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A New Threat
X2 takes the central conflict in "X-Men," Xavier's belief in the possibility of peaceful co-existence between humans and mutants, versus Magneto's doctrine of mutant supremacy, to the next level. In the new film, the threat comes not from a powerful mutant, but from a human. "One of the things I wanted to introduce into the story was a human element as the villain," Singer explains. "That menace is a danger to all mutants and, subsequently, to mankind. The conflict is a bold reminder of the prevailing themes in the comic book lore; in this movie, one man's fear of the unknown could lead to a level of intolerance of catastrophic proportions."

The one man posing such a formidable threat to the X-Men is William Stryker, a character that ups the ante and makes the stakes higher than they ever were in the original "X-Men."

Stryker's insidious plans are revealed when his forces attack Xavier's School for Gifted Children, also know as the "X-Mansion." That scene develops from the end of "X-Men," where Xavier and Magneto are seen facing off over a game of chess, in the plastic prison designed to serve as Magneto's final home. Magneto poses a disturbing question, "What will happen if they pass that stupid law [the Anti-Mutant Registration Act] and they come to your mansion and take your children?" To which Xavier replies with steely determination: "I pity whoever comes to that mansion looking for trouble."

"Well," says Lauren Shuler Donner, "Stryker and his soldiers are definitely at the mansion and there is definitely going to be some trouble. But that's only the tip of the iceberg for what he ultimately plans for the X-Men."

"What I love about Stryker," says Bryan Singer, "is that he is a perfect example of a villain who is not involved in violence or terrorism because of the need for expansionism, or religion or even greed. His hate and bias are based on a deeply personal loss of some aspect of his family. Somewhere in the past some damage was done…some hit was taken…and now his desperation makes it easy for him to engage in war against those he thinks are responsible for the destruction of his family."

"Stryker is the juiciest of roles," says actor Brian Cox, whose performances in "Manhunter" (as the screen's first Hannibal Lector) and in the independent film "L.I.E." caught Singer's attention. "He is a man with a secret who behaves in a not particularly pleasant way. He's part scientist, part soldier and quite wealthy to boot, so the role has lots of opportunities to play on all sorts of levels, and that is very appealing to any actor.

"Stryker represents the oppressive, racist and intolerant kind of person that mutants fear most," Cox adds. "He doesn't want to take over the world. He just wants to rid the world of those he feels are responsible for the damage to his family and the downfall of society: mutants. First he wants to control them, then he wants to destroy them."

Ironically, Stryker's aide, Yuriko Oyama, aka Deathstrike, is not 100 percent homo sapien. Like another famous mutant, Wolverine, she possesses adamantium claws and amazing healing powers. "Deathstrike and Wolverine are cut from the same cloth," says Singer. "She, too, has had her body and mind experimented on and is a formidable opponent to Wolverine, physically and ideologically."

" Deathstrike is an advanced, slicker version of Wolverine," concurs actress Kelly

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