40 Minute Interview: Matthew Vaughn on X-MEN: FIRST CLASS Part 1

MATTHEW VAUGHN INTERVIEW €“ 22 MAY 2011 €“ THE DORCHESTER HOTEL, LONDON On an insanely blustery Sunday afternoon OWF had the opportunity to join a group of fellow online journos and talk to X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn. We met in a bar at London€™s Dorchester Hotel, and after at least three of us cracked our heads on the bizarrely positioned ceiling lamps Vaughn joined us, a little under the weather and apparently a little peckish. He was acerbic, amusing, and in a refreshingly frank and talkative mood despite his state of health, a state apparently brought on by the very recent end of his movie€™s crazy shooting schedule. (filming began Aug 31st, post-production only completed a few weeks ago, and is in cinema's this week - a 9 month turn-a-round) In the nature of roundtable interviews questions were fired from all quarters and without recourse to any sense of order so for the benefit of clarity and because you guys won't particularly care who asked each question and just want to read his responses, I€™m not going to try and differentiate between who asked what. Just read on and enjoy what Mr Vaughn had to say - €˜so ask me questions guys and I€™ll try and answer them as honestly as I can€€™ Q: So first and foremost is this a film about super-powered individuals facing off against one another, or is it a film about political and social ideas?
MV: No idea€ it is what it is. I should be able to answer that. I think it€™s just making this movie was such a crazy experience, we were just trying to get it done, get it finished. This is the first time I€™ve made a movie with no time to think. So, you ask me a question like that normally I€™d be able to tell you that when I set out to make this film I had the following ideas, but every day, it was just making it up. So, I think it is a mixture of both. I think primarily it€™s about the relationship between Magneto and X set against a backdrop of political espionage. I always wanted to do a cold war movie, and desperate to do a Bond film, always have been. So here, got to have my cake and eat it €“ managed to do an X-Men movie and sort of a Bond thing, and a Frankenheimer political thriller at the same time. But I was literally making it up€ this process has been nuts. So don€™t know if that answers your question, but I would say both.
Q: Would you be able to elaborate on that process? You€™re a director who€™s got experience as a producer, under a producer who€™s got a lot of experience as a director. You brought in Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass) to write some of it but there were other writers who€™d established part of the script..
MV: Not really..
Q: So it was mostly you and Jane?
MV: Not that the WGA think that, the fuckwits. No, but Jane Goldman and I wrote the screenplay, threw everything out and started again. Sheldon Turner managed to get a €˜story by€™ credit , he wrote a Magneto script that none of us even read. I didn€™t even know that, I mean I was like who the fuck is this guy? Hollywood€™s got its own way with dealing with these things.
Q: How much input did Bryan have? The film has that undercurrent of humour and character that you and Jane brought to Stardust and Kick-Ass, but it works as an ensemble piece, more than you€™ve done before, and that€™s what Bryan€™s experience is€
MV: You say that but Stardust had a shitload of characters, so did Kick-Ass, so did Layer Cake, Snatch and Lock Stock . I€™m actually more terrified of doing a film with one lead character. The thing about lots of different characters is if someone€™s getting boring I can just say let€™s cut to that plotline. It€™s hard to make sure that they all come across as three dimensional characters but at the same time it€™s easier to con an audience that lots of interesting things are happening if you can switch the channel whenever you need to. But the influence of Bryan? I don€™t know who came up with the original idea, I think it was Bryan€™s, but once I started I think we made the whole film in ten months, we had 9 weeks post. I only saw the film for the first time five days ago. I mean I say it was madness€ there were times I thought we wouldn€™t get the film finished, and if it is finished God knows what it will be like to watch. I was taken out of my comfort zone with this film, I come from low budget film-making which is very much about prepping, making sure every dollar goes on screen, and here I€™ve got hardly any time to prep, had five DPs (directors of photography) on this film, four different Ads (assistant directors). Every now and then I didn€™t know who my crew were, I was like €˜Hi, what do you do?€™. It was good for me, because I had so relied on my DP, AD, this little triumvirate €“ here I was sort of on my own, naked running around and at first it scared the hell out of me, but I got used to it. So as a director I feel far more confident after this film.
Q: So how come John Matheson gets DP credit and we don€™t see any other names?
MV: Welcome to Hollywood. How come all these people who did fuck all on the screenplay get these credits. I think John did the most though so that€™s why €“ John did a great job by the way €“ 55%? I should know. He came on half way through the shoot. Again it was good for me. Normally I€™m far more collaborative with DPs, here I became a bit more of a megalomaniac €“ as in look someone has to take control, this scene€™s about the camera being there now. Normally I€™d ask the DP, what do you think etc, so it was good to get out of that zone.
Q: Did you know you wanted James McAvoy for the role (of Charles Xavier) from the beginning?
MV: He was top of my list. When we talked about who could play Professor X I thought McAvoy was perfect. So I sat with him, and then I think he got pretty annoyed with me because I made him audition with every single actor that came in for Magneto. You know if we€™re gonna try and do that Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid kind of chemistry it€™s really important that you see that chemistry beforehand. I mean poor guy, I was wheeling them in every day, and then when Michael came in, after 20 seconds the two of them together were like€ ok I found them.
Q: There€™s a big push now with 3D, were you asked to do 3D by the studio?
MV: I€™m sure if we had more time they might have brought it up. I€™m not a big fan of 3D. I think Avatar worked because they shot and designed it for 3D, they made it to just give it more depth and you could tell Cameron knows what 3D means, but when you do that post-conversion shit€ I find the glasses annoying, my kids hate it as well, they take the glasses off half way through and I€™m like no you€™ve got to watch it with them, but they don€™t care€ Maybe I should be more of a fan, but Avatar€™s the only 3D movie where I became immersed in the world. I think Cameron called it €˜Real D€™ and he€™s right. Hollywood€™s fucking up 3D as well because they€™re cheapening the process.
Q: You say you only saw the finished film five days ago, are you pleased with it?
MV: I think so. I€™m so close to it guys. Normally in this process 9 weeks after finishing filming I€™m close to having a director€™s cut and I show it to friends and I get about fifty people to see it, get their input, then spend 3-4 months tweaking and changing€ I think I am, I don€™t know. I€™m astonished by it - we only got the visual effects finished for it ten days ago. I was so used to cutting it with bad pre-vis, and I was scared that the movie felt too small because of all the effects I hadn€™t seen. And I think the actors did a great job, we seemed to get away with having different DPs, I think Henry Jackman did a great job with the score. We were writing music three weeks ago. I was sitting at a piano going what€™s Magneto€™s them? I cannot explain how crazy the process has been €“ I think that€™s why I€™m sick now, I think my body€™s just gone whoa, fuck€ But normally it takes me about a year to know if I€™m proud of a film. You need to get away from it and just watch it as a movie. So, I don€™t know is the answer.
As you can tell Matthew Vaughn was in the mood to chat to us and was holding nothing back from this interview. Check back soon for Part II of the generous 40 minutes he spent chatting with us. In the mean time, don't forget to check out Ed Whitfield and Mark Clark's reviews of X-Men: First Class - out June 1st (UK) and June 3rd (US).

Film writer, drinker of Guinness. Part-time astronaut. Man who thinks there are only two real Indiana Jones movies, writing loglines should be an Olympic event, and that science fiction, comic book movies, 007, and Hal Hartley's Simple Men are the cures for most evils. Currently scripting.