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X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

About The Production
Principal photography began in August 2010 at Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom. Production designer Chris Seagers created more than 80 sets – including 20 complicated composite sets - at Pinewood and on locations throughout the U.K. and the United States.

Seagers' work is informed by the optimism of the ‘60s. "That era was groundbreaking in terms of design,” explains Seagers. "Everything was new. Color, shape, and modern lightweight materials like plastic burst onto the scene. We were starting to see these new materials in the architecture. Matthew was also very keen to inject some of that James Bond-ian style into the look of the film, while preserving the somewhat darker landscape of the X-Men world.”

To maintain continuity with the previous X-Men films, specific designs were created through a backward engineering process. "We looked at some of the iconic designs of those films, like Cerebro, the X-Jet, Magneto's helmet, as well as the characters themselves, and asked ourselves what would their prototypes have looked like,” explains visual consultant Russell de Rozario. "We felt a responsibility to make the evolution of the designs credible.”

One of the film's most eagerly anticipated sets was the X-Jet, built on a stage at Longcross Studios, in Surrey. Based on the XB-70, a prototype long-range, supersonic bomber developed in the U.S. in the late 1950s, the immense structure measured some eighty feet in length. Another iconic location/set is Charles' mansion, located in Westchester, New York, which will become Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, where mutant children learn to find their place in a society that has shunned them. Finding a house in England to match the mansions from the original films' Canada location proved to be a considerable challenge, because English mansions are much older than their Canadian counterparts. Eventually the filmmakers decided on Englefield House, a beautiful Tudor mansion in Berkshire with a long and fascinating history of its own, and which offered breathtaking views of the English countryside.

Other principal sets built at Pinewood include the MIB headquarters and a massive submarine. Also at Pinewood, the filmmakers painstakingly reconstructed the concentration camp set utilized in the original X-Men. "It was amazing how perfectly they've recreated the set,” Bryan Singer comments. "I thought they had the original dailies up on the monitor while I was watching the scene being shot for X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.”

Then there's The Hellfire Club, the swinging ‘60s hotspot that serves as headquarters to Sebastian Shaw and his minions. The Hellfire Club scenes encompass a Vegas-style casino entrance (built in the U.S.); on-location filming at London's Café de Paris, where hundreds of lingerie-clad women served as extras; and a circular set of Shaw's inner sanctum, built at Pinewood. The club's bold and bright colors and use of pop art vibrate with the feel and flavor of the 1960s.

Augmenting the film's international scope, the filmmakers also recreated locations in Argentina, London, Switzerland and Russia. In early December, a reduced unit relocated to the U.S. to shoot the Cuban beach set on Jekyll Island at the southern tip of Georgia.

Legendary visual effects supervisor John Dykstra, who created the magical work on Star Wars Episode IV- A New Hope and Spider-Man, among other notable films, came aboard to bring to life the mutant powers, some of which are yet unseen in the film franchise. "We have some characters new to the X-Men movies, and their powers had to be compelling,” says Dykstra. "There also had to be a link between a mutant's personality and the nature of his or her power. We wanted the characters and their abilities to be more than just visually powerful; there had to be an intelligence behind their tactics.”

Dykstra appreciated that the X-Men films, particularly this new one, "poke a hole in the notion that having a power is always a positive thing. The X-Men film series treats the mutants like they're unique, and with that comes a feeling of being a misfit,” he notes.

Dykstra's digital work is complemented by the special (practical) effects created by Academy Award® winner Chris Corbould, whose recent credits include The Dark Knight, Inception and Casino Royale. Corbould's visually arresting effects in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS can be seen in scenes set at the concentration camp, in the X-Jet (whose 360-degree spirals were perfected in Inception), and in Shaw's submarine.

Also adding to the film's visual dazzle is the work of costume designer Sammy Sheldon, who was charged with maintaining the thematic ‘60s-era "cool” and Bond-ian feel. Sheldon's biggest challenge was developing the X-suits, worn by Charles, Erik and their young recruits during their climactic epic battle against Shaw and Hellfire Club. Vaughn wanted to remain faithful to the first X-Men comic book cover, which saw the mutants dressed in blue and yellow suits. "Matthew and I also had a strong desire to make the suits utilitarian, using 1960s technology,” Sheldon notes. "So it turns out that Kevlar, a bulletproof substance, was developed in the early '60s – and the material happened to be processed in the color yellow. (Sheldon added blue to the final costumes.)

As post-production work – including Henry Jackman's score, which includes new "X-Men” and "Magneto” themes – began to wind down, Vaughn took a few minutes to discuss his hopes and expectations for the film once it hits theaters in June. "I think what distinguishes X-MEN: FIRST CLASS from other comic-book films is we have multiple characters,” he points out. "And each of our characters has unique powers, personalities, dramas, ideologies, ethics and relationships – and all that is critical to the X-Men universe.”

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