Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain has entered talks to play the villainous Shi’ar empress in the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix. This update not only confirms previous rumors that the next X-Men film installment would feature the Shi-ar Empire, it also confirms longtime speculation that the X-Men movies would be “going cosmic”, following the conclusion of the X-Men: First Class trilogy.
Simon Kinberg, who wrote the second and third installments in the First Class trilogy (X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, respectively) is going to be both writing and directing Dark Phoenix, after longtime X-Men movie helmsman Bryan Singer called the shots on both Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. First Class trilogy stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy will be reprising their respective roles as Mystique, Magneto and Professor X here too, while Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey – who was introduced in the 1980s-set Apocalypse – will fully embrace her Phoenix side, as the movie’s title indicates.
According to THR, Chastain – should she close her deal to join the Dark Phoenix cast – will be playing Princess-Majestrix Lilandra Neramani in the X-Men cinematic universe. For those unfamiliar, the character is the empress of the Shi’ar alien empire and will be on a mission to imprison (and destroy) Grey as the ultra-powerful Dark Phoenix, in Kinberg’s film adaptation of the original comic book storyline.
This report appears to confirm our previous speculation that Angelina Jolie was being considered to play Lilandra in the Dark Phoenix movie adaptation, before her fellow A-lister Chastain entered negotiations for the role. Chastain, for her part, has been expressing her interest in making a superhero movie for years now, having most recently indicated that she would be open to playing either a superhero, antihero or supervillain (see Chastain’s Poison Ivy/Gotham City Sirens comments). That is, so long as the comic book character in question was both well-developed and compelling.
Lilandra seems to fit that bill on paper; the character may be the “villain” of Dark Phoenix, but X-Men comic book readers (and/or those who care to recall X-Men: The Last Stand‘s adaptation of the Phoenix comic book story) know all too well how destructive Jean Grey/Phoenix can be. Hence, “antagonist” may be the more apt description for Lilandra, given that she’s not wrong about the danger posed by Phoenix – not only to the Earth, but to the entire universe. That layer of moral ambiguity will hopefully help Dark Phoenix’s version of the character to be a more fully-developed threat than some of the past X-Men film villains have been (see, for example, Oscar Isaac’s En Sabah Nur from Apocalypse).