Jeff Wadlow is a man on the verge. The writer/director behind films like Cry_Wolf and Never Back Down is tackling both writing and directing duties on his most high-profile project yet, this summer's superhero sequel, Kick-Ass 2. He'll follow that tough act by taking a page from Kick-Ass 1 writer/director Matthew Vaughn and jumping into Fox's X-Men universe, writing (and potentially directing?) the studio's recently-announced X-Force movie.
Fox has already started re-inventing their X-Men franchise for the post-Avengers era; The Wolverine is now and theaters and sets up the 2014 tentpole X-Men: Days of Future Past, which we suspect could reboot the X-Men movie timeline, giving fans and filmmakers a fresh slate upon which to build their cinematic universe. That makes Wadlow's script for X-Force - arguably the first film in Fox's "X-Universe 2.0" - a keystone piece in the X-Men movie blueprint of the next decade. No pressure.
While at the Kick-Ass 2 press junket in New York, we had the chance to sit down with Jeff Wadlow and pick his brain for a bit more of what we can x-pect from X-Force (see what I did there? I promise not to do it often.):
SR: For the average person who maybe doesn't know: What differentiates X-Force from X-Men?
Jeff Wadlow: What 'X-Force' is - the way I talk about 'X-Force' is... 'X-Men' is about mutants, and not all the mutants get into the mansion. So I'm curious to tell a story about the mutants who don't make it into the mansion.
We've heard that you may be working from different iterations of the X-Force team [that have existed in the comic books] - can you tell us who some of your favorite characters are?
I definitely can't tell you the lineup - we want that to be a big surprise.
Well who are some YOUR favorites, like personally speaking.
Look, I'm a huge Deadpool fan, who doesn't love Wolverine - but obviously Cable is an iconic character we haven't seen onscreen yet. I love Psylocke, Domino is an amazing character - it's a long list of characters that have appeared in 'X-Force' - Colossus is in the current lineup... There's a lot of really exciting characters that you can use in 'X-Force' that have been in other movies, that haven't shown up, or maybe there's ways to re-imagine them, even though they might've shown up in other films.
Certainly hardcore fans are going to read into this quote VERY closely: There's long been debate about which iteration of X-Force will influence the movie most heavily - with the popular favorite being the more recent X-Force (vol. 3) and Uncanny X-Force series, which have both centered on a splinter division of the X-Men (led by Wolverine for a time) that carries out the bloodier, more clandestine missions needed to keep mutantkind safe. Given that Days of Future Past will be setting up the idea of the X-Men battling a treacherous future, the opening for X-Force's introduction is pretty clear.
...But that's not to say the classic version of the team - featuring fan-favorite time-hopper Cable taking former students of the Xavier Institute and molding them into a hardened strike force - doesn't fit within the world Fox is building. With the cast members of Bryan Singer's X-Men Trilogy likely ready to retire their leathers soon, and the start-studded cast of First Class - James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence - all likely headed for bigger careers, a younger X-Force team isn't a bad way to go. And, considering in the Ultimate universe Cable is actually an older version of Wolverine (instead of Cyclops' son), there's the double option of keeping franchise star Hugh Jackman (even when he's past his prime), or simply signing a new face to play the "classic" version of Cable.
We know that X-Force is only going to have 5 team members - so there's the sense that Fox is not going to waste any opportunity with to build something out of the characters they include in the film. One big question has been what Fox is going to do with the Deadpool movie that has been hanging in limbo for years now: it has a highly-praised script from Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and star Ryan Reynolds still (but increasingly loosely) attached. Could Fox use an X-Force film to test the waters with the character before launching him into his own film? It would certainly fit with Wadlow's mention of characters we've seen being re-imagined for X-Force (but then again so would a Cable/Wolverine or Archangel version of Angel from X-Men 3, etc...).
To get a better sense of the game plan, we asked Wadlow about the roster selection process:
Are you being given free reign to pick the characters you want - or does the studio have their own ideas of who they want? What's the balance there?
Basically when they hired Mark [Millar] to oversee their Marvel properties, he started talking about some characters they were thinking about doing solo films with - that could maybe then lead to a team movie - sort of following the Marvel/'Avengers' model. And I said, 'Wait, wait, wait, that's not what's cool about X-Men! Marvel's doing individuals who become a team; this should be about, like, other teams, and I want to make an 'X-Force' movie, and this is how I would do it.' And I pitched him the idea, he got real excited and gave me some great notes that I incorporated, we took it into the studio, I pitched them, they loved it and they said 'Let's do it.'
After doing something like Kick-Ass 2, would your X-Force movie be PG-13 or R-Rated?
At this point, to be honest, there's a lot of external issues that go into answering that question. Depends on the budget of the movie - if I wanted to make a smaller-budget film then the argument for allowing me to make an R-rated film becomes more compelling. Like 'Kick-Ass 2,' we made that for $28 million so that could be 'R'; you make a movie for $200 million it can't be 'R.' That's just the economics of the movie business. So I think it depends on the scope of the final film - but we'll see. [Smiles]
For X-Force, what kind of villain would you put them up against?
[Smiles Coyly] I can't say at this point. I can't say.
Stay tuned for more of our coverage from the Kick-Ass 2 press Junket - including our full interview with Jeff Wadlow.
Kick-Ass 2 hits theaters on August 16, 2013.
X-Force is still in the scripting stages, but a 2015 release would not be surprising.