In Hollywood circa 2006, there are worse fates than being typecast as "That guy who fights mutants."
In "The Hills Have Eyes," in theaters today (March 10), Stanford plays Doug, a wimpy liberal who channels his inner vigilante when his family is terrorized by mutant cannibals in the desert. The film's exhausting Moroccan shoot left Stanford appreciating the ease of his better known mutant gig as Pyro in "The X-Men."
"Yeah, 'X-Men' wasn't anywhere near as physically demanding," Stanford says. "I'm sure some of the characters in 'X-Men' had a lot of physically demanding stuff to do, but my character's pretty much stand-and-deliver, stand there and throw fire at people. There's no acrobatics or anything."
Talking to reporters for "Hills," Stanford happily answers the inevitable "X-Men: The Last Stand" questions, providing status check for Pyro, last seen pondering his mutant allegiances. Despite his place among Professor X's (Patrick Stewart) altruistic gaggle of gifted children, Pyro felt a pull from the vengeful Magneto (Ian McKellen).
"He's got friends with Professor X, but on the other hand, he's really called by Magneto, who he tells him that he's a God amongst insects. That's a pretty attractive idea/concept," Stanford rehashes. "In 'X3,' he's totally surrendered to that. He's off the fence and he's with the brotherhood, dedicated and committed. Because of that, he's off the leash and he's just allowed to really let his powers rip and not hold back at all. It's gonna be good."
There have been other changes to Pyro. Stanford's added a snazzy blonde haircut, somewhat more in line with the character's fiery 'do in the comic. The costumers have also enhanced Pyro's arsenal with handy ignitors to help facilitate his firestarting.
In "Hills," bearded and close to unrecognizable, Stanford is the stand-out in the ensemble, but in the 'X-Men' films, it hasn't been that simple. The "Tadpole" star has to win screentime from the likes of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Famke Janssen, as well as such new mutants as Kelsey Grammer's Beast and Ben Foster's Angel.
"Yeah, that's just part of being in X-Men," he admits. "There's like 20 main characters and 15 of them are household names, so obviously you're happy for anything you can get. I'm thrilled that I got as much screen time as I did, and that they do actually follow through with the Pyro and Iceman story and really take it to a nice conclusion."
Unless his entire life was spent in the vast wastelands of Morocco, Stanford probably would have heard the rumblings of concern in the fan communities about the transfer of 'X-Men' directorial power from Bryan Singer to Brett Ratner. Worry not, he says.
"What Brett lacked in experience, he really made up for in just enthusiasm and energy," he says. "The man's the Energizer Bunny. He just has boundless, boundless energy and came to set every day ready to rock, just bringing everyone in for ideas. ... He was just on top of it every minute of the day. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised."
"The Hills Have Eyes" is now in theaters. "X-Men: The Last Stand" opens on May 26.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times