X-Men movie fans the world over were ecstatic when it was announced that franchise stars Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen would be returning for X-Men: Days of Future Past, playing the iconic roles of Professor X and Magneto, respectively. The fact that the news came from Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer made it easy to take the news at face value.
Today, however, we learn that even the mouths of directors - or rather their Twitter accounts - are not as secure a source for news as one may hope...
While we've all been celebrating, Stewart and McKellen let it be known in separate interviews that neither of them has in fact signed on for Days of Future past just yet. Stewart had this to say to EW's Adam B. Vary when asked what drew him and McKellen back to the X-Men movie franchise:
"I have no idea what you’re talking about."
When his interviewer started to get that foot-in-mouth look, Stewart slyly added:
I know, I know. I’m taking the piss out of you. Bryan let the cat out of the bag on Twitter, and it included announcing that Sir Ian and myself were going to be in this movie. We are, you know, under contractual oath with 20th Century Fox to say nothing about any prospective X-Men movie including the old team. I use “old” advisedly.
So it’s a kind of awkward position, because lovely Bryan Singer just blurted it all out there. For me the big thrill is knowing that Bryan Singer is attached to this movie, because not only is he a brilliant director, but also I adore him and hope that it might be true and that we do work together at some point in the future. But I’m not being coy. I know nothing about this project. And I’m hoping that might change in the future.
...I don’t know that we’re doing it. I have not signed a contract yet. I know there is a project in development, but we have no dates. No detailed casting. Thrilled to hear that my dear friend and colleague Ian McKellen is on board, but I’m sorry, you know, you need to understand, I’m not being cute. I know nothing.
Well, from that quote it would seem like we still have a 1 out of 2 confirmation - that is, until you read what McKellen said to MTV's Josh Horowitz while out promoting his new film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (another franchise from the early 2000s that McKellen has recently returned to):
"I have to say I haven't signed a contract, nor have I read a script. But when Bryan Singer calls, on the whole, I follow."
So there you have it: neither Stewart nor McKellen is officially onboard for the film - so why was Bryan Singer dropping such big bombshells on us before they were actually ready to detonate?
Well, in all fairness, Singer could've simply been celebrating the fact that the characters of older Prof. X and Magneto have been included in Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass), Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes) and X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn's script for Days of Future Past - a script which Singer displayed first-hand (pun intended) in a picture he recently tweeted out to fans. Given the strong working relationship that the director, Stewart and McKellen seem to have - not to mention, possible contract obligations with the studio - Singer maybe assumed the birds were already in hand, rather than still being in the bush?
The other side of this is that Stewart and McKellen ARE set to return, but were supposed to be a surprise for fans - a surprise that Singer spoiled. What we're seeing now could easily be the sort of backtracking and downplaying (read: outright lying) that has become the new norm in the age of 24/7 movie spoilers: Recently there have been more than a few outright lies told by studios and actors to protect film secrets:
Remember when Marion Cotillard made headlines by announcing that she was NOT playing Talia al Ghul in Dark Knight Rises? How about Marvel "insiders" denying that Ben Kingsley would play The Mandarin in Iron Man 3? You see the pattern here. (There are even a few rumors about upcoming blockbuster films we know to be true, even though the filmmakers and studio have repeatedly denied them - but we can't spoil those for you just yet. Sorry.)
Bottom line: until you hear official announcements from a studio press release, you can't assume that anything you hear about someone being cast in a film is 100% true. Nor can you ever believe that a casting denial is 100% true - pretty much until you see the movie in question and confirm the actor isn't in it somewhere. In the case of Stewart and McKellen: we don't know many people who would claim they DON'T want the pair back for Days of Future Past - especially when they'd be sharing the film with their younger counterparts from First Class, James McAvoy (as Prof. X) and Michael Fassbender (as Magneto).
Speaking of Fassbender: McKellen seemed genuinely enthused about sharing his role as Magneto with the Prometheus star:
"Wouldn't that be fun... I'd hope he'd enjoy it as much as I would... I don't know how it's going to work, I suspect it's a flashback. The comics do go to and fro in time."
Days of Future Past draws its title from a famous X-Men comic book storyline in which one X-Man (Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat) gets a prophetic visit from an alternate version of herself, who exists in a hellish future where mutants like the X-Men are hunted down and exterminated by Sentinel robots. This dystopian vision then pushes the X-Men to prevent events which would steer the world toward that dark future.
For the movie version, it is expected that Singer and Co. will use the storyline to break open and expand the X-Men universe (by introducing sci-fi elements like time-travel), while also using the time-travel plot as a device that can prune frayed threads off of the knotted X-Men movie continuity (let's make it so that X-Men 3 and Origins: Wolverine never happened!). However, if we're going to be trapezing through time with our favorite X-Men (like Hugh Jackman's Wolverine) then Stewart and McKellen definitely need to be a part of that journey. Here's hoping they hop onboard (officially).
X-Men: Days of Future Past will be in theaters on July 18, 2014.