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X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

X-Treme Action
In a film series noted for its huge set pieces and explosive fighting sequences, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND takes the action to a new level. Simon Crane, one of the industry's top second unit directors and stunt coordinators, worked closely with Brett Ratner to create the action sequences, and design the fights and fighting styles.

Crane had just wrapped the blockbuster action film "Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” where he put Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie through their paces, when he was approached for X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. His mandate was to create action never before seen on film, to find new ways of filming fight scenes, and stage action that's motivated by the story and drives it forward. Crane worked closely with Academy Award® winning visual effects supervisor John Bruno, judiciously blending stunts, special effects and CG to make the action sequences both massive and believable.

One of Crane's principal tasks was to re-create from the comics, Wolverine's "berserker rage” fighting style – a mad, white rage that makes him virtually unstoppable. "Wolverine's fighting style in the first two films was great, but for the new film we wanted to explore the comics' fighting style,” says Crane. "Most of the time, Wolverine's fighting only for Wolverine. Here, he's fighting for something bigger and therefore he fights harder, fiercer. We're going to see a Wolverine who's really angry.”

Hugh Jackman, whose preparation for the action scenes included spending hundreds of hours in the gym, and a special fight training program, elaborates: "In ‘X-Men' and ‘X2,' my fighting style was ‘slicing-and-dicing.'. But for this film, I wanted to go back to the comics, which had brilliantly conceived fight scenes.”

Although Wolverine is decidedly earthbound, he took to the air – with help from Colossus' super-strong right arm – for scenes depicting a fan-favorite element from the comics called the "fastball special.” Crane and his team hurtled the actor on a wire – at speeds up to 80 miles per hour – through a forest. "It was a phenomenal experience,” says Jackman. "And no CG!”

Halle Berry's Storm can fly, a capability left unrealized in the first two films. "I know it seems like a little thing, but I've been saying since the first movie: ‘I just want to fly!'” laughs Berry.

In X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, Berry finally gets her wish. For a scene in which Storm takes to the skies, spinning like a tornado, Berry completed 24 revolutions in just two or three seconds. Says Brett Ratner: "It's such a spectacular stunt, that nobody's going to believe Halle did it. But she did.” The dizzying wirework had Berry taking Dramamine to combat motion sickness.

In addition to devising new fighting and flying techniques, Crane oversaw the film's big action set pieces. In one scene, Magneto throws cars from the Golden Gate Bridge onto Alcatraz, as Pyro ignites them in mid-air, and the fiery vehicles rain down on the X-Men. The Golden Gate Bridge figures in the film's biggest event, as Magneto takes control of the San Francisco landmark, ripping it off its foundations and using it, literally, as a gateway to Alcatraz: ground zero for the cure's development and distribution. This scene, the biggest in any "X-Men” film, again represented the work of Crane, visual effects supervisor John Bruno, and production designer Edward Verreaux – all under Brett Ratner's watchful eye.

"The Golden Gate Bridge sequence is Magneto at his most intense,” says John Bruno, an Oscar® winner and frequent James Cameron collaborator ("Titanic,” "Terminator 2: Judgment Day”). "It's the biggest visual effects scene in the series.” The visual effects and art direction groups built a full-size section of the bridge and a section of Alcatraz. Bruno and his team digitally extended the latter, blending the practical sets with the computerized images. In addition, they built detailed miniatures that were used for referenc

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