'X-Men: Apocalypse': Why Nightcrawler Got a Makeover

Nightcrawler X Men Apocalyspe H 2016
Alan Markfield/EPK

Nightcrawler, the teleporting mutant, gets a makeover in X-Men: Apocalypse, which hits theaters today.

In Bryan Singer's 2003 film X2: X-Men United, Nightcrawler was played by Alan Cumming. But in the latest installment in the X-Men franchise, also directed by Singer, a new, younger actor, Kodi Smit-McPhee, steps into the role. And makeup effects department head Adrien Morot saw that as an opportunity to subtly redefine the character's look.

So while Legacy Effects returned to the franchise to handle characters like Oscar Isaac's Apocalypse and Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique, Adrien Morot Studio, rejoining the franchise, reimagined Nightcrawler, one of the characters on which it worked. 

"Kodi is a younger-looking actor than Alan was in X-Men 2." says Morot, who earned an Oscar nomination for Barney's Version and whose recent work included The Revenant and upcoming Warcraft. "Also Alan was a grey-black in the original movie, and they had a problem lighting him. So we had to make sure Nightcrawler's look was camera-friendly. But they didn't want him to look painted. So we had to come up with a skin that was not the same as the other blue characters — he had to look somewhat different."

Smit-McPhee also wore prosthetics on his face, and was given pointy ears. "And one thing I wanted to bring to the character that wasn't in the original Nightcrawler makeup from 2002 was, if you look at the comic books, he looks feline in the way that he stands and with his tail and yellow eyes and the way the ears are shaped. That wasn't an obvious feature in the original interpretation," Morot tells THR. "We brought that back to the character, not only in the way the ears were designed but in the scars. Even the contact lenses and the teeth that we made for him suggested more of a feline profile."

The other big challenge was that Nightcrawler has a six-foot long tail that's about one inch in diameter. "For the original, it was a static tail," explains Morot. "But they asked me if movement could be incorporated — which normally would involve server motors or fishing wires. I started inquiring if there was any way to make it a practical tail without the added-on motor or puppeteers. We managed to do that. It was kind of like Lego. It would move with your body movement."