EDINBURGH, Scotland — Director-writer-producer Bryan Singer, who is an exec producer on X-Men TV series “Legion” for FX, and Peter Rice, chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, discussed the genesis and future development of the “X-Men” franchise at the Edinburgh Intl. Television Festival Thursday.
Singer revealed an “X-Men” tattoo on his leg to the Edinburgh audience, who were the first to see it, he said. He added that one of the reasons he was drawn to the first “X-Men” movie, released in 2000, was it resonated with him emotionally.
“There has to be something in the main character or in the story that I connect to. I have a knack for ensembles. I like groups of people. Each [project] is individual. In ‘X-Men’ it is just that feeling of being isolated,” he said. “I had issues growing up with not being a good student and sexuality issues, whatever they were, and I identified with the ‘X-Men’ characters as being outcasts, so I responded to that. And from there it grew into ‘Wow! This is a cool universe.’ But I always knew I wanted to make the movies I waited in line to see as a kid: big-budget action-adventure movies.”
Singer recalled a crisis during the development of the first ‘X-Men’ film, which he sees as “the birth of the modern comic-book movie.” “’X-Men’ collapsed – we lost our entire crew, we couldn’t get a budget or script, or anything. And at one point it was myself, my friend Tom DeSanto, and you. The three of us sitting on the floor of a small office in West L.A. pasting pieces of paper together trying to construct a story. It was the night before Thanksgiving. But we didn’t let it go… and part of that is we all knew what we were trying to do: make a serious story based in a comic universe; let’s take ‘X-Men’ and make it real.”
There was another crisis before the film was released. “There were early screenings, early version cuts of the first ‘X-Men’ movie that were not so good. And there were no other comic-book movies, so we weren’t sure it was going to work,” Singer said. “And since Peter was my only real friend at the studio, besides being a boss, I took him off to the parking lot outside Building 88, which was the production building at Fox, and it was just the two of us, and I looked at him and said: ‘Peter’ – almost as a therapist, because there was no answer he could give me – ‘if this film fails financially and critically I will never be able to make one of these again. I’m really afraid of this.’ He said: ‘Well, I hope it doesn’t.’” “How inspiring of me,” Rice retorted, dead-pan, to laughter from the audience.
Speaking about “Legion,” Singer underscored its connection with the movies. “What we are doing with ‘Legion’ and the other ‘X-Men’ television project will relate to future ‘X-Men’ movies – whether it is ‘Deadpool’ or ‘X-Men’ sequels, and past ones,” he said. Rice recalled a conversation with Singer about “what an ‘X-Men’ TV show would look like, and how do we ensure that it wasn’t a 45-minute attempt to make an ‘X-Men’ movie. And again, to look for [a writer-director] who had a really different, idiosyncratic personal filmmaking aesthetic, which is how we came to [‘Fargo’ writer] Noah Hawley.”
Singer said Hawley has “created some extraordinary visuals to complement what will be a really ambitious and fun and very unique storyline.”