Interview By: Stephen Snart

Aaron Stanford burst onto the silver screen in 2002 and his career has been
on a steady incline for the past four years. He made his mark in the low-budget, digital feature, Tadpole, playing the lead role in this touching and witty comedy about a precocious teenager and his infatuation with older women particularly his father’s new fiance played by Sigourney Weaver. At the time of production, Stanford was almost in his mid 20s, yet he had no problem channeling the mind of a fifteen-year-old schoolboy. His bravura performance displayed confidence and charm, two qualities that have assisted him in gaining high-profile roles in a brief period of time.

Stanford has been careful to balance his big-budget work with independent films like Winter Solstice and Standing Still, eager not to abandon his roots. At the same time, his work in the second and third X-Men films as the diabolically incendiary Pyro has cemented his status as a hot, up-and-coming actor. “The scope staggers me even though I was there when we shot it,” he confides
while recounting the experience of seeing the final cut of X-Men: The Last Stand for the first time.

He also shares how much of the finished product was a surprise to him. “They
shot so many versions of various scenes. I saw it screened four days ago and
I still didn’t know what it was going to look like or what choices they were
ultimately going to make in the editing room.” The script didn’t serve as a
reliable blueprint either. “They didn’t make it easy to get the script, even
for the actors, they kept it from almost everybody. The secrecy on this one
was extreme. There were just constant rewrites going on and additions, changes; it was a long, slow process.”

Script complications aside, Stanford seems very pleased with the way things turned out in the final product and the shooting process itself. “Both in the second and this movie, they do actually create the environment. They had a lot of great sets on this one; it didn’t rely
solely on CGI.”

When talking about the shoot, a factor that has to be taken into account is the departure of Brian Singer (who directed the first two films) and the hiring of Brett Ratner for the third. “They’re both very talented, very capable directors. Brian did an amazing job with the first two movies. Everyone was concerned about it. Especially when we didn’t have a director attached; especially when nobody knew who it was going to be. They went through all these changes and juggled different choices. When I heard that Brett Ratner was doing it, I was quite relieved. He’s a very accomplished director. He knows how to make a huge movie like this.”
Like any good child would do, Stanford refuses to pick favorites between his two directors, “It’s difficult to compare the two, it’s like apples and oranges. They’re both perfectionists and they will both make you wait there until you get it. Brett was famous for taking thirty takes.”

Despite the long hours and the high demands, Ratner found a way to keep the cast invigorated throughout the shoot. “He was great on set, he made it fun. The most striking thing about him is his energy. He has incredible amounts of enthusiasm. Every day on set when we’d be shooting till 6:30 – 7:00 in the morning, he’d just be the energizer bunny, keeping everybody going and going. Keeping everybody whipped up into a state of frenzy.”

Needless to say, working on productions of this scale can be exhausting both
mentally and physically. The wise, young actor is aware of this and is exceedingly grateful for the wonderful cast who helped make the shoot a rewarding one. “These movies take so long to shoot. You spend half a year of your life on them, 5-6 months, sometimes longer. You really get to know these people very well. It was great to come back and see Sean, Anna and Ian and all of them. It was a nice homecoming.”

Like all the cast members, Aaron harbors great admiration for Sir Ian McKellen, particularly his amicable, unpretentious nature. “Everybody calls him Sir and he hates it. It’s a way to mess with him. He pays great attention to detail but as far as a methodology goes, I don’t think he has one. He’s always the first one to say he doesn’t know a thing about acting, he never trained. Everything he does is instinctual.”

Next up for Stanford is a pivotal role in a primetime ABC television show called Traveler, scheduled to debut this fall. “It’s a little bit in the vein of 24 and The Da Vinci Code. It’s about three friends who graduate Yale together. You think it’s going to be a road trip show and then something very unexpected happens. There’s a bombing in a museum and my character disappears. Any trace that he ever existed disappears along with him. It’s all about these guys trying to figure out who he is and why he set them up.”

When asked about what sort of interaction he has had with rabid X-Men fans,
he appears modest. “I’ve been recognized very seldom. I think I just look
different in person than I do as the character. The few that I have run into,
the people just love the X-Men universe. I have found that the response [from]
these fanatics has been overwhelmingly positive. They all seem to love what
has been done with these beloved characters.”

With such positive feedback and a potential hit television show on the horizon, Stanford may not be able to enjoy his moments of anonymity for much longer.