[WARNING: Potential SPOILERS for 'X-Men: Days of Future Past.']
When director Bryan Singer's original 2000 X-Men proved that a (relatively) grounded, somewhat dark cinematic adaptation of a superhero comic book could be a rousing success, most of the attention was trained on breakout star Hugh Jackman's central role of Logan/Wolverine. There is one character, however, who was just as pivotal: X-Men's leader and mentor, Professor Charles Xavier, brought to vivid, commanding life by Sir Patrick Stewart.
We take Stewart somewhat for granted now, but looking back, casting the man who helped thrust the Star Trek brand back into the cultural spotlight as Captain Jean-Luc Picard was something of a stroke of genius. When Professor X was apparently killed off in X-Men: The Last Stand, many fans feared that we'd seen the end of Stewart's warm, authoritative presence in the franchise, despite the end-credits tag teasing Charles' survival.
Director Matthew Vaughn's prequel X-Men: First Class appeared to confirm the new focus on a younger cast, but the announcement that Bryan Singer would return to the franchise he originated along with most of his original cast - including Stewart - for next month's X-Men: Days of Future Past was welcome, exciting news. The run-up to the release of possibly the most expensive superhero movie of all time has included an expansive PR push, including viral videos and websites and that final, gripping trailer.
Now we have some comments from Patrick Stewart himself which suggest that his character may not survive DoFP and yet could return for X-Men: Apocalypse regardless. While speaking to MTV (via CBM), Stewart hinted that the older Professor X may not live through this latest X-movie.
When asked about the potential for his reprising the role for Apocalypse, he said:
"I don't see why not. That is one of the blessings about fantasy and science fiction. You're never really dead. I would love to come back and do some more."
That's an interesting statement. Is Stewart referring to his character's apparent death in The Last Stand, or suggesting that the older Xavier dies at some point during Days of Future Past? Either way, it sound like he feels confident that his involvement will continue past DoFP. But how far? Stewart went on to say:
"There might be something else. A little bird has whispered that there might be something 'X-Men'-related."
"Something 'X-Men'-related" just might refer to the as-yet unspecified Marvel-based project Fox is releasing on July 13, 2018. We know that we're getting Wolverine 3 in 2017, though - could Stewart be appearing in that? Could the 2018 release be the X-Force movie written by Jeff Wadlow or the Gambit solo film which could star Channing Tatum?
Has Patrick Stewart let slip a bit too much information? There's no way to tell until Days of Future Past hits theaters. Stewart's presence in the X-Men movie universe, along with that of his pal Ian McKellen as Magneto, has always lent the franchise a certain gravitas that the Marvel films at other studios can't quite match. Keeping him around in some pivotal capacity would definitely ensure fan loyalty along with providing a through-line to connect future spinoffs with the original films.
What do you think, Screen Ranters? Would you like to see Patrick Stewart return as Charles Xavier at some point beyond DoFP? Sound off in the comments!
X-Men: Days of Future Past will be released in U.S. theaters on May 23rd, 2014.