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The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past.’ The beloved characters from the original “X-Men” film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from the past, ‘X-Men: First Class,’ in order to change a major historical event and fight an epic battle that could save our future. Acting as a sequel to both ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ and ‘X-Men: First Class,’ ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ includes cast members from both: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, and Daniel Cudmore return from ‘X-Men: The Last Stand,’ while James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Lucas Till return from ‘X-Men: First Class.’
There’s a lot of emotion and built up anger between your Erik/Magneto and James McAvoy’s Charles/Professor X in this movie, especially considering what has happened in the time between that moment on the beach in Cuba in ‘X-Men: The First Class’ and now years later in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past.’ What was it like exploring that dynamic between these two men with James?
Michael Fassbender: With James McAvoy it’s easy. Like duck to water, you know? He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s super professional, he’s intelligent and we’ve got a good rapport – don’t tell him all these good things (laughs). We’re very open and honest with each other and we share ideas and we try things out. Charles and Erik’s dynamic in the film is pretty antagonistic. There’s a lot of loss, hurt, turmoil, pain, love, anger. There’s both such a different means these two men have in terms of achieving what they believe to be the best outcome for mutant society. And that will mean that there will always be conflict there. But I think the respect is great, still. For me the main thing was abandonment perhaps, from both sides. A feeling of loss because what we saw in ‘X-Men: The First Class’ was two characters who realized that they were so alike and could speak to one another on an equal platform. So there was a great bond between these two men, and then of course the tragedy is that they can’t seem to agree on the means to achieve what both of them seem to want.
When we saw Erik last in ‘X-Men: First Class’ he had allied himself with Mystique, and there’s a pretty antagonistic and loaded relationship between Erik, Mystique and Charles as well in this movie….
Michael Fassbender: That’s a dynamic I found really interesting. I think with Mystique and Magneto, a war has been alive since they left that beach in Cuba and we’ve lost a lot of comrades and colleagues. Then of course Magneto gets arrested, so she’s the lone assassin out there fighting for the mutant cause. So I hadn’t seen her, but the next thing I found out is that she’s a threat to mutant survival because her DNA and her genetic makeup is going to be used to create these Sentinels which are essentially going to wipe up out in the future. So she’s now become a liability. But there’s a loaded relationship between all three of them, with Mystique sort of in the middle of Charles and Erik.
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And then this time I know you spent a lot of time listening to and watching Ian McKellen to get more of a hold on his accent and rhythms as a younger Erik/Magneto…
Michael Fassbender: Yeah. I had to adjust on this one because I hadn’t sort of done any of Ian’s accent in the first one. I spent a lot of time with Ian through the power of the internet up until we met at Comic Con. But he’s great. He’s a class act, he’s an amazing actor and it’s a great privilege and an honor to be allowed to fill his younger shoes as it were. But we sort of kept missing each other and I didn’t get to speak with him until Comic Con – which was great, finally (laughs)!
For this one, I spent more time watching this thing on YouTube, which was Ian in the ’70s, giving an RSC workshop about ‘MacBeth,’ and that ran for about ten minutes. So I was just playing that, over and over getting more of the rhythms and tones of his voice.
A big theme in X-Men is the idea of feeling like an outsider and maybe feeling disengaged from society – which is definitely something we see from Erik.
Michael Fassbender: Definitely. What’s always great about the X-Men films, for me, is always the idea of outsiders and people who have disengaged from society one way or the other, and they’re trying to either reengage or attack because of it. I think that sets up a really great conflict. That’s always the attraction for me. The characters conflicts and dilemmas are still there very much so in this film, which I find interesting – because there’s a lot going on between Mystique, Hank, Charles, my own character and Hugh trying to be this sort of messenger from the future and learning about all that is happening in real time with the knowledge that he has of the future also. There’s a lot of threads going on and a lot of relationships sort inter-playing, I think that’s pretty interesting and rare in a big movie like this.
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I think the idea of alienation or feeling like an outsider, for whatever reason, is still very prevalent within our society and a lot of people deal with it….most people deal with it at some point in their life, unless they’re sort of the golden child (laughs). I think that’s something that we all need to address. I think the fact that we still continue to be very tribal, and we haven’t really moved away from that over hundreds and hundreds of years of experience. That’s quite interesting.
You got to work on some great sets in this film. For me the Pentagon prison cell scene stands out, where we see Erik in a state of Zen almost….
Michael Fassbender: The Pentagon prison cell that served as my home in the film’s early scenes really helped me define Erik’s character. The prison cell gave me an idea of a past life, and how Erik managed to get through those ten years of being imprisoned, around which I came up with the lotus idea. The ‘lotus’ is Erik’s state of Zen, where he spends hours in his cell elevated, sitting cross-legged in a meditative state, gathering his strength.
And with a film like this, it’s fun when you take moments in history and play with them and I think that’s another great thing the X-Men franchise does. It was a very smart idea to do the magic bullet theory for President Kennedy and then to play out those scenes on the lawn with Nixon. Not only is it a very bold move but it’s also a fun one. I think taking large strides as opposed to half steps is the best way to approach these kinds of things.
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