IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Visual Effects Designer John Dykstra Talks 'X-Men: First Class'

Monday, 12 September 2011 17:52 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Visual Effects Designer John Dykstra Talks 'X-Men: First Class'

Legendary visual effects designer John Dykstra is best known for his work on Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the two films that began those beloved franchises, respectively. But Dykstra has also worked on several films adapted from comic books including Batman Forever and Batman and Robin with director Joel Schumacher, as well as Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 with director Sam Raimi. Not to mention his work on other popular films such as Caddyshack, Stuart Little, Hancock, Inglorious Basterds, and the original Battlestar Galactica TV series. So it only makes sense that when 20th Century Fox decided to make a prequel to their ridiculously popular X-Men franchise, X-Men: First Class … they called him.

The film, which was released this summer to rave reviews has gone on to earn over $352 million worldwide and was released on Blu-ray and DVD last week Friday. I recently had a chance to briefly speak with John Dykstra about X-Men: First Class, his history with super hero related films, the challenges of making this movie, and collaborating with director Matthew Vaughn and producer Bryan Singer. Here is what he had to say:

To begin with, you have worked on several super hero films in the past, how did that experience help prepare you for this project?

John Dykstra: We always know going into these types of films that there are going to be so many unanswered questions until that all starts to gel around the script and the director’s vision of what it is going to be. Until the department heads actually start to try and bring those words to life, it’s very, very hard to define what the scope of the work is that you have to do. So in that sense it was just like all those other super hero tent pole films.

Do you do a lot of research into the history of these characters from the comic books to get an understanding for their powers and what you need to do with the visual effects?

Dykstra: I’m not an avid comic booker but I’ve certainly done enough of these characters and I’m familiar enough with the research process that we’ve done that. One thing that was difficult about X-Men: First Class is that we were doing these characters in a subsequent iteration. In other words, Mystique becomes Rebecca (Romijn) and she’s very different.  How do we make the same character but create a different enough feel so you don’t feel like you’ve seen it before. Those were the biggest challenges. Like creating for Lucas (Till), for Havok, a beam that was reminiscent of what Cyclops had (in the original films) because he is supposed to be his brother. But we didn’t want to use the same thing so those were the big challenges.

For characters we’ve seen before, was it difficult matching their powers to the effects in the original films?

Dykstra: Well you’ve got to remember I don’t do much for Magneto and I don’t do much for Professor X. He moves stuff so we just make him move different stuff and that takes care of that problem. That’s pretty much it for him. There was a little bit of coming up with what the images were that Professor X saw when he was inspecting things, that was kind of interesting. So Professor X and Magneto I didn’t have to do a lot with them but Shaw was big time. We didn’t have … I mean in the comic book he just gets big. So we really wanted to show the energy he was absorbing and that it was coursing through his body. We needed that sequence to show how he could put it back out at a level that made him a threat at the end of the film, so that you understood that he has the potential of destroying things.

Finally, can you talk about collaborating with Matthew Vaughn and Bryan Singer on the film?

Dykstra: I loved it. It was great and really terrific. The whole thing was really collaborative. We really had to hit the ground running and we did.

X-Men: First Class is available on Blu-ray and DVD now!

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