SANTA MONICA, California — Taking control of a beloved franchise might scare some directors. For Brett Ratner, it was just another day at the office. Ratner recently sat down with MTV to discuss the DVD release of “X-Men: The Last Stand” (due October 3), how his film differs from the first two in the trilogy and the power of the director.
MTV: Comic book fans are crazy — some guy has posted a script online for what he hopes will be “X-Men 4.” Now that there’s some distance from the release, what reaction have you gotten from fans, positive or negative?
Brett Ratner: When I was shooting the movie it was 90 percent negative, and then it became 90 percent positive. I didn’t look at the Internet the whole time I was shooting because [“X-Men” and “X2″ director] Bryan Singer told me, “Whatever you do, don’t look at the Internet.” There are rabid fans, and each fan has a different opinion of who should be at the forefront of the series. Some people were obsessed with Rogue, so they think that Rogue should have the most screen time. If I start to listen to that stuff, it’ll just drive me nuts. I literally did not read anything. I was in Canada in heavy production for over 100 days focused on making my movie. I wasn’t, you know, worrying about what other people wanted.
MTV: Was the success of the film a personal vindication in any way?
Ratner: No. I mean, look: I felt that it was a built-in franchise. It had a huge core audience, [so] the movie was going to be successful. The thing that I was personally excited about was that I love the movie. At the end of the day, I was happy with how it came out. It was one of my dreams to make a superhero film, and my dream came true. All the actors loved the movie so much, and that was great for me because they were in the first two. I’m sure if there was an “X-Men 4,” they would all show up if I was directing it.
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MTV: You got onboard late in the development process. What input did you have into the script? Did you say, “I want more of this character,” or, “I want a scene in this location”?
Ratner: I did not change the plot of the film. … Two of my other movies, I came into the project [while it was already in development]. Directors are, in my opinion, the auteurs of the movie. Not that writers aren’t important, but that’s why it’s a Brett Ratner film and not a Zak Penn or a Simon Kinberg film. That’s why it’s a Bryan Singer film. I’m the most collaborative person with the writers. I actually had Simon and Zak there the whole time I was making the movie. They’re the biggest “X-Men” fans in the world, so, you know, I’m not taking anything away from them. But what I’m saying is the script is not the movie. The movie’s the movie. Where I put the camera, how I block the scene, the tone of the scene — but I did stay very true not only to the first two movies but to the comic books.
MTV: Speaking of comic books, how much of the movie was drawn from Joss Whedon’s story “Gifted”?
Ratner: It wasn’t just from Whedon. Every scene in this movie you could find in an existing comic book — a portion of it or the idea behind it. I didn’t want the fans saying, “Oh, Brett Ratner invented this in his mind.” So I made Zak and Simon show me the comic book references. Every single scene I had on my wall in my office in comic book form.
MTV: Was it difficult to balance so many characters? There are so many more mutants in this film than in the previous two.
Ratner: Well, that was the challenge. I didn’t want to reinvent the franchise. My goal was to stay true to the first two movies and create a film that felt like it was part of a trilogy, as if you’re watching “Lord of the Rings.” I thought Bryan did a brilliant job of creating the universe, so I just stayed within that tone and focused on the emotionality of the story and the characters.
MTV: So would you have preferred to focus on fewer characters?
Ratner: No. When I did “Red Dragon,” I had a huge ensemble. The most difficult part is balancing it. How much time do you spend with Rogue or Wolverine? The most interesting story line, I think, is the Dark Phoenix plot. I gave Halle Berry’s character a little bit more to do. So that was my focus. Bryan focused more on the male characters. I focused more on the female aspect of it, because that was what my plot was.
MTV: Does living in the DVD age make it easier for a director? Are you able to experiment more?
Ratner: Absolutely. You no longer have to put scenes in the movie just because you love them. You know it’s going to exist somewhere forever in another format.
MTV: What scenes that you fell in love with are on the DVD?
Ratner: Well, I put all the deleted scenes on. There are some interesting things on the DVD as far as debates we were having. For instance, if Rogue should get cured or not — I put on the alternate version where Rogue doesn’t get cured. I was passionate about it, because … you need to show both sides in the film. But there’s no scene that was so important to me that I had to have it in the movie.
MTV: Are there going to be any future “X-Men” movies?
Ratner: It wasn’t in the plan, but I loved the experience of it, and I loved all the actors, and I would definitely do it again if they asked me to come back. I had that little thing [at the end] where Magneto moved the [chess] piece. Did I want to see a sad, old pathetic man who lost his powers in a park? Did I personally want to see some hope? Yeah. It wasn’t because of the fans, I just wanted to see it. Is it mind over matter, or is it the power? Poses a lot of questions.
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