'X2' Set Visit Uncovers Secrets: X-Mansion Attack, Better Hair For Halle

Less explanation, more mutation in sequel to 'X-Men.'

VANCOUVER — When "X2" slams into theaters next year, here are some of the things that you can expect to see:

  • A full-scale attack on the X-Mansion

  • New mutants like Nightcrawler, Pyro and Colossus

  • Expanded roles for Rogue and Iceman

  • A visit to the Weapon X facility, which contains X-rays of Angel's wings, the body of John Proudstar and the secrets to Wolverine's past

  • Cyclops sporting a new visor ... and, thankfully, a much better wig on Halle Berry

These were just some of the topics discussed at a recent press conference held on the super-secret Canadian set of the hotly anticipated sequel to the Marvel Comics flick. Deep within a chilly, cavernous soundstage not far from where the insides of the Mach II X-Jet rest, all of the new film's main players assembled at a long table in front of a giant 3-D "X" logo and mock news clippings decrying the "mutant menace."

Fox studio representatives, who had hoped to pull a few cast members away during lunch, were amazed by the scheduling miracle that allowed Kelly Hu (Lady Deathstrike), Brian Cox (Stryker), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Mystique), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Patrick Stewart (Professor X), director Bryan Singer, Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Halle Berry (Storm), Famke Janssen (Dr. Jean Gray), James Marsden (Cyclops), Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler), Anna Paquin (Rogue) and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) to sit together at the same time. All of them, returning cast members and newcomers alike, were ecstatic about the movie they were making.

"A good percentage of the first movie was exposition and explaining the characters," Marsden observed, "and we've gotten that out of the way."

Now it's time to delve deeper and to introduce some new players into the fold. Like Nightcrawler, a teleporting circus performer with a tail who's covered in blue fur and tattoos.

"I rue the day when I was the one who said, 'no, let's do the tattoos, they look really good!' " the Scottish actor joked when quizzed about the long makeup process he endures. "I hope maybe that if there's a sequel, that some strange mutant accident can have taken place and Nightcrawler will have no tattoos — and will be white!"

He did point out that the Nightcrawler getup is not without its "advantages."

"When I don't have the full tail I [wear] this little stub thing," he said. "And that's quite popular with the ladies."

In addition to introducing Nightcrawler, the villainous Lady Deathstrike and the flame-controlling Pyro (see " 'X-Men 2' More Mutant-Packed Than Original"), "X2" promises to delve more deeply into some old favorites.

"At the end of the first movie, [Wolverine's] going to track down his past, which is very much what this movie is about," Jackman said. "It doesn't come to a complete resolution, but it gets pretty damn close. He's, in a way, emotionally at a crisis point. So it's more internal. You get a more internal look at the character, and that's been really fun. For a movie such as this — if you want to call it an action movie, a comic-book movie — all of the characters have dimension beyond what you would expect."

"Rogue has left a lot of the shy, timid shutting-everyone-out out, because she has been accepted into a group where she is not an outsider or gonna be treated differently or poorly because of her mutant abilities," Paquin explained of her character's development. "She doesn't need to be rescued. She's not the damsel in distress anymore. It's fun. There's a lot more action-y kind of stuff I get to do."

"[Iceman] gets brought into the fold a little bit," Ashmore added. "He's still a student at the school. But I think his role in the film is to join the group and to become a more important part of the whole adventure that happens."

"With the same opportunities, perhaps we will see [Professor Xavier] develop as richly as Jean-Luc [Picard] did," Stewart observed half-jokingly, prompting Singer to show off the "Star Trek: Nemesis" T-shirt he was wearing. With a wide smile, he added that both Xavier and Picard could "kick Captain Kirk's ass!"

While there are currently numerous comic-book adaptations in production (see "Flying Half-Amphibian With Pointy Ears Lands Movie Deal"), the original "X-Men" film really got the ball rolling. Everyone involved insists that the success of "Spider-Man" (see " 'Spider-Man' Breaks Box-Office Record") has done nothing to alter "X2"'s course.

"The 'X-Men' movies, particularly this one, which is a bit darker and a bit edgier than the previous one, [are] a little different than 'Spider-Man,' " Singer observed. "It's also a universe, unlike 'Spider-Man,' that has a specific fanbase that's very strong. And then it has another group that has no idea what 'X-Men' is beyond the movie, whereas 'Spider-Man' is part of the common lexicon. My mother knows what 'Spider-Man' is. ...  Our tone and that reality make us a very different kind of comic-book adaptation.

"I hate to draw comparisons to other films," he later elaborated, "but a little like the way that 'The Empire Strikes Back' explored people's frailties and weaknesses and also the potential weakness of the group and their triumph over 'evildoers,' this film's like that kind of story. So you get to see everybody's weaker side. Both Xavier and Magneto are cut from a similar cloth and both of them are not entirely right or wrong. That's why I decided to have Magneto back in the story. That's what's interesting, is that they are not as different as you might think."

Fox Studios, which is also behind the currently-in-post-production "Daredevil" adaptation (see "Affleck, Garner Open Up About 'Daredevil' "), plans to unleash "X2" on May 2, 2003.