Simon Kinberg talks timelines, new mutants, wolverine & more for Apocalypse
While on the set of X-MEN: APOCALYPSE we talked with writer/producer Simon Kinberg (THE MARTIAN, DEADPOOL, X-MEN franchise) about the new film, tackling topics ranging from the new timeline set in DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, the new characters of APOCALYPSE, why they sought Oscar Isaac for the lead villain role, the cryptic Wolverine teases, how the other Fox-related comic book films fit into the shared universe and much more. For anyone looking to get a handle on the how and why of the franchise's direction, Kinberg has you covered.
On how the new open timeline means that the current films aren't necessarily leading to 2000's X-MEN:
"It’s not leading necessarily toward exactly where we found Patrick Stewart and the X-Men at the beginning of X-Men 1. There are some things that lead in that general direction, that was part of the philosophy we had at the end of Days of Future Past is that you can’t fully change the course or current of the river, but you can just divert it a little bit, and we diverted it a little bit. So some things will be surprises; people could die that were alive in X-Men 1, 2 and 3 or people could survive that died during 1, 2 and 3. In terms of being difficult, I don’t think it felt difficult because the world was more open, because it felt like we were still following the stories of our main characters. We imagine this like a trilogy of stories of Charles, Erik, Hank, and Raven and so we really were trying to tell what is the continuation and in some ways completion of their character arcs that we began in First Class, without thinking so much about how it links to the year 2000. It was really about these people who began in some ways as friends or strangers, became friends, became enemies, became lovers, became all of this—how do you complete that story and in some ways sort of bring the family back together in this film?"
On choosing the new main characters for X-MEN: APOCALYPSE:
"There isn’t really—with the main new characters, Jean, Scott, Storm and Apocalypse, those were very conscious decisions that we spent a lot of time considering, debating, and then making sure we had enough story to tell for those iconic characters, because when you bring in those kinds of characters you can’t just bring them in as a cameo; you really wanna delve into the characters. So the first decision that we made while shooting Days of Future Past is that we wanted this to be the Apocalypse story—obviously, because we had that tag at the end of Days of Future—and then we made the decision that we wanted a new sub-generation or semi-generation of mutants that were the young versions of the established characters of the original films."
On how Psylocke and Olivia Munn came to be in the film:
Psylocke was quite a late addition to the script and the movie. Bryan Singer and I were up here in Montreal and we felt like we needed a different Horseman, and we just started going through the cycling of the different Apocalypse Horseman over history. We felt like we wanted it to be a female character and we pretty quickly settled on Psylocke. And super randomly I think a week or two earlier I was in Los Angeles and we were casting Deadpool. I had met with Olivia Munn for a character in Deadpool that ultimately wasn’t the right character for her, but we were like 'We’ve gotta keep in touch, she has to do something in the X-Men world.' And Bryan and I were sitting in Montreal a few weeks later and saying we should do Psylocke and I was like, 'Dude, I just met with Olivia Munn two weeks ago. She’d be great.' Then we looked at pictures of her online and I emailed her and I said, 'I think this is a great character for you' and she immediately emailed me back and sent me all this fan art online that fans had done of her as Psylocke. So that’s how that one came to be."
On how this version of Apocalypse compares to the comics and cartoon incarnations:
"It’s hard to describe without getting too deep into it, but I will say this Apocalypse of our film is an amalgam of a lot of different versions of Apocalypse from the comics and the cartoons. I think the things that interested us the most—there are touches of some of the more controversial things, like his origin—but one of the things that interested us most was the notion of his being the first mutant and coming from a time when mutants were treated as gods. And what it would be like for someone who experienced a world in which he was treated as a god, to go from that to a world in which he was treated at best as an equal, and at worst as less than, and how radical that would make that character in our modern world. So that was something we talked a lot about, again thematically and emotionally for this character, for this actor."
On how DEADPOOL, FANTASTIC FOUR, and GAMBIT tie into the X-MEN shared universe:
"Well this movie take space chronologically before those other films, so it’s more like those films have to acknowledge this than we acknowledge Gambit, Deadpool, or Fantastic Four or anything else that exists within the sort of Fox/Marvel universe. But I work on all of those films in one capacity or another, either as a producer on all of them and as a writer on Fantastic Four and this movie, so I’m certainly aware of all the different stories we’re telling at the same time, and they all are part of a larger fabric now, and so the world of Deadpool, the world of Gambit, exists in a post-Days of Future Past post-Apocalypse world where all of these stories are the same as our shared history. The same way that each of us of different ages knows about Nixon and knows about Reagan and knows about 9/11, our fictitious events like the stadium dropping on the White House in 1973 is part of the world in which Gambit, Deadpool, Wolverine on forward exists."
"I only know that it was difficult to discern [Bryan Singer and Hugh Jackman's onstage interaction at Comic Con] and that was not unintentional, so I can’t say anything other than what you already do or don’t know, which is I love Hugh, I love him as the character, I know that the final real Wolverine story that we’ll be telling is in the next Wolverine movie. And in terms of cameos or any of that kind of stuff, we’ll keep it as mysterious as it was on that stage."
On how stable the ending of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is in terms of story and character progressing forward:
"All these movies now exist in the same timeline and certainly the intention at the end of Days of Future Past was that final future we saw was the destination for the characters. So barring another time travel or something else that would upset the timeline, that would be the fate of those characters. And not everybody lives because you didn’t see everybody at the end of Days of Future Past."
On Cyclops and Jean Grey in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE:
"They’re really protagonists in the movie, as much as Erik and Charles and Hank and Raven and Apocalypse, the final two are really Jean and Scott. In the same way that we told the origin story of those four characters in First Class and continued in Days of Future Past, this is the origin story of Jean and Scott. They’re very young characters who are struggling with their powers—both of them—and at sort of different points in their lives understanding what it is to be a mutant, and controlling or not controlling their powers. This is a very different Jean and Scott from the Famke and James Marsden characters that we know from the original trilogy, they are almost opposites in some ways. Scott is not the squeaky clean leader, he’s actually kind of a messed up kid who’s really struggling to find his place in the world and not happy about being at the school. And Jean, as you saw in the Comic-Con piece, is someone who is also struggling with her power, sort of emotionally and physically."
On how mutants are percieved in the new timeline and the status of Professor X's school:
"A big decision we made is that because of the changed timeline of Days of Future Past, it’s not a world in which mutants are hiding or passing anymore, it’s a world in which mutancy is known and the Charles Xavier School for the Gifted wouldn’t be a secret school, it would be a much more open school. The way we’ve imagined the school, the way we’ve written the school, the way we’ve shot the school is a brighter, happier place than we’ve ever seen before, I think, at the beginning of the movie. So that’s part of the backstory too is that he’s been there and not only has this place blossomed into the dream academy, but he even has plans to expand it beyond that. And then Apocalypse messes all that up."
On how Professor X will change over the course of the film:
"I think in this movie Charles is still really one of the main stories of the movie, but if that one was him sort of going from being hopeless to having hope, this one is in some ways him having too much hope at the beginning of the movie and becoming a little more hardened by the end of the film. Actually the Professor Xavier that we’re trying to arc toward at the end of this movie is slightly different than the Patrick Stewart Xavier we saw. You’re going from a guy who basically runs a school for kids and students to someone that’s gonna start a superhero fighting team. So X-Men: Apocalypse is, as Bryan Singer has said before, in many ways the origin of the X-Men and the notion of a guy who would, like I say, start a Freedom Force in the basement of his house."
On why they chose Oscar Isaac for Apocalypse:
"He was our first choice. When we started talking about Apocalypse, it was back when we were making Days of Future Past and we started talking about who could actually play the part from the standpoint of who could hold the screen and even dominate the screen with Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, all the actors we have. We had a sense that he and Magneto would have an intense relationship, so it really needed to be somebody specifically with Michael who you felt like could go head to head with. Oscar is just this incredible talent, this incredibly intense, brooding—so he’s more inwardly intense—actor that we just thought could be strong onscreen as a leading man. And in terms of his ethnicity, we wanted it to be someone who wasn’t white so that was actually another part of the decision process, so that was a nice coincidence for us even though he’s not, as you say, Egyptian or Middle Eastern. But really it came from a place of who’s the best actor in the world to us who hasn’t already been in an X-Men movie (laughs), or some other superhero movie because we couldn’t cast somebody from Avengers. It was just this crazy thing, a moment of luck that we got Oscar before—not before Star Wars, but before other movies could."
On characters he'd like to incorporate into the X-MEN film universe and the Dark Phoenix story he didn't get to tell:
"I have to say I was really excited to have Scott and Jean, because I never really got to write [for them]. I mean I wrote X3 but we didn’t really get to focus on those characters the way I would’ve wanted, partly because James Marsden was ironically busy doing Superman. And Famke, the Dark Phoenix story, the way that Matthew Vaughn—who was originally the X3 director—the way that he and Zak Penn, who co-wrote that movie, and I wanted to tell the Dark Phoenix story is a bit different than the way it ended up being told, so we didn’t really get to dig into those characters and they’re such huge, iconic characters in the franchise. I think those are the characters I was most excited about for this film, but there are definitely others. There’s others I’ve tried to get into movies and haven’t been able to and there’s other young versions of characters from the original trilogy that I’d like to play with, so yeah there’s a lot."
On if we'll be seeing elements of the Dark Phoenix storyline going forward:
"Sure, I think everything that hasn’t been told in First Class or Days of Future Past is up for grabs going forward, so it would absolutely be a story that we could tell in a different way."
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE hits theaters on May 27th.
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