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comic-con 2013

Comic-Con: Ian McKellen Flirts With Michael Fassbender at the X-Men Panel

If you're one of the select few blockbusters granted a panel at Comic-Con's cavernous Hall H, you're obligated to go big, but few films have ever gone as big here as X-Men: Days of Future Past. Tacked on to the end of the 20th Century Fox panel as a secret surprise — at least, it would have been a surprise if we hadn't reported on it a few days before — next year's ambitious X film brought director Bryan Singer to San Diego to introduce over a dozen of the mutants populating the time-travel tale, including old-school X-Men like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Hugh Jackman as well as the younger actors from the prequel X-Men: First Class, like Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender. The sheer size of the panel recalled the bad ol' days when the Twilight team would bring every minor wolf or vamp to the dais, but the Days of Future Past cast packed way more star power than that group, as well as an in-person frisson I haven't felt at Comic-Con since Marvel took the entire cast of The Avengers here for the first time. It may have been the biggest panel of the entire convention, and that's before Magneto started flirting with his younger self.

"I just want to say it's great to be back in California," McKellen told the crowd. "I feel safe here now that you've gotten rid of Proposition 8. I'm looking for a husband." He cast a sidelong glance at Fassbender, the handsome Shame star who plays the seventies version of McKellen's character in Days of Future Past. With lasciviousness in his voice, McKellen purred, "It's great to meet you, Michael." It's Rick Santorum's worst nightmare come true: comic-book villains gay-marrying themselves!

Though the film is still in production, Singer had a trailer to show, and it was pretty galvanizing. The present-day X-Men — including Jackman's Wolverine and Halle Berry as Storm — are facing some sort of apocalyptic threat from the mutant-hunting Sentinels, so they must use the powers of Ellen Page's Kitty Pryde to send Wolverine back in time, where the clawed one tracks down the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto in order to avert future disaster. As you might expect, the trailer happily played up Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, since she's become an Oscar-winning superstar since First Class did okay box-office business. We see J-Law in fetching army fatigues and even battling Fassbender's young Magneto, who uses his superpowers to drag her through a crowd of onlookers in humiliating fashion. (He'll surely pay for that.)

But even though the film looked promising, I was reminded of a criteria Gene Siskel often used in his reviews: Is the movie more interesting than a documentary about the same actors having lunch together? In that respect, Singer's got a tall order ahead of him, because putting all these stars together in Hall H was entertaining enough on its own. Hugh Jackman improvised a Wolverine musical! ("I'm gonna sliiiice 'em, I'm gonna diiiice 'em!") Michael Fassbender wore an animal mask from the Lionsgate movie You're Next, for some reason! Halle Berry complained about how Storm never gets any good love interests, beseeching the crowd, "You guys probably know more about the character than I do … is she, like, asexual and nobody's told me?"

Other highlights:

- When one audience member came up to ask a question and revealed an Australian accent, Jackman quickly shouted, "Aussie Aussie Aussie!" To which she instinctively replied, "Oi Oi Oi!" ("I wasn't expecting that to happen," said the clearly shaken woman afterwards.) Feeling left out, McAvoy said, "I'm jealous. Is there anyone from Scotland here?" No one in the gigantic room gave assent. "I'm entirely on my own," moaned McAvoy.

- Singer sort of dissed the seventies fashions sported by the younger X-Men in the film, but McAvoy wasn't having it. "Whoa, whoa. I look incredible in this film," McAvoy said. "I just want that out there." Of Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, who sports a truly Selleck-ian mustache as Days of Future Past villain Bolivar Trask, Singer laughed, "Peter Dinklage looks like my father." Replied the diminutive actor, "That handsome?"

- Apparently, Hugh Jackman roamed Comic-Con this morning while in full Wolverine costume … and according to him, no one batted an eye. "Not one person stopped me," said Jackman. "Not one. One guy goes, 'Eh, not bad.' And another one said, 'Way too tall, baby.'"

- Both Evan Peters (as newbie X-Man Quicksilver) and Anna Paquin (returning as Rogue) seemed a little bit overwhelmed by the panel, but each got off a few good lines. Describing his super-speedy character as a "spaz," Peters said, "He moves fast, talks fast … it's like he's always at the ATM waiting for the bastard in front of him to finish." And when a questioner asked whether we'd ever see Rogue get together with Gambit, Paquin shot a look at Singer and said definitively, "I'm down for it."

- At the end of the panel, the actors were asked which other mutant they'd be keen to play. Flanked by Berry, Paquin, and Lawrence, Patrick Stewart said drolly, "I would like to play any female character in any X-Men movie, because then I might stand a chance of winning an Academy Award."