When X-Men: Apocalypse arrives in theaters this May, get ready for another big step up in Hank McCoy's evolution. When we first met a young Hank (Nicholas Hoult) in X-Men: First Class, he had a minor mutation that he was desperate to be rid of. When his self-created "cure" backfired and actually enhanced his mutation, the powerful, hairy blue "Beast" had to learn to adapt to what he had become.
McCoy has always been on the side of good, and his reward for his longtime support of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and other mutants was having history rewritten in X-Men: Days of Future Past. In one timeline he was killed, but the actions of a time-traveling Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and both past and future X-men helped repair human/mutant relations, change the future, and save Beast's life.
The Apocalypse film puts us ten years into the new future post-Days of Future Past, with Hank helping Charles once again run his school for young mutants. At our Apocalypse set visit, Hoult talked about life in this brave new world, and after that long period where the two friends had let their powers lie mostly dormant.
"It’s a lot happier than the last movie where I was kind of his enabler and having dark days in the X-Mansion. Hank, since the last movie, still believes that the world kind of needs the X-Men, and that even though there’s peace between humans and mutants at this point, he senses trouble and has kind of been building this jet war plane and kind of preparing for the worst. But other than that...he’s hoping for the best and having fun teaching I think."
That decade has also led to a change in the relationships Hank has with everyone around him. While he still clearly has concerns about the world, he's far from the scared kid who was terrified anyone would see he was different. As a 26-year-old actor, Hoult says it was also a bit of an adjustment portraying this new stage of Hank's life.
"He’s definitely more mature. It’s odd because already I’m considered like middle-aged in the X-Men world, which is like a shock (laughs). I turn up on set and I’m like, 'Wow I’m the old guy now.' So that’s strange, but there’s certainly more of a maturity to him and maybe that’s something that’s in the writing that Simon [Kinberg] has created, but also just something where I’m getting old. So he’s aiming much less to please everyone around him and becoming more of a standalone person, and him and Charles are more contemporaries whereas in First Class he was very much his student, then that developed in Days of Future Past where he was almost Alfred to his Batman, and now they’re working together."
Since they'll be facing their most dangerous foe yet in X-Men: Apocalypse, Hank's intelligence and strength will be greatly needed. Becoming a partner to Xavier rather than just a sidekick type means he's also taken on the role of mentor and leader to the younger mutants.
"He kind of takes [Cyclops/Scott Summers] under his wing a little bit. Hank does take on a more paternal role with all the youngsters — not as much as Professor X, because Professor X has got more of a connection with everyone because of his powers — but Hank is certainly kind of a figure in all of that as well. I’m taking care of all these youngsters, cause he’s been through it and fought in battles and kind of lived it."
Back at the time of X-Men: First Class, Hoult described Hank as having "a Jekyll and Hyde aspect, where he’s scared of what he’s capable of." It looks like that conflict will still be evident in Apocalypse, and though Hoult didn't want to give too much of the plot away, it sounds like he may be even more dangerous than anyone realized.
"I don’t know if Hank fully ever grasps what he’s capable of. He sees his powers in motion but I don’t think he fully understands the extent of everything that he’s capable of, and then some of the other characters have to kind of figure out a way of combating him more. I’m trying to talk in generalized specifics."
For fans of all the X-Men films, it will interesting to see the newest changes to Hank's character, and how this older, wiser incarnation may connect with the more self-assured politician played by Kelsey Grammer in X-Men: The Last Stand.
For more quotes and reveals from our X-Men: Apocalypse set visit, check out the links below:
Deadpool hits theaters February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; and an unannounced X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.