The folks at Empire had a chance to speak with Lauren Shuler Donner, producer of all films X-Men related, at the press junket for the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on Blu-ray and they discussed the future of the franchise.
The feature that Empire put together on the interview was broken down into four sections for each of the movies: Wolverine 2, X-Men: First Class, Deadpool, and Magneto. We’ll go through and discuss each, passing to you the key things Donner says and giving our thoughts on it and how it relates to what we expected to see from these movies since their inception.
To start, they touched on the most definite film we’ll see coming our way in the next fear year: Wolverine 2.
“It’s actually the story we wanted to use for the first Wolverine film, but [Fox head honcho] Tom Rothman preferred to set the character up with an origin story first. This movie will really focus on the relationship between Wolverine and Mariko, the daughter of a Japanese crime lord, and what happens to him in Japan.”
The Chris Claremont-Frank Miller run on Wolverine which saw him on his adventures to Japan is one of the most classic Wolverine tales there is and so it’s no wonder they want to turn that story into a feature film. That being said, I can’t say I disagree with Rothman’s reasoning to want to tell Wolverine’s origin first. We saw hints of his origin scattered throughout all of the X-trilogy so it was a story that had to be told. Although I’d argue that X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t do a great job of that, it made sense to do that before seeing Wolverine head to Japan, something not touched on at all in the X-Trilogy. The alternative would have been to do the Japan story first as a prequel to X-Men, followed by another prequel based before it? Nah, that doesn’t work as well.
I wasn’t impressed by either of the last two X-Men movies but I still hold hope that the franchise can turn it around and it looks like they’re going in the right direction with Wolverine’s next adventure. With the hiring of Oscar-winner Chris McQuarrie to write the script, with Donner’s and Jackman’s desire to have this film closely follow the source material, and with the studio seemingly holding back until (hopefully) selecting the right director, I can’t deny that I’m excited to see Wolverine in Japan, especially with what Donner says next:
“We want to make it authentic so I think it’s very likely we’ll be shooting in Japan. Also, by the way, we are looking to have the Japanese Fox executives involved in helping and counselling us, because it’s a different culture and we don’t want to portray the way they speak, dress and act in an inaccurate way. I think it’s likely the characters will speak English rather than Japanese with subtitles.”
Remember when this was a big issue for that other film McQuarrie wrote, Valkyrie? Once we all saw the movie and how they transitioned from Tom Cruise speaking German with subtitles into speaking English along with the rest of the cast, it didn’t really affect the film’s story or characters in the end. Although I admit it was weird hearing a group of German characters on screen with a half-dozen uniquely different non-German accents. I never expected to see the Wolverine sequel mostly spoken in Japanese with subtitles so this is of no surprise and shouldn’t alarm any fans.
Another thing we can expect from Wolverine 2 is Hugh Jackman fighting a lot less with his claws (after the horrible CGI of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this is a bonus):
“What’s cool about this part of the saga is that Wolverine will be fighting in a different style to what we’ve seen before… There’ll be samurai, ninja, katana blades, different forms of martial arts – mano-a-mano, extreme fighting. We’re going to come up with a new style of fighting. It’s going to be awesome.”
As you can tell, Donner is sure excited about the potential for Wolverine’s next story so let’s hope we get a high quality movie with Wolverine 2.
X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class was in development with a writer hired and a story in mind nearly half a year before X-Men Origins: Wolverine even hit theaters. Fox Studios knew they could capitalize on the X-Men’s team-focused adventures in a series of prequels to capture younger audiences.
Josh Schwartz, the creator, writer and producer of the television shows The OC, Gossip Girl and Chuck was brought on board last fall to develop his first ever feature film project in writing the screenplay for X-Men: First Class. The movie as we knew it would obviously be loosely based on the X-Men: First Class comic book which Marvel debuted in 2006 as a mini-series, later continued as an ongoing series.
That book however, follows the original five X-Men (for the most part) in their teens working for Professor X as it was when the X-Men comic began back in the 60’s. The movies cannot do the same due to the continuity established in the film franchise. The original team consisted of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman and Angel. The film universe has Angel introduced many years after the beginning of the X-Men and never an official part of the team. Iceman is also just a kid and not part of the team in the first two X-Men movies so wouldn’t be part of the adventures of the original students.
So, that means we can expect to see Cyclops, Jean, Beast and perhaps a young Storm (included in a deleted scene of X-Men Origins: Wolverine). As for who the other character(s) could be, that’s anyone’s guess. I assume that the end of Wolverine’s movie was very intentional and that we could see Emma Frost and perhaps Quicksilver (Magneto’s son in the comics) as part of the team. I also expect to see Magneto involved with First Class, but as a good guy, helping Xavier start the school and build Cerebro (referenced in the first X-Men). Perhaps this film’s story will act as the catalyst that separates the ideals and future paths of Professor X and his old friend.
There’s also fan speculation that Gambit could be involved with First Class since there was talk of a possible Gambit solo film. Also, Taylor Kitsch, who played him in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, has a three-picture deal. I expect that with Kitsch’ casting as the lead in the John Carter of Mars film (and possible trilogy), his profile will grow huge and he’ll back as Remy LeBeau once again down the road. According to Donner however, Gambit isn’t part of First Class because he wasn’t part of Xavier’s original student body. I’m not sure what that means because neither will one or more of the students they choose to fill Iceman’s and Angel’s roster spots in keeping with the film continuity.
They’re keeping the X-Men: First Class roster a secret for the time being. If you have guesses, share them in the comments!
So, getting back to the topic at hand, Lauren Shuler Donner touched on what style and tone we can expect from the young adventures of the X-Men:
“Harry Potter is a bit of a role model for us, absolutely. But we want it to be like the recent, darker Potters. It should not be a kiddie movie – we’re in the X-Men world so you can’t suddenly change the tone. The First Class comics are really fun – they’re funnier than any other comics I’ve read. Basically in each one the kids are fighting strange villains, sometimes it’s aliens, sometimes it’s monsters. I want to get a flavour of that world. Occasionally the kids will be in class, but more often they’ll be off on adventures. Which Professor X isn’t too happy about! There’s nothing more interesting than a bad kid, and this is full of naughty children. Cyclops, for example – he’s a tough kid that bobbed from foster home to foster home, until he ends up at the school and becomes the leader. There’s also still an element of friction between the mutants and the outside world. Remember that this will be set way back before anyone knew mutants existed.”
She continues to explain that Schwartz’ script is still in the works and not yet finished. She explains that they want to make sure they’re not rehashing what’s already been done in the movies and speaks highly of their writer of choice.
“We want to make this a franchise, following these kids at the school, so the casting of the child actors will be all-important.”
I expect that they’ve already done a bit of this with Tim Pocock and Tahyna Tozzi cast as Cyclops and Emma Frost respectively in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. There’s a reason they were chosen and there’s a reason why they were far over-marketed in the promotion of the film, let alone the Xavier’s scene at the end picking up the young mutant escapees which seemingly blends perfectly into the start of X-Men: First Class – There’s no way that it’s all for naught.
On the subject of Pocock, he may have dropped a bomb of an update recently with the Twitter fire he started in a tweet revealing that he’s set to start filming X-Men: First Class early next year. Once news sites picked up on the info, he tweeted a retraction saying it was a prank and that it wasn’t true but that he would be interested in playing Cyclops again. Was this really a prank? Or did Fox and his agent get on him for leaking the info? We don’t know for sure (yet) but it’s interesting nonetheless.
What do you think of these two projects and Fox’s plans for both? What X-Film are you most excited for and what characters should be featured?
Come back soon for Part Two of The Next X-Men Films where we talk about Deadpool, Magneto and more!
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