Well before X-Men: Days of Future Past released in theaters in summer 2014, Twentieth Century Fox and director Bryan Singer confirmed the title and release date of its followup, X-Men: Apocalypse. It was a vote of confidence worth making since Days of Future Past not only earned the strongest critical acclaim for any installment in the long-running series, but it also set a record for its box office earnings.
With 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, the studio expects even bigger because they're going bigger in every possible way. The '80s set three-quel to X-Men: First Class will include the largest roster of X-Men heroes ever assembled on screen alongside the team's most dangerous villain from Marvel Comics. What happens after this movie when it comes to team-ups remains a mystery, in large part due to the contracts of the X-Men stars.
During an SXSW event this past week, E! Online caught up with Nicholas Hoult - who plays Hank "Beast" McCoy in the X-Men movies - and the star confirmed that 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse is the last film he's signed on for. That's the same scenario for all of the core cast of X-Men: First Class who signed with Fox for the current period-set trilogy of movies.
That means X-Men: Apocalypse might be the last time we see some of the younger X-Men franchise stars (Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, etc.) depending on who decides to sign again with Fox and how the studio and producers decide to build stories going forward. For Hoult however, he's keen on sticking around.
"The first one did so well and [Days of Future Past] got received so brilliantly. It's like, 'Wow, people really want to see the films' and the best thing is it's a great crew and cast to work with and he's a fun character. I have a good time playing him so I'd keep making them."
Hoult's words are reminiscent of Hugh Jackman's when he speaks about his desire now to keep playing Wolverine forever. Superhero films are the biggest in Hollywood and Twentieth Century Fox has finally made their Marvel movie licences their top priority, which means they're being taken seriously in terms of quality and quantity. Instead of one X-Men movie every few years like in the 2000s, moviegoers will be getting 2-3 X-Men/Fantastic Four movies each year from Fox for the foreseeable future.
With the X-Men projects in particular growing both in box office success and critical acclaim, actors may find it tough to part ways with that sort of attention and fandom. The growing profile and respect of the X-Men movies at least gives Fox some bargaining power going forward and perhaps explains why they've been namedropping Jennifer Lawrence as a candidate for a spinoff film, seemingly saying anything to entice the Oscar winner to stick around. With Lawrence's other big franchise, The Hunger Games, also coming to an end in the near future, that could also affect whether or not she continues suiting up in blue to play the shape-shifting mutant Mystique.
This contractual uncertainty surrounding the current core cast of stars returning for X-Men: Apocalypse perhaps explains why Fox has yet to offer details or title their 2018 X-Men mystery movie, and why they're exploring other fan-favorite characters with their own spinoffs in 2016 (Gambit and Deadpool). These additional projects, and the recasting of youthful versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm and Nightcrawler in Apocalypse, gives Fox more options going forward if some of their key stars decide to part ways with mutantkind.
While Hugh Jackman is coming back for 2017's Wolverine 3, he's not officially signed for it or any movie beyond. And given the A-list demand of Oscar caliber talent including Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence, it may not be until after X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters when Fox can or will re-sign talent and announce what happens next for the series. The response to Deadpool and Gambit - both also releasing in 2016 - will help dictate future plans for the franchise as well. Whether the next X-Men team-up after Apocalypse will be another direct followup or something different like X-Force (which has a script ready to go) remains to be seen.
We have a feeling that McAvoy, who seems to be the biggest fanboy of the comics of the stars and who plays the most crucial character as the founder and leader of the X-Men, will easily return alongside Hoult but the others we're less certain on. Share your thoughts on the future of the X-Men movie franchise in the comments!
Fantastic Four opens August 7th, 2015, Deadpool on February 12, 2016, X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016, Gambit on October 7 2016, Wolverine 3 (not the official title) on March 3rd, 2017, Fantastic Four 2 on June 9th, 2017, and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13th, 2018.