in the fantasy genre and after seeing how it launched Spielberg’s status as a legendary filmmaker he thought to himself “if a goofy looking jewish guy can make it, then why the hell can’t I?”.
4. He grew up in the suburban part of central New Jersey with fellow friend and actor Ethan Hawke, who he made a short film with titled “Lion’s Den”. The movie was a 25 minute “biopic” about him and his friends just hanging out.
5. He suffered from what I like to refer to as the “youth complex”. In his own words “he looked uniquely young” and it would confuse people on the set thinking he was working as an intern or a production assistant when in reality he was the head of the biz-ness aka the director.
6. His least favourite thing ? : Casting Actors. He meets hundreds of actors during casting calls and knows that he has to turn most of them down and can’t give them the time of day. To make matters worse, a lot of the actors in the casting calls he admires on some level . This leaves him feeling guilty and frustrated. If it were up to him he’d “take them all out for lunch”. Turns out, he’s got a heart of gold.
7. He’s a huge fan of Stephen King novels. He got inspired by reading “Apt Pupil” a short novella by Stephen King that lead him to directing and producing the movie. Despite it not being a successful film, it made a lot of money at the box office and lead him to saving up money to direct the first of the X-Men movies back in 1996
8.He originally hated the comics of X-Men. Turns out, he couldn’t relate to the characters. Bryan openly admitted that he initially didn’t know who Stanley (aka Stan Lee),the creator of the X-Men comics was when he approached him and deemed him as a “God”. Despite that, he found Stan a cool guy and collaborated with him and took his job of producing X-Men more seriously.
9. He’s intimidated by actors. Patrick Stewart was actually the first big shot actor he worked with. He was normally used to working with actors before they became famous. Fellow actor and good friend Ethan Hawke once told him that “good actors equal production value” . He took this advice to heart and realized that actors make the movie and create most of the magic behind the production. He gave an example, celebrating Jack Nicholson’s infamous sinister stare in movie The Shining which became one of the most iconic and memorable scenes in movie history.
10. Geek Alert : He made a cameo performance in Star Trek Nemesis (10) . Turns out he’s a lifelong fan of Star Trek as well and made a short cameo appearance that’s 19 frames long. He didn’t blink once.
11. He’s a classic horror movie fan and would love to direct a suspense film . I can proudly declare that he’s not a fan of most of today’s slasher films (major props given ) but rather is into classic horror and suspense films like the Exorcist, Aliens and The 6th Sense.
12. He LISTENS and CARES. Unlike most big shot directors who fall into the category of being self absorbed narcissist douchebags, Singer cares (or at least he gives off the impression he does) . During casting, he finds the actors strengths and weaknesses and makes a few adjustments in the script to accommodate them. He listens to their input , does a lot of rewriting during production and makes them do their thing. During the filming of X- Men’s Days of Future Past, he was more concerned about how the extra’s didn’t go to the bathroom in a while. It’s safe to conclude he isn’t a jackass.
13. He talked a bit about his newest installment of X-Men : Days of Future Past . He reveals how it’s not the happiest of the X-Men films, but has the brightest intention. It’s set in 1973, ten years after First Class and touches on similar themes from the previous X-Men like social alienation and acceptance but focuses on the relationship between Magneto and Prof X and HOW they became who they are. Add time travel and visual effects into the mix and you got yourself a potentially awesome sequel to First Class.
14. He thinks Montreal is a great city. Reasons being? a) We got great bars B) The stages are close to the city making it a lot more travel friendly (luckily he hasn’t rode on our metro’s) C) We got the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal which give it that European feel (think Paris and Russia) D) He spent 2 months here and loved it
15. His friend convinced him to direct X-Men 2 and 3 . In order for Singer to delve into the character history better, his friend drew him in by creating a paradigm between Prof X and Magneto. Prof X represents Martin Luther, while Magneto represents Malcolm X. By viewing it in this paradigm, Singer could portray the underlying conflict that doesn’t have to do with the duality of good and evil but rather about the ambiguity between different POVS.
16. His favourite character in X-Men is Professor X . He relates to Professor X the most because similar to Prof X, he’s the one who takes responsibility of the big tasks or better yet “holds the ship together” . For this reason he has a soft spot for the Prof.
17 . He gave Hugh Jackman the role of Wolverine after a janitor was under the impression he was already cast. Here’s a little anecdote for you : When Hugh flew in from New York to do a screen test with Anna Paquin, Singer was listening in the corner with his headphones on when a janitor came up to him and mistaken him for an intern (because of his youth afflicted self ) . The janitorpointed at Hugh and asked him if he heard how this was “the guy who got to play Wolverine” .Amused by the janitor’s impression of Jackman, Singer offered Hugh the role on the spot.
18. He had a violent temper tantrum and got locked out in an editing room. During his youthful days, Singer got in a fight with an editor because he didn’t like a scene and couldn’t work with John Ottman. He reacted in a childish way by smashing a bottle on the wall and was locked out of the editing room for 3 days . On top of that, it was the same editing room where he produced the TV show “House” which he jokes about “exercising” to unleash all the bad karma. Ironic eh?
19. He considers “Wolverine” as the odd one out. What makes Wolverine so badass? Singer agrees that it has to do with him not being like the other mutants. Unlike the other mutants who have inherent mutant powers, Wolverine had metal claws put inside of him by a strange being. As a result of this, he’s got a tougher demeanour and gets away with poking fun of the rest of the mutants.
20. He reveals how Russell Crowe would have taken the role of Wolverine only if he could have played him BALD. (turns out not everyone is a hater of a big shiny head) Add to that, Singer did an amazing British impersonation of the Crowe.
Added observations : He considered himself a terrible student and knew he couldn’t do anything else but make films . He prefers to read for pleasure at night and is currently reading “Citrus Country”, a coming of age novel.
All in all, it was an interesting and eventful night. We also got to see some film footage of the new installment of X- Men : Days of Future Past which I unfortunately can’t share, but will tell you it looks promising!
Photo of Bryan Singer @Q/A
Here’s some of the footage that my friend filmed with his fancy pants iphone that features Singer talking about his experience as a 19 year old working as an assistant for a film crew : http://youtu.be/weZJFTLEoEg