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Seven f/x houses will share ‘X-Men’ duties

Domain, Walczak, Cinesite among the chosen

“X-Men” finally has its f/x team.

After months of stalling, 20th Century Fox has awarded f/x houses Digital Domain, Kleiser Walczak Construction, Cinesite, Hammerhead Prods., Matte World, CORE and POP the lead visuals for its f/x-heavy Marvel Comics actioner “X-Men.”

The decision this week has resulted in a sigh of relief for the companies chosen.

At a time when studios are only beginning to greenlight more f/x-filled projects, the question over who would land the work on one of the most sought-after f/x pics since “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” has been hovering over the f/x biz for much of the year.

The pic is expected to require hundreds of f/x shots. And with some houses charging $1 million per minute, the players chosen should receive a healthy boost in revenue in a highly-competitive market.

Summer bow

“X-Men,” about a group of “uncanny” comic book superheroes of the same name, is still skedded for a summer 2000 bow and is currently shooting in Canada.

The pic not only raised eyebrows in the usually tight-lipped f/x biz after Fox upped its release date from Christmas to summer, but also when production began without an f/x house on set.

With more and more computer-generated visuals appearing even in what are considered non-f/x films, staffers from f/x houses are increasingly involved in a pic’s production from day one.

Sources close to “X-Men” said that Fox had been waiting to decide on just how much it planned to spend on the feature, even opting to wait and take a look at the first dailies from the Bryan Singer-helmed shoot before proceeding with a final f/x budget.

Fox is trying to produce the action-packed pic for around $70 million, and opted not to go to A-list actors for key roles in order to keep costs down and maintain the number of planned visual effects.

Shot counts for specific visuals are still being determined for the houses and the pic itself, but all work created will be overseen by “X-Men’s” visual f/x supervisor Michael Fink (“Lethal Weapon 4,” “Braveheart” and “Batman Returns”).

In fact, the deals are so new that Digital Domain, which worked with Fox on “Fight Club,” “Lake Placid” and “Titanic,” was only delivered the “X-Men” last weekend.

Dividing the work

With work farmed out to seven f/x shops, the pic should hit its release date on time and relinquish fears that the pic will never hit the mark.

“Somehow the work will get done,” Digital Domain’s CEO Scott Ross said in September. “There’ll be a lot of dead bodies along the way, but there always is” (Daily Variety, Sept. 19).

Kleiser Walczak created 3D computer-animated visuals for “The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman” ride at Universal’s Islands of the Adventure theme park, and for the films “Stargate” and “Clear and Present Danger,” as well as for the Columbia Pictures logo.

Cinesite recently worked on “The Mummy,” while Hammerhead completed shark shots for “Deep Blue Sea.”

Pacific Data Images (“Antz,” “The Peacemaker”) had been rumored to be working on the pic, but it has not been awarded any shots as of yet.

Fink was unavailable for comment.

“X-Men” stars Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James Marsden, Hugh Jackson, Anna Paquin, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Ray Park.

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