Thanks to a recommendation by director Joe Carnahan, who at the time was pitching a reboot of Daredevil, Twentieth Century Fox hired Mark Millar as a creative consultant on their Marvel properties. Their goal in bringing in the famed comic book creator is to avoid the negative fan feedback they received from X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine going forward and as Bryan Singer said best, to do something more "ambitious" and "broaden out the universe."
Since the announcement six weeks ago, Millar has stepped up as the online face of the studio, sharing details and tidbits along the way, from time travel to giant Sentinel robots, and teasing bigger picture plans of a shared Marvel universe between the X-Men and Fantastic Four. The latest has Millar talking about The Wolverine's role in his four-year plan and ideas for how Fox could work with Sony and Marvel Studios for major event films in the future.
An interview with Mark Millar was included on the latest Empire podcast, but was recorded before Matthew Vaughn dropped out of the director's chair for X-Men: Days of Future Past, to be replaced by Bryan Singer. He took the opportunity to discuss his and the studio's goals going forward, along with personal ideas that stem from his own passion of the books and universe.
"Fox are thinking, 'We're sitting on some really awesome things here. There is another side of the Marvel Universe. Let's try and get some cohesiveness going.' So they brought me in to oversee that really, so to meet with the writers and directors to suggest new ways we could take this stuff and maybe new properties that could spin out of it, because the X-Men alone feels like a universe of itself; there're so many characters, there're so many great potential spin-off characters. So, they asked me to come in and work out a plan, so unfortunately at this point I can't get too specific. I do have plan, I've got a three to four year plan of where things could go, but you know, I'll be working with guys like Matthew and so on, and Josh Trank - the new director of Fantastic Four - and just figuring out how everything can kind of work together and not contradict each other.
"But I also at the same time don't want to make it too much of a mess either, you know, I don't want everyone showing up in everybody's films. What my dream is right, as a fan, my dream is that when you go and see any Marvel movie that it all feels as if they're all taking place in the one universe like when you pick up a Marvel comic. And that doesn't necessarily mean that pick up an X-Men comic and see Spider-Man in it every issue and all that and it shouldn't be like that in the movies either."
Millar has previously gone on record explaining that he wants to see Fox's Marvel universe compliment that of Marvel Studios, in a way that the films from each studio don't "contradict" one another. We've also seen X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner express her love of the idea of the X-Men and The Avengers crossing over. Millar in his chat with Empire went into detail on the reality of the Marvel properties being scattered among multiple studios and how he'd like to see them work together in the future.
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"Fox, Sony and Marvel I think should all be best friends and all take a share of the responsibility, and a lot of people say 'I'd like to see it all back at one studio' but I'll tell you why that's not a good idea. The big thing is cost. These things are ludicrously expensive... So most studios aren't going to do more than two or possibly three a year which means that you wouldn't be getting the Guardians of the Galaxy, you wouldn't be getting Ant-Man any of these very interesting new projects, what you'd be getting if it were all one studio is Spider-Man, X-Men and The Avengers maybe happening and that would be it. So I love the fact there're three studios essentially at the moment, possibly four, shouldering the financial burden of the Marvel universe.
"And maybe at some point, I don't know maybe give years down the line - and this is me speaking very unofficial here - but maybe you'll get studios doing deals with each other and crossing certain characters over. Maybe all the studios get together and do a massive event movie. And I think you don't want to see that too much. I like the idea of them all being little self-sustaining things that when they do come together it should be special, and if it does happen in five years, it doesn't happen again for another five. So I actually think we've got the perfect thing right now and because I'm friends with the Marvel guys, there's a good relationship there, there's no rivalry between Fox and Marvel or anything you know. I feel as if we can all work in the same way and I think we've all got the same outlook, like the Marvel vision is very similar to my own vision for those characters and I'm going to try to bring that to Fox too."
[Update (May 23 2013): Quicksilver was cast in X-Men: Days of Future Past while Joss Whedon hopes to use him in The Avengers 2. Is the "deals with each other and crossing certain characters over" a hint of this from six months ago? Read about it here.]
Where does this all begin? In a separate interview with CBR Millar explained that The Wolverine, currently shooting in Australia for a release next summer, is Fox's Iron Man in a sense that it'll represent the beginning to their long-term plans going forward.
"I didn't work on 'The Wolverine' in a direct sense. There were about two months of 'Wolverine' shooting done when I got this job, but I've got a couple of ideas from it. The only guy I don't really know yet is James Mangold, and I wasn't involved in that screenplay -- though I read it and loved it. But the thing is, I felt like 'Iron Man' was really the beginning of something for the Marvel Studios movies, and 'The Wolverine' will be a similar starting point to build a lot off of for the Fox movies."
With James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman continually emphasizing the idea that The Wolverine - which we know is based after the X-Men trilogy - is a standalone film, does Millar's words mean that it may not be as standalone as we think and that the studio will take advantage of the opportunity to at least tease the story of X-Men: Days of Future Past? Recent rumors indicated that Famke Janssen may be making a cameo appearance in The Wolverine, and it seems a no brainer to do that in the same way Iron Man featured a Nick Fury cameo after the credits.
As for the next Marvel project from Fox, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan took to his normally inactive Twitter account, expressing excitement towards beginning work on the sequel to X-Men: First Class.
Well here goes. Beginning full prep on Xmen Days of Future Past. Very excited!
— Bryan Singer (@BryanSinger) November 8, 2012
We've know for quite some time that Days of Future Past would begin shooting early next year, but The Geek Files have learned that its start date for principal photography will begin in April.
Are you excited for Millar's four-year plan and do you believe it's possible for the studios to work together in a way that'll make crossover appearances a reality?
Bryan Singer will direct X-Men: Days of Future Past with returning stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jason Flemyng, who could be joined by the return of Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore. Stay tuned!
The Wolverine releases July 26, 2013 and X-Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters on July 18, 2014.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.