/Film Interview: 'X-Men: First Class' Director Matthew Vaughn

Matthew Vaughn is sick. Literally. On a Tuesday morning in late May, the director of the upcoming X-Men First Class called us from London with a case of tonsillitis. The timing couldn't be worse. Vaughn is about to release the biggest movie of his career, 20th Century Fox's summer superhero tentpole, X-Men First Class, a film that serves as both a prequel and reboot to a popular series of films that began in 2000 with Bryan Singer's X-Men. Starring James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as younger versions of Charles and Erik, who will grow up to be Professor X and Magneto respectively, the Sixties-set film tells the origin story of the X-Men infused with the exciting action and fantastic social conceits that make the X-Men great.

On top of that, the film is solid; an entertaining love letter to the X-Men franchise that's both a treat for fans but totally accessible to non-fans. Most of that is thanks to magnetic lead performances and a well-thought out screenplay that Vaughn co-wrote along with writing partner Jane Goldman and Thor writers Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz. X-Men First Class is up there with the best of the Singer X-Men movies and does its job so well that the franchise can go anywhere from here.

In our short 10-minute interview Vaughn talked about that, how he regretted not making X-Men: The Last Stand, how the insane profitability of Kick Ass (you read that right) could lead to Kick Ass 2 and much more. Check it out after the break.

/Film: Hey Matthew how are you.

Matthew Vaughn: Believe it or not I've got tonsillitis which I haven't had since I was a kid and it's painful.

Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Especially coming into a movie opening, it's probably the worst possible time for that to happen.

Well, actually I've got a tradition of getting sick as soon as I finish a film and I only finished it last week so I think now that my body is sort of relaxing... there you are. Fire away.

You were up for X3 as well as Thor, what was it about X-Men First Class that finally made you decide to make a Marvel movie?

It was gonna happen. Immediately. X3 I didn't do purely because I was naïve enough back then to apply my low budget filmmaking experience and didn't think I'd have enough time to make the film I wanted to make. And since then I've made Kick Ass and Stardust so I have far more experience as a director. I was sort of kicking myself for not doing X3 and then what happened with Thor was I worked on the screenplay with Mark Protosevich and was beginning to start do concept work and stuff on it and then I realized that they weren't going to commit to making it as quickly as I would have hoped for. Ironically I've now made, in that time period, Kick Ass and X-Men First Class. And when Fox rang up saying are you interested in doing it, I had unfinished business after not doing X3 and I was actually more excited because for X3 I would have really had to follow the lead of X1 and X2 and the characters were mainly cast. I knew with X-Men First Class I could start fresh, get a new piece of canvas and paint what I wanted.

That leads into my next question. You're obviously coming into a franchise with four previous films and, though you are in a different time period and could recast, during production, how aware were you of those movies and how – if at all – did they affect what you were doing?

My main goal was to make as good a film that could stand on its own two feet regardless of all the other films. However I thought anything that worked in all the other movies, and I could have some fun with nodding towards, I would. But my main rule was, 'You know what, we're trying to reboot and start a whole new X-Men franchise' and therefore, making a film work on its own two feet was far more important than trying to be referential to the prior movies.

But those previous films, is that why you and the other screenwriters chose the characters that are in this movie as opposed to the line up that's in the original First Class comic?

That was already done for me. When I came aboard, the characters were already done and ironically I'd always wanted to do a Bond movie so I sort of thought I could have my cake and eat it too. I can do a Bond film and an X-Men movie at the same time. And I'd always liked political, Cold War, espionage thrillers so it was sort of the back drop that got me more excited. Magneto and Professor X were the main thrust of the film so all the supporting characters were already picked for me and I thought whoever picked them did a good job.

That's funny, I remember you said that but at the time I didn't understand the Bond connection. But when I was watching the movie it clicked and I thought, Sebastian Shaw is such a Bond villain.

Shaw was a tricky character from the comics. I just thought if I made him the pony tail, cravat wearing villain, we could look like we are in Austin Powers. The weird thing is I've just finished the damn movie so I'm so close to it, some of the big decisions we made I can't tell whether they're right or not, whether we're going to get decimated for it. Shaw, I think, we took the most liberties with. His powers, I mean, trying to illustrate one's power of absorbing energy, is like...he was the character I was most worried about screwing up.

I don't know a lot about the original character but he's a very formidable villain and definitely a worthy foe. Were you frustrated at all with the prebuzz around this movie? Like you said it was all sort of rushed, Fox held back a lot of the marketing, that photo leaked out but then the tide sort of turned when the trailer came out and people saw what you were going for. Was that frustrating for you?

I'd rather people's expectations are low and they're excited than high and disappointed. And I'm a big believer, I mean I remember talking to Daniel Craig about this when he was doing Bond and he was being absolutely destroyed by the web and I said 'Look dude, your work is gonna do the talking and they're gonna all eat their hats and apologize and say you're great' and I'm a big believer that my job is to make the film and not to worry about what everyone else thinks. And if I make a film that people like, then great, if I make a film that people don't like then... I mean, that's my job and you can't worry about pleasing people. I just try and make as good a film as possible and if people like it, great, and if they don't, I tried my best.

Before this movie comes out people are already talking about a sequel, it's just the unfortunate nature of comic book movies and Hollywood. While you were making this movie was there ever talk, not about sequels specifically, but how much story – how many movies would take place between this movie and Bryan's original?

You could do hundreds. We've got from 62 to 2000, whenever that was set. The fun thing for this, sequel-wise, is you can go through the '60s, '70s and '80s now. If people go see it, I think there's a lot of sequels to do, I've got lots of ideas but I also don't like to curse it because too many times in my life now I've been asked about if there's gonna be a sequel to a film which I just directed and then that film doesn't do as well in the US box office and I go, 'Eh, guess not.'

I know I would still pay for a Kick Ass 2.

We're still discussing that at the moment. We might do it. People forget that Kick Ass we made for $28 million and now with DVD and everything else has made $225 million in revenue so it's done great business. A lot of people say it could be like Austin Powers how the first one people couldn't get their heads around, they all discovered it on video and then the second one was a huge blockbuster. My theory is I don't know how to make sure Kick Ass 2 is as good as Kick Ass 1. I enjoyed making the movie so much and I loved working with all the characters in it so who knows? There could be one but if I do a sequel to that it's gotta be just as good, if not better.

Okay, last question. I don't have to put this in the first article because it's spoiler specific but can you please tell me about...

Sorry. Because we want you to enjoy X-Men First Class, we'll cut the interview off there and post the final question and answer during opening weekend.