Producer Lauren Shuler Donner Talks the Darker Tone, Casting, the X-MEN Franchise, DEADPOOL, Sequels, and More on Set of X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

     February 21, 2014

x-men-days-of-future-past-michael-fassbender-jennifer-lawrenceDONNER: That goes on at a corporate level, that’s not what I’m about. I produce the movies, I try to push other ones in the future, but what goes on between Marvel and Fox — I’m not invited to that party. I can’t answer that question.

You’re working on X-Force, we’re talking about how there should be a New Mutants movie. Fox has all these mutant characters; when do you think we will see more movies announced?

DONNER: I think we have to figure out how many X-Men films a summer can handle without getting into X-Men fatigue. And I just mentioned New Mutants off the top of my head because that’s a personal passion of mine.  I’m not saying that’s Fox’s next movie, please don’t misquote me or I’ll get a call. But we have to be very careful. As you all know there’s a Deadpool script that is out there, and you know about X-Force and you know about Fantastic Four. There’s a summer, there’s a year, say 2014, 2015, how many can you put out? Take into consideration there are also Marvel movies coming out then. At a certain point people want to see other movies besides comic book movies so you have to be really careful what you’re going to pick, and how many are going to be released within a year.

People say the Deadpool script is awesome, and clearly should be rated R. An X-Men movie has to be PG-13, but what about doing Deadpool at a lower budget point, releasing it at a different time than the middle of May? Is that an option, because Marvel is clearly not walking the R-rated path.

DONNER: Right. I agree.

I was hoping for more than “I agree.”

x-men-days-of-future-past-hugh-jackman-michael-fassbender-james-mcavoyDONNER: First of all, the Deadpool movie should be $50m in any event, whether it is PG-13 or R. Because it’s a single character, it doesn’t involve that many of the other mutants, which means not many other powers, which is CGI, which is what costs so much. It would be a lot of action, but it should be — and because it’s a standalone character, just like the Wolverine films, we keep them at a smaller budget, so it should be a $50m budget regardless. And I am a producer who NEVER discusses her budgets, EVER, ever ever. But that one should be kept small. As for the rest of it, I can’t really talk about it. I’d love to take the movie, it’s a really good script, we’ll see.

We all want that.

DONNER: Good! I’m glad! Write Fox and tell them. Thank you. 

Themes — is the interpretation here intended to be open, or are there specific intents to push a metaphor in one direction?

DONNER: Well, this is difficult because there are so many story lines and there’s always the undercurrent of tolerance, and because of that all of us who feel like we’re outsiders and misfits, for whatever reason, can blend right in. Some of us are more obvious with our flaws as mutants are with their visible characteristics, and some are not. The other themes, of friendship, uniting, we try to push our themes, and we try to make our movie mean something besides a good time with a lot of action and a lot of CGI and actors that you like. We really do. That’s one of the reasons I like working with Bryan, because that’s always first and foremost in his mind. So we try very much to push the themes, yes.

Is that the same reason you think women who might not be big fans of comics or X-Men should watch these films?

x-men-days-of-future-past-jennifer-lawrenceDONNER: Oh absolutely. And there are very strong female characters, that’s another reason I was drawn to it, there are Storm and Rogue and Jean Grey, there’s a lot to identify with, yes.

You get one f-bomb in this movie. Do you know where it will be, because we’ve heard there are a few actors who have casually mixed it in.

DONNER: Well, they do it to get the feeling, they’re angry, it’s effing this and effing that, and it will come out. And we’ll look and we’ll choose. I think I know where it will be, yes.

Do you think it will be Hugh again?

DONNER: I do not. But that was the best use of it, yeah, I think.

Hugh seems like he continues to be very comfortable with this character

DONNER: Not only comfortable. We did discuss, after the last movie, the thing I liked about The Wolverine was how internal he was, how he pulled it in, and kept it down, and therefore pulled you in. So, yes. he’s very comfortable with his character, he’s very comfortable with evolving this character through time, even though he bounces back and forth through time, I think it’s really fascinating from the day he started to where he is today. it’s really amazing.

What do you do when he decides he’s done?

DONNER: I cry! Because I love him, I want to work with him! I don’t know! I’m hoping that day won’t come, we keep talking about other stories to spin, and of course he wants to do other movies and theater and he wants to take time to be a dad. So far, I think it’s not on the horizon, but I’m sure it will be one day. It’s hard to push your body like that. Thank god the character doesn’t age! (laughs) Phsyically, he has given a lot. I loved it when the poster came out for The Wolverine, and there was a lot of chatter on the internet that it was photoshopped, it’s NOT. That’s that man, ok! Have him pull his shirt off, he’ll show you. That’s another reason for women to come!

Curious about easter eggs in the film, there’s a lot in the comics that can be thrown in. Is that something you think about, and are there things fans can look forward to?

x-men-days-of-future-past-hugh-jackmanDONNER: There is, but I’m going to save it because I want to make a game out of it. And maybe we’ll reveal it through some of the fan sites. I can’t tell you what it is, but there’s something really great that’ll be super-fun to look for on the Blu-ray. That’s one. And in terms of the other stuff, if I tell you it won’t be a fun surprise!

I’m not looking for specifics, just a “yes, in certain sequences.”

DONNER: Yes… more, not easter eggs, but a tip of the hat. We always like to tip out hat, and have, like Remy LeBeau being mentioned in X2, like we know about Gambit, and so on a list in X2 there’s Remy LeBeau. Or in the bar we had Hank McCoy in the background, because we could never figure out how to build Beast, and do it classy. We could never figure it out, so that was our way of saying “we know he should be in the scene, so here he is.” (laughs) That sort of thing is what we’ll do.

Having worked on all the films, what has changed for you over the years?

DONNER: I could tell you so much. One of them is Hugh. He’s such a nice guy, it took him a while to get inside and find the angry side. And now he’s very comfortable, very free to tap into that anger. The other is interesting, and… the first movie… Bryan and I tend to see eye to eye very much, we always do. The one thing we argued about was tone. He very much wanted to make a really dark movie, and I felt an obligation to bring in fun. That’s Joss Whedon’s script when he says “how do I know?” and the answer is “you’re a dick,” that’s Joss. We had to push for that. Bryan’s tendency was to make that very, very dark, and I was afraid we’d never get to the second one if it was unrelentingly dark. We argued about tone, and he finally allowed me a few light moments. Now I look at it and I think, “OK, we can go dark, let’s go dark.” We’ve established the characters. And Logan, traditionally, has that dark humor, you know, and to not allow him that is to not fully develop the character. He’s got to toss off those one-liners now and then. But now I see that we’ve come this way and we can go darker and darker and darker, so that I find very interesting.

x-men-days-of-future-past-james-mcavoyHas the audience changed as well?

DONNER: I think the time has changed. I see all these apocalyptic movies, which 13 years ago when we first made this wasn’t really in our zeitgeist. It is now, because of 9/11, because of the economy, it is more and more now. There is a darker awareness, although it would seem to reason that because life is so much tougher now people would seek entertainment to just totally escape. But it seems that there is a certain desire to look at it and make it come out alright, World War Z style. So that’s how the audience has changed.

Can you take bigger chances now?

DONNER: What I’m always afraid of is going “off-book,” so to speak, you know, I always get upset when the director leaves the classic comic that was so very popular. I argued, and I won’t say with who about what, but when we go way away from the original source material… that material is popular for a reason and I like to stick with it. The audience has been very generous with us, because we have taken big dramatic liberties, but I think you can do it with individual characters, and we have to be careful with our stories. 

Can you talk about the Sentinels here?

DONNER: They’re nasty! I can’t too much, they evolve into very threatening enemies, destroyers. That’s all I can say. They’re cool-looking, they’re almost omnipotent; they’re super-cool, I have to be vague. Sorry.

Bryan has been tweeting a lot of pictures of the production — is that something you talked about and worked out? And does he still have time to direct in between tweeting?

x-men-days-of-future-past-set-photo-nicholas-houltDONNER: (laughs) How long does it take to tweet? Yes, we discussed it, this was all pre-planned. It was more fun this way, it was more fun from his point of view. We could get a photo the traditional way and release it, but this seemed more fun. We all decided we wouldn’t show anything head-on, so in the beginning we were finding our way. They’re teases, that’s our approach to it. Nicely-framed teases. It’s not the pat, unit photographer’s photo of the thing. It’s “hey, here’s the movie Bryan is directing, and this is directly from Bryan’s iPhone.” And there’s one scene with jets, and they’re really cool, it was a day I wasn’t here, so Bryan tweets me a movie of him standing as these jets appear to come out from his head — I wanted to tweet that, but he wouldn’t let me.

Are you comfortable with the culture of expectation that has grown up around these films, that fans want two years worth of info before the movie comes out?

DONNER: Oh, yes! Listen, when I originally sold X-Men it was because I knew there was 40 years of stories. That was the point! Not only to do the movie and establish the characters, you know, you love the one you’re doing. It was because there are all these great stories, what a wealth of drama.

And you’re already talking about the next movie?

DONNER: Yeah! And not only that, but which one over here, and which one over here, yeah.

For more from my X-Men: Days of Future Past set visit:

Latest News

Pages: 1 2 3