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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part V (of V)

All this week, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re publishing a serialised interview that we conducted with the wonderful Chris Claremont back in February for publication in a British comic book magazine. Many thanks to Mr. Claremont for taking the time to talk to us, and also to Adam Walsh for allowing us to publish this.

It’s hard to imagine Chris Claremont having too many regrets, something he readily concedes.

His work on the X-Men remains iconic and influential. His relationship with Marvel has provided an incredibly pay-off for the publisher.

“The benefits are still playing out in other media,” he explains. “The brutal fact of the matter is that there have been seven movies derived from the X-Men. My fingerprints in terms of characters, and circumstances and the approach to storytelling are all over them.”

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Even X-Men: First Class, the film taking the franchise back to the heady days of the sixties, still owes a massive debt to Claremont’s writing.

He rhymes off the pedigree of the talent working on Days of Future Past. Academy Awards are just the beginning. “Emmys galore. Tonies galore. Oliviers galore. You’re talking about more raw talent than I’ve seen in anything outside of The Longest Day or Paris is Burning.”

For a writer who has described his work as “pulp fiction”, this is quite an accomplishment. “I’ve seen characters I created – characters I defined – portrayed by some of the finest performers in modern cinema.

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“When I was a young punk with ambitions to be an actor,” he recalls, “I would go to theatre in New York and watch Ian McKellen when he’d come to New York and do his On Acting Shakespeare one-man play. I would take notes in the balcony. Now I get to see him play my iteration of Magneto. How cool is that?

“I get to see Wolverine and Ororo brought to life by Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman,” he acknowledges. “You couldn’t get better if you tried!”

Still, he refuses to be drawn too deeply on the subject of Days of Future Past. “When one is involved in an X-Men project, one has a non-disclosure agreement that essentially comes down to ‘we are totally serious about this, don’t fuck around with us.’ I would love to say lots of gratuitous details about the story, the film, the adventures, the excitement… but I cannot.”

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Plying him for information, I innocently inquire as to whether we can expect another cameo from him, in the style of his brief X-Men III appearance. Claremont chooses his words carefully, a hint of playful ambiguity creeping into his tone. “I do not have a cameo.” His words are suspiciously exact.

There’s another of his trademark suspense-building pauses. “On the other hand, if you though Hugh Jackman looked great in The Wolverine, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!” He flashes that cheeky Chris Claremont smile which makes me feel like he’s just dropped some fiendishly clever bombshell that I have yet to fully decode, something that will pay off months down the line.

In more general terms, he is comfortable talking about seeing his work adapted to film. He’s not too bothered by the cosmetic differences between the films and the source material; things like character heights or tweaked plot structures. He’s mindful of the fact that film is a different medium.

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“All I care about I you get the essence right.” Once again, character is among Claremont’s chief concerns. “If you have the core of the story – the core of the characters right – then everything else will fall into place as well it should.”

He’s very proud of the way the films have turned out. “They’ve got the heart and the soul of the X-canon in those films – and, I assume, what’s to come. They’ve got the essentials. The rest is on the periphery; the rest is just fun.”

Thus concludes our Chris Claremont interview. Many thanks for his time and his input. Claremont is currently writing a Nightcrawler miniseries for Marvel (comixology link), and Marvel just released a deluxe second omnibus collection of some of his iconic run on Uncanny X-Men (amazon link). The first section of his Uncanny X-Men run is also available as a digital bundle at comixology.

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