Kodi Smit-McPhee on Doing Research to Play X-Men’s Nightcrawler and Intimidation During Auditions

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler

“I’m doing so much research definitely — on Alan Cumming’s take, on the comic books, on even the cartoons.” – Kodi Smit-McPhee on character research for X-Men’s Nightcrawler


One of the most fascinating aspects of the decade-spanning X-Men film series from an acting standpoint is seeing how different actors interpret the same characters. In Bryan Singer‘s 2016 sequel X-Men: Apocalypse — which is set in the 1980s — we will see Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee play Nightcrawler, a character played by Alan Cumming in 2003’s X-Men 2. Speaking with Comic Book Resources, Smit-McPhee spoke about auditioning for the role and why he’s doing more research for this role than he usually does.

Smit-McPhee points out that the acting world often seems very small and that sometimes runs into familiar — and intimidating — faces when he is auditioning. He explains, “Sometime you’ll straight up be in the room and be like, ‘Oh, God. I know that actor. I know that kid. He‘s awesome.’ But then you’ll also be like, ‘I need this job!’ [Laughs] So it’s such a weird industry to be in, but this process was really quick and I’m so grateful for that. I thought it would be something much bigger. But I had a meeting with Bryan [Singer]. Then I just did a little audition and that was it.

He reveals that the scene he auditioned with was a scene featuring Nightcrawler from X-Men 2. He says, “They got me to do –which I really liked – one of Alan Cumming’s scenes, where he was explaining the scars on his body were from archangel Gabriel. And they just had me do it in the accent. So I think that was really smart. I didn’t know if it was going to be in the actual movie, as like a moment rebooted. But it wasn’t.”

In fact, because his audition was so closely tied to Cumming’s take on the character, Smit-McPhee is actually incorporating more research than he normally does for a role into his performance. He explains, “Usually I wouldn’t pull from things that have been done [before], like Let the Right One In, I didn’t look at that when I was doing Let Me In. Slow West, I didn’t look at other Westerns because I just wanted to be in the moment of those characters. Seeing as this is something so different, I’m kind of researching everything from when Nightcrawler himself was created as a character. So seeing everyone’s take on it, what people have liked to keep about him, and then what they’ve liked to take away from him. I’ve followed his journey of evolution and the kind of story that’s evolved for him now, which is running away from the suffering that’s being in the circus and his freakish looks, and finding God, and faith. Those are all things that I relate to as a person. So I’m doing so much research definitely — on Alan Cumming’s take, on the comic books, on even the cartoons. I love the cartoon — I forget what it’s called, but it’s a really nostalgic old-school one. So cool, I’m just watching all the episodes, soaking it all up. It’s all out there.”

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