by Stuart Banks

Being a former professional wrestler, Tyler Mane knows a thing or two about playing big, over the top villains. Once described by the San Diego Union Tribune as “A more interesting brute than [Arnold] Schwarzenegger”, he now gets the chance to play one of the greatest super-villain icons from the Marvel Comics Universe, Sabretooth.

Clocking in at six feet ten inches tall and two hundred and seventy-five pounds, Mane at the very least has the physical credentials needed to play a menacing beserker mutant with razor-sharp claws.

“I guess being a professional wrestler has helped me develop the bad guy image,” the Canadian born Mane revealed via a Transatlantic ‘wire’.

Indeed, it was for his skills as a former professional wrestler that Mane was first approached by producers at 20th Century Fox and Liberty Productions regarding his availability for stunt work.

Mane explains: “[They] wanted me to come in and discuss doing some stunt work for the film. Bryan Singer (X-Men’s director) had seen my picture and wanted to meet me. So when he did see me he was like, ‘oh my God! It’s Sabretooth!’

“So instead of me going to discuss doing stunts, I ended up playing Sabretooth! So it was a very interesting situation for me.”

Upon becoming the first X-Men actor to be cast, Mane knew that he would have to learn more about this new world he was about to become a very big - in every sense of the word - part of.

“I had seen some of the cartoons but I had never read the comics, so I never really knew a lot about the X-Men, which was probably a good thing; it would have psyched me right out had I known it was such a huge comic book and had been around for over thirty eight years!

“I went to a comic book store in the States and said: ‘I need this comic book, the X-Men, do you have any of them?’

“Well, the guy running the store laughed and pointed to the four rows of comic books and said: ‘Yeah, these three rows are all X-Men’. So I asked how many of them had Sabretooth in them, and he laughed and said: ‘You don’t know too much about this do you?’

“I wasn’t going to tell him that I was actually playing Sabretooth!”

Before the six-month shoot began last year, Mane spent a couple of months in preparation for the role.

“The prep work meant getting ready for the prosthetics and having the costume designed, In the movie I have got prosthetics on my forehead, which comes right down to my eyes. Then I have prosthetics on my hands, and also had to wear wigs.

“It took me four hours to get into that costume, but it was worth it because the people who are in the know about the X-Men, especially those who know about Sabretooth, said that the costume was very accurate.

“Even the head of Marvel Comics couldn’t believe how close to the actual comic my costume looked!”

When it came time to shoot his fight scenes it transpired that Mane’s training as a wrestler would only carry him so far.

“Being a professional wrestler helped with the stunt work to some degree. But as most people know Sabretooth doesn’t pile-drive or body slam people. He is more of a slicer and slasher. So I had to learn to adapt to those movements and to adapt to the character.  Especially as they did not want the character to move like a wrestler or martial artist.

“It was an interesting process: you had the fight choreographers who wanted him to move more like a cat. And this was the way the fights were played out: with that image and theme running through them. It was a long process: we would work on things to see if they looked good. We worked the angles so we could get even more of the Sabretooth menace and image coming out.”

It worked – Sabretooth was a real scary guy, and by not being a confirmed ‘kill’, there’s every chance he may turn up in the inevitable X-Men 2. Maybe next time he’ll get to do more than just grunt. And hit people with trees…


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