In the battle for biggest and best superhero movie cast, 2016 sees two franchises (both based on Marvel comics but only one produced by the comic book company) facing off: X-Men: Apocalypse and Captain America: Civil War. But whereas the latter is seemingly setting things up to come, X-Men: Apocalypse is essentially the final chapter in the current saga that began with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class and continued in franchise pioneer Bryan Singer’s brilliant X-Men: Days of Future Past.
With Apocalypse being the end of this tale (for now), Singer is naturally going to get as many cool X-Men characters as possible in there. Then there’s also the fact that DOFP reset the timeline, resulting in younger, now alive versions of classic characters being around again. All of which means one hell of a roster that includes everybody from Oscar Isaac’s titular Apocalypse to a new young Cyclops and Jean and even everybody’s favourite comic book psychic ninja Psylocke finally making her debut. And JoBlo was lucky enough to speak to several members of the cast during a recent set visit, with the actors and actresses spilling several details.
Michael Fassbender on where X-Men: Apocalypse finds Erik Lensherr aka Magneto after the events of DOFP, which happened nearly a decade before:
“I start off in Poland. Erik is basically living a normal life, has a family, has fallen in love, and has basically disappeared for the last eight years or so. He doesn’t use his powers, has left that life behind and lives a sort of simple life.”
As we’ve seen and heard though, Magneto also becomes one of the villainous Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen. Magneto has always been about fighting for the rights of mutants, so why side with one who has no qualms in killing their own kind.
“[Apocalypse] arrives and it’s like, “Okay well something much more powerful than me has arrived,” in a way kind of like a god; he’s the original mutant. And… Magneto doesn’t really follow anyone, so it was kind of a hard thing like, well how does he just become one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, and is he cool with that? But he appreciates that this guy is going to do what he couldn’t do. He’s got just so much more power than him, he’s such an immense force. In a way, it’s like that classic thing of joining any cult or radical group, he’s caught him at a very low, vulnerable point where he doesn’t really care anymore whether he dies or not or what happens, so he’s like, ‘Yeah I’ll join this guy. I’ll go on this path of judgment.’ Apocalypse is sort of bringing judgment to the Earth.”
Fassbender’s version of Magneto has always been played a lot more sympathetic than the older, much more villainous Magneto that Ian McKellen first played in the original three movies. Are we slowly seeing the events that turned the one into the other?
“…I suppose by the time we see Ian McKellen’s Magneto in [X-Men: The Last Stand] he is, you know, pretty full-on [villain]. And I guess, in a way, it was these little steps that lead him to that, what makes him so empty towards human beings? And I think it’s because of these things that they’ve done to him, what they’ve taken away from him, their weaknesses. To me, personally, I know that my biggest fear in life is the mob, the idea of what happens to a mob mentality when people start feeding off each other’s fears and it can turn horribly wrong really quickly.
So he’s been at the short end of the stick, putting it lightly, in terms of the mob mentality and human beings and how they respond when they’re under fear and insecurity. I guess the one thing about the comic book stuff, taking from anything else I’ve done that might be more let’s say anchored in reality, is I’ve always thought that there was an element here in these X-Men stories that is very anchored in reality in terms of people feeling misplaced or pushed to the outside of society. So I’m definitely drawing from real things to sort of ground it and root it in something that I can relate to.”
And speaking of Magneto’s legacy, most comic fans already know that Quicksilver is the Master of Magnetism’s mutant son. In Days of Future Past, when we meet Evan Peters’ Pietro aka Quicksilver he makes a sly remark about how his mom used to know a guy that could control metal. At the time it was just a tongue in cheek node to his comic book parentage, but according to Peters they’re going to address it fully in Apocalypse.
“I have learned that he’s my father at this point and I am trying to … I don’t know what I can say. I’m trying to …[thinks] Yeah. It’s like an adoptive child or any kind of child who has a strange father trying to … He knows who he is now so he is trying to find him. He’s been searching for him. It’s been 10 years and he hasn’t found him and then something happens.”
Now when we first saw pics of Evans’ Quicksilver, most fans – including me – met the reveal with a loud combination of “WTF?!” and “ARRRGHH!!”. And then we saw the scene. You know: THE SCENE! in which Bryan Singer brilliantly showed off Quicksilver’s super speed in one of the greatest slow-mo sequences ever captured on film, and definitely the highlight of the entire movie. So does Evans think we will we get treated to something even better the second time around?
“Yeah, I think that’s been the hardest thing. Can we top it? They did such a fucking awesome job. The special effects team is amazing. Bryan Schmears over at Second Unit, everybody just made that whole sequence awesome, I thought. I was just a minion. They just told me what to do so I didn’t really have much to do with it but I was curious to see how they were going to top it and if they could and I think they have. I’m very excited to see it myself. I’m excited for everybody to see it because we’ve been working hard on it.”
One of the new “old” faces we’ll be seeing this time around is Tye Sheridan as a younger version of Scott Summers aka Cyclops. The original older version of Cyclops, played by James Marsden, was always portrayed as a straight-laced boy scout, but you should expect a more rebellious take from Sheridan though.
“It’s just the younger version. I mean, everyone’s a different person when they’re younger. You evolve as a human being with knowledge and attitude and challenges and obstacles in life and so, I feel like the younger-it’s the younger version of Cyclops; why is he the way he is in the first two or three movies that he’s in? What made him that guy? What obstacles did he go through to get to that point? And that’s kind of what I get to explore in this.”
Of course one of the defining traits in Cyclops’ character is his romantic relationship with Jean Grey – the young version of whom is played here by Sophie Turner – but don’t expect them to be all kissy-kissy when we meet them here.
“Yeah, it’s developing, for sure, but it’s still, y’know, like I said earlier, you still want to leave some space for these characters to develop and…later on down the road…(laughs) Or just to kind of to mesh into who we know them as in the previous films.”
And referring to young Cyclops’ development, it seems that some of that is thanks to Nicholas Hoult’s furry Hank McCoy aka Beast, who has become a mentor to Cyclops at the X-Mansion. Hoult explains:
“He kind of takes him 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.”
And he’s also matured and settled into his new role at Charles Xavier’s new X-Mansion, which is more than just keeping away clawed, time traveling visitors this time around.
“It’s a pretty happy place. Ten years on, the school’s going well, it’s got all these new students, Charles and I are kind of running it I guess. 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 plan and kind of preparing for the worst. But other than that, other than his pessimism and preparing for the worst, he’s hoping for the best and having fun teaching I think.”
Another newcomer is relatively unknown actress Alexandra Shipp who will be taking on the role as a young Storm. The character of the weather controlling mutant of course famously played in the original films by Halle Berry. Shipp explained how her version of Storm is different from Berry’s one (and no, it’s not just the mohawk).
“My Storm in particular is kind of a, well yeah, she’s the past derivative of Halle’s Storm. This Storm is a little bit different because you’re meeting her in Cairo. You’re seeing kind of a little bit of where she comes from. You’re seeing all the pain that she’s gone through. It’s not like she’s in the mansion having a great time. She’s so different from all of the other kids because they come from families. They come from some sort of love and support whereas, Storm hasn’t had that since her parents dies in that plane crash into the house when she was like five.”
When we meet this Storm – who by the way will be speaking with a Kenyan accent, and even throws in a bit of Arabic – she will also be one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen. That’s a far cry from the hero we know she will one day become, so how does Storm see herself? Good person or bad?
“It’s like, she’s kind of just all really messed up and the only mutants that she knows are bad mutants. She’s in survival mode, so when she meets Apocalypse, she’s kind of like hit this revelation where she has been struggling to feel like she belongs somewhere.”
“She doesn’t know anything about the X-Men. The only thing she knows is about Mystique when she saved the president, but that’s basically it. Other than Mystique, every other Mutant that she’s known has been bad so, that’s kind of where she’s coming from. I don’t necessarily see her as a bad person, or as a bad mutant. I don’t see her as a villain. She doesn’t know that she’s a villain. That’s just all she’s ever known, is just bad.”
And from “bad” mutants to badass ones, as Olivia Munn will get the chance to finally debut fan-favourite character Psylocke on screen. A debut that will have a slightly tweaked character though for simplicity’s sake, as Munn explains.
“Psylocke is telepathic and telekinetic. In the movie, we see her being a telekinetic. We don’t see her being telepathic. It’s a decision because this is the first time we’ve really been able to see the character of Psylocke and have her really, truly exist in the movie. I talked about it with (writer/producer) Simon Kinberg. There’s just so much going on, especially with Apocalypse’s power, and then trying to take on all of the X-Men. When you are telepathic, I feel that it’s a power that you want to hold close to your chest. It’s a card that you don’t want a lot of people to know about because it’s so much more powerful when people don’t know that you have this power.”
Psylocke has one of the weirdest backstories in the entire X-men roster (there will be hints to it, but Singer and co are mostly leaving that wackiness alone) so losing her telepathy for now may actually not be such a bad thing. It’s not like she doesn’t also have a kitana and crazy ninja skills already. And a very cool costume. In fact, possibly the most true-to-the-source costume this franchise has yet produced, even though it is most definitely on the skimpy side. Something that Munn definitely noticed.
“Everybody together decides what the costume should look like, so it’s like an art picture of, ‘Here’s like what we think Psylocke is going to look like.’ There’s my head. I was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to want me to work out more than I’ve already …’ Munn trails off, then elaborates. “I think my first thought was it has to be purple, because we were going up against time and making it. It was black at first…The latex is in black and all the armor is in black and it’s just easier, but I was like, ‘You got to make it purple.’ That was kind of my first thought when I saw myself in the costume, which is the Photoshop. When I first saw myself completely put together, it was a very nerdy cool dream. It’s just like, “Whoa.” It just doesn’t really seem real.”
And there’s one other aspect of the character that will also be staying close to the source: Her psi-blade (in essence, a concentration of psychic energy that she can wield like a physical weapon to deadly results.
“Yeah, which is why I had to learn to use a regular sword with both hands, so I can switch in between. It’s more work for the special effects guys but it’s pretty cool. That was actually James McAvoy’s idea. He was like, “’f you can use both hands,’ he’s like, ‘Then you can go, you can switch, you can…’ Because the thing about sword work is that you’re always keeping somebody off. Like they don’t really know it’s happening. You’re really throwing people off. Your opponent. He was like, “Well, you can really throw them off if you’re going from your real sword to your psychic sword and then just switching hands and it’s just…’ I was like, ‘That sounds awesome.’”
Another fan favourite character who will finally be showing up on screen in young Jubilee, played by Lana Condor. Most fans originally got to know her through the classic 1990’s X-Men animated show, in which she donned that iconic yellow jacket. And those fans will be happy to know that that iconic look is right there and even more appropriate despite the movie actually taking place in the 1980’s.
“I think in this film she serves as a timepiece, ‘cause you’ll never really forget that you’re, like, in the ‘80’s. Because if you’ve seen my costume, like I’m straight out of the ‘80’s, like, they literally took me out. And, she also serves as kind of comedic relief at times where things are-might be a little more tense and real S-H-I-T is going down.”
One aspect of Jubilee’s look that has been changed for the movie though is her mutant powers.
“…Her power in the comic books is fireworks. In this film, I can safely say that her power is more fire-plasmoid, electricity type.”
Another tweak is that unlike in the cartoon where she was the new kid, here she’s actually been around the X-Mansion for a while.
“She is a student at the X-Mansion and she’s been here for about 10 years. So she’s not new, unlike some of the other characters who have just arrived. She’s mostly with Scott, Jean, and [Nightcrawler]. They’re like her good core friend group.”
Speaking of Nightcrawler, the dark-faced elfish mutant who stole many of the scenes in X2 finally returns to the franchise after he was mysteriously left out of the character roster for X3: The Last Stand. This time around, it’s Kodi Smit-McPhee who will be bringing him to life, and the young actor revealed that he didn’t look too much at his predecessor Alan Cumming’s work to get to grips with the character.
“…A lot of people would ask if we looked to their performance for any inspiration, but I think the beauty in it was being able to refer to the Marvel Universe itself and what fans love so much about the characters and being able to bring back the younger versions of them, I think it’s a great place to expand to and actually you’re going backwards, so that’s pretty cool.”
He went on to explain how this version of Nightcrawler won’t be quite as tortured and tragic as Cumming’s portrayed him, but rather close to his comic roots.
“I believe we kind of get to see the side of Nightcrawler that we love so much in the comics. The more vulnerable, swashbuckling, joyous, random, personality that we love, but also so grounded in his faith at a young age as well, as we went with the choice to still have the designs. So, it’s a mix of ideas, but uh, something that I believe is pretty faithful to what the fans enjoy and, um, something that I can kind of relate to as well, so…”
Another character who returns after being missing off-screen for a while is Rose Byrne’s Moira Mactaggert, who was last seen pretending to having been mind-wiped by Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) to her superiors at the CIA. So what has she been up to in the 20 years since then?
“Yeah, she’s been in a fog. Well, she’s been at the CIA, because they took her back even after her unceremonious ending in First Class, so yeah, it kind of unfolds a little bit in this one.”
Moira began as just a normal CIA agent but she eventually became a strong pro-mutant supporter after working with Xavier’s original young team. And for Apocalypse she will once again be straddling those allegiances.
“I think [the mutants are] still essentially suspicious, except Moira is still such a champion of them and believes in the progressiveness of Charles and still holds that very, very true and so she’s, uh, sort of in the same position really she was in the first one in a way, that she’s battling against the bureaucracy of the CIA and their suspicions of the mutants, yeah.”
Byrne also commented on what it was like to work with First Class stars McAvoy, Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence again, especially since this looks to be the final hurrah for their characters. Maybe.
“Yeah, James is an actor’s actor. He’s one-hundred percent committed to performing whatever the situation is and he’s so compassionate and passionate actor, too, so it’s really always a pleasure to work with him. And it makes these fantastical worlds grounded, because he’s so in the moment. So, I love working with him, yeah. And it’s lovely to sort of have that… it’s like being a character in the novel and sort of get reunited again in another chapter, so it’s very… I’m very flattered they wanted to try and tie that up. And this is a big one, it’s the third one with Michael and James and Jen and these people that audiences have come to love and we’ll see if they return, but at the moment, y’know, it’s up in the air.”
X-Men: Apocalypse is scheduled for release on May 27. You can go read some more of JoBlo’s interview with the cast over HERE.