Brian Cox

X-Men 2

Interviewed by Stephen Applebaum

Scottish actor Brian Cox's resume is a veritable rogue's gallery of tortured hard men. He was the original Hannibal Lecter, he has played Titus on stage, and he recently won an Emmy for his portrayal of Hermann Goering in Nuremberg. So who better to play Stryker, the villain with a mysterious link to Wolverine, in "X-Men 2"?

Bryan Singer wanted to cast you after seeing "L.I.E.", didn't he?

Yes, he's a big fan of that movie. The studio wanted anybody else but me, but Bryan really went to bat [for me]. In fact, he started filming before Stryker had been cast. I thought the part had gone away and then I got a call saying, "You got it." Anyway, we talked about the character and I told him I wanted Stryker to be like Mephistopheles to Wolverine's Faust. I feel Wolverine was very complicit with Stryker. That's why he daren't remember what's going on.

Does Stryker represent the extreme conservatism that is in the world at the moment?

Well, it's the zeitgeist. I think everybody is being very nervous about Stryker because of what's going on, but you can't blame the film for history realising itself. This was made before that [September 11th, the Iraq war] happened. But he happens to be Director of Homeland Security, so that - and the fact that we're dealing with these right wing hawks - makes it a little awkward, to say the least.

"X-Men 2" shows the price of war. Is it an anti-war movie?

It's anti ill-treatment of minorities. It's all about the marginalized elements of life and Bryan very much represents that, because that's where he is coming from. He's Jewish and gay, and therefore the film reflects on his life as much as anything else.

When you did "25th Hour" with Ed Norton recently, did you talk to him about "Red Dragon", the remake of "Manhunter"?

No, we just smiled. It's weird, because I was filming "X-Men 2" in Vancouver and I actually had the morning off and the phone never stopped ringing. I kept saying, "What's that?" And they said, "The reviews for "Red Dragon" are out. Congratulations!" I'm going, "What do you mean? I'm not in it." They said, "We know, but you've had the best reviews of your life." It was embarrassing. If I was Tony Hopkins, I would be well and truly p***** about it. He's a great, great actor, but you do depend on your director. Michael Mann, Brett Ratner - my case rests.