The actor Kevin Bacon played the German-speaking villain Sebastian Shaw in the film X-Men: First Class, but can Bacon himself actually speak German?
Kevin Bacon doesn’t speak German, although he did take language lessons in the run up to filming X-Men: First Class in order to learn how to say his German lines.
Read more about X-Men: First Class and Bacon’s role in the film.
X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class is set in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The film follows Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) as they face the threat posed by the Hellfire Club and their leader, the mutant supremacist Sebastian Shaw.
Watch Kevin Bacon talking about the film and his character, Sebastian Shaw, in the below YouTube video.
The comic artist John Byrne originally based Shaw’s appearance on the British actor Robert Shaw. However, Matthew Vaughn, the director of X-Men: First Class, discarded Shaw’s original look for the film, worrying that he would “look like an Austin Powers villain”.
In X-Men: First Class, Shaw is a former Nazi scientist and leader of the Hellfire Club, a secret society that aims to take over the world by escalating the Cuban Missile Crisis and wiping the human race.
Shaw has the ability to absorb and redirect energy, using it to improve his strength, speed, stamina, and recuperation abilities. He also uses absorbed energy to remain young and can unleash this energy as controlled blasts.
Lauren Shuler Donner, producer of X-Men: First Class, disclosed why Bacon was first considered to play Shaw, saying he could portray a villain “with different shades, that’s not always clear that he’s the bad guy”.
Kevin Bacon accepted the role of Sebastian Shaw because he was a fan of another of Vaughn’s films, Kick-Ass. He also said he liked the character of Shaw and the script, which he stated was “a fresh look at the franchise, but also the comic book movies in general”.
Simon Kinberg, another producer of X-Men: First Class, described Bacon’s portrayal of Shaw as “somebody, who in his mind, is the hero of the movie”, with Bacon himself describing Shaw as a sociopath to whom “the morality of the world did not apply”.
Kevin Bacon revealed in an interview with Howard Stern that Sebastian Shaw was one of the most difficult roles he’s ever played, given that many of his lines were in German.
To help him learn his German lines, the studio sent over a language instructor, who actually turned out to be a dog trainer. After working with Kevin’s dog, the trainer proved to be good with humans too and helped Bacon to perfect his German lines.
Bacon got a surprise once filming began, however, as the director decided that some of the lines Bacon had already learned in German should be spoken in Russian instead!