James Marsden talks "X-Men" and "Preacher" at WizWorld

Saturday at Wizard World: Los Angeles, cinema star James Marsden was part of a panel discussion, joined on stage by "X2" screenwriter Mike Dougherty and executive producer Tom DeSanto, for a Q&A session that was equal parts informative and fannish.

The first question, presented by Wizard's Mike Cotton, asked what was the plan for X3. "Fox is very hard at work trying to get contracts so we can all get back into the trenches," DeSanto responded, "and get the novie out in the next couple of years. Business affairs at Fox, working dilligently."

Lots of the fans were younger, accompanied by parents, and asked the actor about his favorite character ("Cyclops," he said with no hesitation, "but I should say Jean Grey ...") or other questions, which caused some eye rolling from more jaded, older fans. Marsden took it all in stride with good cheer, although he did look very lost at numerous points when fan questions got to the likes of Maggot and Sugarman (one of Dougherty's favorites). He made up for it by living up to his cast reputation as a class clown (a sharp contrast to the dour likes of Scott "Slim" Summers), doing an impersonation of Hugh Jackman and a little of a "dirty Bill Cosby" which the rest of the cast and crew enjoyed. Marsden also got laughs when asked about Wolverine stealing his motorcycle in the first film and his car in the second. "Eventually I will be able to pilot one of my own vehicles ... and my own girl!"

"When I got the role of Cyclops," Marsden said, "I felt a responsibility to the fans. I thought 'let's stay true to the comic book,' I read a bunch of 'em then. Bryan Singer said, 'Let the script be your comic book.'" Marsden also said, "Interesting bit of trivia: Jim Cavaziel was originally cast as Cyclops." When a young fan asked Marsden if he collected action figures of himself, Marsden replied with a smile, "I have a couple of them, my son plays with. I would begin to worry about myself if I really did. I have a couple that're still in the box, which hopefully will one day pay for his college. Most of them have been thrown up on and thrown in the mud. My son is like, 'Look it's daddy doll!'" and then made a smashing motion towards the table.

Marsden commented briefly on the Garth Ennis adaptation, "Preacher." "Almost two years ago I got a phone call from my agent, offering it. I was like, 'What is Preacher?' They were very vague. So I ask some of my friends, and they're like 'They offered you Jesse Custer? Preacher? Wow!' I got a couple of the graphic novels and I was captivated, it was some of the best writing that I'd ever read. I just found it an amazing piece of literature. Right now it's in development hell. When you have an independantly financed film, it's getting harder to get them made. We're gonna try to go this summer. I kind of wanted to wait another year so I could get more wrinkles and get even more weathered. If there was ever a role that I wanted to do some method acting, this would be it. My wife read every single one of the issues in two days, she was in love with 'em."

DeSanto spoke briefly about another property he's working on that has some pretty devoted fans, "Transformers." "Marathon studio negotiations with Hasbro," he said. "It's down to three finalists, and in three weeks we hope to have a big announcement. All of the Transformers fans will be in good hands."

They expressed dismay that the budget kept them from indulging some of the wilder ideas they had. "There was a scene kind of written for the danger room in the second movie," Marsden said, which prompted DeSanto to reply "The set was built, but if we had done that, we wouldn't have had as much of Wolverine going on a rampage through the mansion." The scene allegedly would have had Wolverine entering the Danger Room and setting it on ten, after being told by the channel-changing mutant child that Cyclops was the school's toughest, doing it on a setting of nine. The helicopters were to start landing, and Wolverine would've had to fight his way out of the Danger Room to fight against the invaders.

Likewise Dougherty noted that early drafts of "X2" had an army of Sentinels, which got cut down to three prototypes, then one sentinel. Finally, they debated taking one Sentinel maquette, created by one of the production designers, and setting it on Stryker's desk with a post-it note proclaiming, "Plan B."

Most questions centered around what new characters would be seen (there was a very vocal Gambit contingent, and a couple of Iceman adherents as well), and Dougherty said, "Bryan doesn't want any duplication of powers," which some thought would slow down the appearance of the likes of Emma Frost. DeSanto noted that everybody wanted to see the "white bustier."

The panel ended up being more for the guests than for Marsden, including showing a brief blooper reel from "X2" which featured a lot more kissing than you would ever expect, but fans seemed to leave satisfied.

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