Over the weekend we discussed the issues surrounding the casting of a key character in Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn’s upcoming X-Men: First Class. Ben Walker had been one of the first actors signed for the project to play the character of Beast, but due to Fox exec Tom Rothman’s demands to recast him, Walker was recently let go for what appears to be concerns over his age.
After testing a few other candidates for the role, the offer went to… Ben Walker… again. Needless to say, with an already rushed production start to meet a rushed release date of early next summer, it’s not comforting to see studio execs meddling with key casting decisions by the filmmakers.
According to Showbiz 411, Walker made the decision to pass on the (second) offer and stick with his broadway gig as a stage performer in the upcoming musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
What does this mean? Fox has to go through the casting process again to figure out who can play one of their key X-Men characters in the franchise prequel within a very limited timeframe and secondly, they really need to sort out the age dilemma between the character of Beast and the rest of the characters in the film.
With casting Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as Magneto and Professor X respectively, we’d expect them to be aiming for a young principal cast of mutants and so far, the only real young mutant character cast has been Caleb Landry as Banshee (a character who is actually much older in the comics strangely enough).
For the record, I liked the idea of Walker as Beast. The character brings a higher level of wisdom and intelligence in not only his abilities, but his demeanor, and he works as a more mature X-Men character within Professor X’s first class of mutants. It also plays well into the rest of the series where we see him leave the team for politics, only to return in the dumb battle at the end of X-Men 3: The Last Stand.
What direction is X-Men: First Class taking?
Studio executives reversing casting decisions as we approach the project’s start date is one thing; Not knowing what direction to take with the film is something else entirely.
According to Roger Friedman at Showbiz 411, Fox is concerned about this project and its financial outlook. While James Cameron’s Avatar was a success-and-a-half-squared, some of their recent films have been duds at the box office (Knight and Day, Marmaduke – I wonder why?) and they want to make sure X-Men: First Class is a big hit next summer.
Expect our worst fears – they’re looking to Twilight-up the next X-Men movie with younger hot guys (hence the kick in the butt for Ben Walker). Friedman’s sources say that Fox even looked into the availability of Taylor Lautner… uh oh.
It seems director Matthew Vaughn may be working under the conditions he hates so dearly – that of lack of control. With only a month left before principal photography begins in London, the filmmakers and the studio need to figure out what story they’re going with and what characters work within it. We’ve already seen a pile of rewrites on the script, originating with Josh Schwartz’s screenplay which was taken over by Thor writers Zack Stentz and Ashley Edward Miller, before Bryan Singer brought in Jamie Moss (Street Kings) and later, Matthew Vaughn bringing in Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass).
If we don’t hear something soon about the casting of some of the main characters in X-Men: First Class, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Fox unveil the likes of Cyclops, Jean Grey and the (new) Beast at Comic-Con in two weeks.
Otherwise, let’s hope for some delays so we don’t get a rushed and messy disappointment. We need a good X-Men movie after X3 and Wolverine failed to bring us back to joy of the first two Bryan Singer films.
I want to say to you that there’s no need for concern, because this stuff isn’t uncommon within the industry and a lot of this could be blown out of proportion. But I am concerned. We all saw what happened with the last two movies so that speaks for itself.
X-Men: First Class opens June 3, 2011.
Source: Showbiz 411