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Family Room

A Chat with Producer Ralph Winter

Rumor has it, even though the X-Men trilogy is complete, the franchise will live on.
It’s getting harder and harder to bring this group of successful actors back together in the same place at the same time, but there are plenty of stories out there. The Marvel universe is rich with characters. I know they’re developing other scripts at the moment. You really have to wait and see how the marketplace responds before you commit and move down the path.

Beyond just having fun, is there a lesson you hope audiences take away from X-Men?
The issue of tolerance and how we treat each other. How do we get along with people we don’t quite understand, or who don’t look the way we do? How do we live together? We’re making entertainment primarily, but no doubt we’re trying to look into the character of these people. The lessons learned from our primary hero, Wolverine, revolve around the choices he makes, what he values, and when he decides to fight and when he chooses not to.

The villain, Magneto, is complex, too. He’s a ruthless bad guy, but every now and then we manage to sympathize with him.
That’s right. He’s not bad in the classic sense that he’s pure evil. He just believes the conflict will work out a lot easier if we get rid of people who don’t care about mutants. A great nemesis has an agenda that at times makes you think, "Hmm, maybe he’s got a point." A dramatic and interesting antagonist is colored as if he or she might have the answer to solving the problem. And isn’t that how life is? In a lot of ways, the choices as we become adults get harder and harder to make because life isn’t always black and white.

Someone once said that the most interesting bad guys are the ones who think they’re good guys. Would you agree?
That’s good. That’s exactly right. It’s because they completely believe in what they’re doing, that what they’re doing is beneficial. Their value system has become distorted. He’s just zealous in the wrong cause. But at the end of the day, you find out what movie heroes and villains believe by what they do.

You mentioned tolerance earlier. In the DVD outtakes for the first movie, a scene showed Halle Berry’s Storm teaching students about intolerance by citing the example of Christian martyrs. Why did that scene get cut?
Only to streamline the movie. There was no political agenda in cutting that scene. In the first movie we were establishing so many characters so quickly that it became difficult to choose what to include and what had to go.

What are you working on right now?
We’re working on a Fantastic Four sequel for next summer [2007’s The Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer], as well as a comedy. I’m also developing The Screwtape Letters and A Purpose Driven Life. There are a lot of movies in the works. For a producer it’s like the old vaudeville act of trying to get all the plates spinning at the same time. It’s tricky to get the creative elements—the script, the distributor, the financing, the director—all off the ground. And in some cases we’re still waiting to get the green light.

Despite their mass appeal, the films that make up the X-Men series contain violence, sensuality, some language and mature themes that warrant caution. For more details, see reviews of X-Men, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Published August 2006