Bryan Singer

X-Men 2

Interviewed by Stephen Applebaum

A fascination with evil has always been at the heart of Bryan Singer's films, and his "X-Men" sequel is no exception. Here he talks about historical parallels, minority matters, and personal issues in the film that looks set to become one of the summer's biggest box office hits.

Do you worry about how Brian Cox's character, Stryker, is going to be perceived in the States?

Yeah, but he's a villain. He's duping the President - he's operating in Canada, for God's sake - so he's a rogue element. He's also driven by something deep and personal, so his actions don't represent the government's view. The President is on the fence.

These films are haunted by the idea of the knock on the door. Being Jewish yourself, was this something you responded to when you read the comic books?

I always wanted to get involved in science fiction fantasy, and the notion that Professor Xavier was Martin Luther King and Magneto was Malcolm X, and these were two men who had very strong, decent beliefs, but had taken different roads. And the irony of that, and the moral ambiguity of that, intrigued me. It was a step beyond simple crime-solving, superhero action. It was much more socio-political, and in that way exposed more truth.

How much, though, have you personally brought to these films? It has been suggested that because you're gay and Jewish, you know what it is like to feel like part of a minority...

I'm actually part of a number of minorities. I grew up being a horribly awkward kid. A terrible student. And now I find myself as a filmmaker, and you feel kind of alone in the world because you're separate from everyone else. So, yeah, it's definitely everything from the [coming out] scene with Bobby Drake and his family, to Wolverine's journey to uncover his past. I'm adopted, so even my own origins I'm not completely precise on.

The journey of Wolverine has always been a very personal one, because it's not just about where did I come from, who am I really, but how important is that to who I am now and to who I'm going to be? That journey, particularly through this picture, has been a kind of odd, personal one for me.

It seems that "X-Men" and "X-Men 2" represent your identities as a Jew living in America and as a gay man respectively, because in this one there is a homosexuality/homophobia subtext...

Well, yeah. That is also a very relevant analogy because where certain races, even a Jewish boy or a Jewish girl, will be born into a Jewish family, or a Jewish community sometimes, or an African American or whatever minority in any given area, a gay kid doesn't discover he or she is gay until around puberty. And their parents aren't gay necessarily, and their classmates aren't, and they feel truly alone in the world and have to find, sometimes never find, a way to live.

So you're exploring your own situation in these films?

Absolutely. And what better way than in a giant, action, summer event movie! I could think of no better place to spill out one's own personal problems and foist them onto the world [laughs]. And for that, I apologise.

Does the fascination with evil that runs through all your films have its roots in the fact that you are Jewish?

I think so. I was very obsessed with the Holocaust as a child and man's inhumanity to man. And, ultimately, it came from my fear of intolerance. In certain places, for whatever reason, just for being Caucasian or having blue eyes, someone might want to cut my head off. For being American, for being anything, for just being myself, someone might want to destroy me. That concept is so terrifying that it constantly bears exploration.