Just before the filming of X-Men 2, I was approached by Gordon Smith of FXSmith to come up with a tattoo design for the Nightcrawler. Gordon’s dilemma was the challenge of making the tattoos show up on the Nightcrawler’s blue-black skin. I suggested that an etched scarified effect, inspired by the traditional Maori moko would show up well and would give an added dimension if it were implied that the wounds were self-inflicted.
My challenge was to create a tattoo design that reflected the psychospiritual dimension of the character who was Roman Catholic and spoke High German. My wife Raven suggested angelic sigils (i.e. signatures) that would reflect the Nightcrawler’s faith, combined with alchemical symbols that emphasized his spiritual conflict because of his outward demonic appearance and sulphurous smell. The apparently opposing forces of spirit and form would be balanced and integrated into one harmonious expression of wholeness in the tattoo.
Initially Bryan Singer and his committee wanted only half the Nightcrawler’s face tattooed. After he saw my drawings, however, and heard our proposal, he decided on the whole face, and, later, the upper torso and arms. The writers had to rewrite parts of the script to incorporate the Nightcrawler’s tattoos in a new backstory of the character.
Gordon’s special effects team made casts of Alan Cumming’s face, torso and arms and I mapped the designs on the casts. I was later told that Alan found the whole plaster cast experience claustrophobic and anxiety-inducing; the FX team had to prematurely pull it off his face. Fortunately, the plaster cast stayed in one piece.
Prior to X-Men 2, the tattoos I was asked to do for films tended to be the stereotypical gang members and criminals. I am grateful that in X-Men 2, I was finally given the opportunity to express in a film the essence of tattoo as a spiritual healing art that realigns body and soul.