Who Really Wrote X-Men: First Class?

When you go and see X-Men: First Class (and do go and see X-Men: First Class, it’s superb) you’ll see a whole raft of writing credits in the opening titles. There’s been some real controversy about some of these names, and when Bleeding Cool recently got a chance to speak with four of the individuals credited, it would have been remiss of us to not ask about it.

As per the Writers Guild of America – who arbitrate in disputes over who gets a credit, and which credit they deserve – all four of Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz contributed sufficient material that they deserve the big-time “Written By” credit on the film. Sheldon Turner, who will be mentioned also, has a “Story By” credit. Bryan Singer also has a “Story By” credit, which everybody seems to agree he has earned.

This is all in the final decision of the WGA, so it must be fair, right? Well, Matthew Vaughn doesn’t seem to think the Guild are so trustworthy.

Here’s an exchange between Vaughn and sometime Bleeding Cool contributor Ben Mortimer, recorded by me when we met up with the director on the press rounds a couple of weeks back.

Ben: There were other writers who had established parts of the script…

Matthew Vaughn: Not really.

Ben Mortimer: So it was you and Jane then?

Matthew Vaughn: The WGA don’t think that, but they’re fuckwits.

Oh dear.

The next day, I took a moment in my interview with Ms. Goldman to ask about this contentious crediting. Here’s what she had to add on the matter:

What I would say is, if I think you were to read Sheldon’s script, the things you would find that are similar are references to the holocaust, the villain of the current piece being someone that Erik meets in childhood, and Charles meeting Erik. That’s the similarity. It’s a story element. But in terms of content of that script you wouldn’t recognize it as being like this one.

Obviously, the story for this is Bryan Singer’s and all the guys who came before us had fleshed out Bryan’s idea in different ways, but certainly when Matthew agreed to take it on as director it was on the condition that he could start again, really, but using this wonderful idea of Bryan’s. You start off with some stuff that’s a holdover and slowly there’s less and less and less of it and eventually you do end up with a completely different thing. I think Matthew’s decision was always “Yes, I want to tell the story, but I want to tell it my way”.

A few days later, writing team Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz appeared at the MCM Expo. During one of their panels, they were confronted by a member of the audience wanting to get their take on Vaughn’s comments.

Much of what this voice from the audience called out wasn’t very clear, and I wasn’t able to record it all legibly. This, however, is how they ended their statement:

Vaughn said, basically, that he took Bryan Singer’s idea and rewrote it from scratch with Jane Goldman.

And here is Ashley Miller’s response to that comment:

First of all, I would be surprised if that was Matthew’s exact quote, and frankly disappointed if that we’re Matthew’s exact quote because, certainly, we spent a good three or four weeks working directly with Matthew and Jane, preparing the script for pre-production, talking through story problems and changes, talking through things that worked and didn’t, creating new scenes, developing the script into the movie that you saw. That work largely represents what the final product is.

Zack Stentz contributed a little bit of pith:

There’s a famous quote by Bismarck about how you don’t want to know too much about how sausages or laws are made. Had there been summer action movies, he could have added that as well.

But it is, of course, for us to know because it’s an issue of credit, of public record. I would like to think that those who have done the work are those that are receiving the recognition. But we don’t know, really, if that is exactly the case here.

X-Men: First Class is a fine film, with a very strong screenplay. It is clearly the work of talented individuals. I salute them.

*This completes the set of those with “Written by” credits. Jamie Moss, who has no credit on the film, had appealed to the WGA for recognition, having worked with Singer on an early draft. His request was denied and, while it would be very interesting to hear his take on the whole tangled mess, he is not, just as you would expect, doing any press for the film.