Simon Kinberg, screenwriter and producer of “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” sat down to discuss the writing of the film and plans for the next installment of the “X-Men” franchise at San Diego Comic-Con International 2014.
Confirming that the next “X-Men” film will draw story ideas from the “X-Men” comic, Kinberg said, “A lot of [‘X-Men: Apocalypse’] will be from ‘Age of Apocalypse’ and the books in general.” Other details were unavailable because Kinberg and director Bryan Singer are still hashing out the plot. Kinberg also said that a “Gambit” film was still in the works, but did not have additional details.
Kinberg got his big break on the film “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and has since become the go-to-guy for franchise fare at the movies. He wrote, or co-wrote, “X-Men 3: The Last Stand,” the new “Fantastic Four,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Jumper.”
“I approach each of these movies similarly to the way you guys do as a fan,” he said. “These characters were as much my family as my real family.”
The key, however, is making sure that film adaptations deviate from the source material just enough to add surprise and keep the characters fresh. “One of the things that I felt going in to ‘Days of Future Past’ was that we were gonna break some rules,” said Kinberg. “You weigh the consequences of facing you guys — the death stares. I read the blogs.” On the other hand, “Days of Future Past” presented a unique opportunity because “it’s rare in your life that you can go back and right a wrong,” he said, referring to his work on the poorly received “X-Men: The Last Stand.”
The other major element of success for Kinberg is collaboration. Some of the most memorable sequences in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” came from working in concert with Bryan Singer and others. The telepathic meeting between the old and young Professor X, for instance, came from a story meeting in New York with Singer and his production team. After they devised the idea, Kinberg had to rewrite the whole script, but he didn’t mind.
Kinberg credits Comic-Con with providing opportunity for additional collaboration on the script. Two years ago, while working on “Days of Future Past,” Kinberg found himself stuck and stymied by the end of the second act. Fortunately, screenwriter Jane Goldman (“Kick-Ass”) also happened to be at the convention that year. Over the course of a three-hour lunch, the two hashed out the problem.
Quicksilver’s (played by Evan Peters) jailbreak of Magneto (Michael Fassbender), for instance, came about because Singer felt that Kinberg’s initial idea was repetitive. “He felt like the Juggernaut’s power had been explored and exploited in ‘X3’,” said Kinberg of his script draft in which the Juggernaut was dropped from a helicopter into the Pentagon to literally bust out Magneto.
But, Singer “had in his head something that I most probably could not have conceived of visually.” The result was the Quicksilver scene using high-speed photography. Incredibly, Kinberg said that most of the sequence was shot practically using specially rigged cameras
If there was a conflict with using the Quicksilver character, it never bothered Kinberg. “It was actually very clear about the legally of it which was that Marvel and Fox could use Quicksilver,” he said of Quicksilver’s appearance in the upcoming “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” “Both sides came organically to that character,” he said.
Kinberg also had early plans for a sequence in which older Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and older Magneto (Ian McKellen) went in search of an imprisoned Rogue (Anna Paquin) during the dystopian future. In order to continue sending Wolverine back to the past, they needed Rogue’s mimetic power to capture the abilities of the dying Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page). “I wanted to see Rogue because I love Anna [Paquin] and I love the character,” Kinberg said. “The other part of it was that I wanted Eric and Charles to go on one last mission together.”
The sequence was shot and edited, but removed from the final cut. “It was one subplot too many,” said Kinberg. “It was really painful because we all loved and it was really well shot. … What was really interesting was the scene lifted out of the movie really cleanly.” That said, elements of that shot still remain in the final theatrical cut of the film. “If you look, you can still see Anna in a reflection,” he said.
Amazingly, Singer and Kinberg relied very little on pick-up shots to complete the film after the completion of principal photography. Many films of that size and complexity would necessitate reshoots to patch up the story. But, Kinberg and Singer plotted their time travel logic carefully.
But, as testament to Singer and Kinberg’s abilities, Kinberg said that they did not have to screen the film until very close to it’s May, 2014 release date. “We never screened it for an audience until the premier of the film,” he said. “The first time I ever saw was really late in the post process.” He was surprised at his own emotional reaction to the finale as both a fan of the characters and the writer of the film.
After the convention, Kinberg said he almost immediate plans to meet with Bryan Singer to start work on “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
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