“With the size of the cast, with the names in the cast, and with the size of the bloody budget, you go, 'I hope this works out.'”
At Fox's Comic-Con panel on July 20, 2013, the entire ensemble cast for X-Men: Days of Future Past assembled on stage in front of the crowd at Hall H to thunderous applause and took part in one of the most unique panels that's ever graced the Con. Prior to this, many fans had expressed cynicism towards the idea of combining the casts, seeing it as a cheap attempt to capitalize on the success of Marvel's The Avengers. It was in that moment though that it became truly clear how colossal and special this film was shaping up to be. These revelations weren't limited to the fans either, as the cast quickly learned how unique it was as well
“At Comic-Con, I suddenly realized the enormity of it all,” Nicholas Hoult said. “You see how much it means to the fans and you're suddenly like- oof, pressure.”
“It's literally the best cast I've ever seen in any film ever,” producer Hutch Parker told us on the set. “I think it's the best collection of actors I've ever seen put together, and to have them in the same space is amazing.”
The film will see both sets of cast living in a world very different from the last time we saw them on the big screen. James McAvoy and the rest of the “First Class” crew will be thrust into the 1970s while Patrick Stewart leads an X-Men team in a post-apocalyptic future decimated by Bolivar Trask's Sentinels.
“This is a more serious film than 'First Class,'" Singer admitted. “The characters, we encounter them in very dark places.”
Nicholas Hoult sits with his finger tips clasped together, hunched over and talking so casual it seems unlikely that he plays the neurotic Hank McCoy, aka Beast. Hoult is clearly excited to be back for the sequel, and not just to see his friends and cast mates from the first film but to meet the likes of Hugh Jackman, whom he hadn't worked with on the previous film.
“I remember the first day of shooting with him, I remember walking along and looking across at him and being like, 'That's Wolverine'….That's the strangest thing, doing a scene and then going to have a pee and he pulls up at your arm and you're like, 'Wolverine, cool.' So that was a big thing for me just because it suddenly felt very real, like a proper X-Men movie in a way.”
Things might be cheery and bright on the set, but in the context of the film, things aren't their best as Hoult laid out what the “First Class” characters' relationships will be like when we see them years later in “Days of Future Past.”
“Charles has a very close relationship with (Raven) and then at the end of the last film she obviously heads with Erik, Magneto and kind of believes more in his method of what mutants should be in the world. So there's those two relationships and Hank's relationship with her, which is maybe the most pure and simple, but there's also the thing whereby he's not happy and comfortable in his blue form where she's becoming more at peace with hers and understanding. She's kind of maturing a lot quicker than him.”
Hank will also develop an even more complicated relationship with Michael Fassbender's Magneto, which will come to a head when the pair duke it out inside a fountain.
“I think there's always been a bit of tension between Erik and Hank because of the relationship they both have with Mystique obviously, and also just because Hank is very much in alliance with Charles so he doesn’t believe in Erik's ways. But yeah that was fun for us to have a little play in the fountain together.”
One of the primary contributions that Hoult's character made in X-Men: First Class was the invention of Cerebro. He'll be debuting even more inventions in “Days of Future Past” including his own version of “TiVo” in 1973, which Singer revealed in a new behind-the-scenes image earlier this week (pictured above).
“Nic builds his version of TiVo – it records, but it's full of dozens of tape recorders and it fills that room over there,” Singer said. “And he's like 'I build this little device' and his monitoring the three networks because it's '73, and Hugh says 'All three?' and he goes 'And PBS.'”
We pressed Nic about his potential inventions in the film, going as far as to ask him if perhaps he builds the very famous “Danger Room.” In hesitation he replied: “That would be great. I don't think I'm allowed to talk about my inventions.”
“Days of Future Past” will see Hugh Jackman reprising his role of Wolverine for the seventh time, and even though he's the only actor that gets to interact with both sets of casts, he doesn't think he's the focus of the story.
“Well, what is amazing is, with this story, I'm not talking about the actors, but the character of Xavier, it's very much at the center of the story. Ian, Michael and Jennifer are really very much in the center here, and Nick, so playing with the younger character, you really get a chance to see a much broader range of that character then we never really got with Patrick, because he was a much more set character in a way. So his journey is huge and I get to follow it through, with both actors and both are… all four are incredible actors.”
Jackman is seated right next to me in the X-Mansion, still wearing his costume from the plane scene they've been filming all day, and after 13 years of seeing this guy on the big screen, I can't help but stare at his knuckles every chance I get. Hugh is one of the most engaging and friendly people you'll ever meet, a total 180 from the anti-social killing machine that is Logan.
“I've grown more confident and probably my appreciation for the character has grown,” Jackman said about his legacy of playing the iconic character. “And that thing where you know there's a day when you're not going to be playing it, and that becomes clearer to you. I've been doing it for 14 years, so of course at some point I'm going to have to pass it on, so I guard it more jealously, I appreciate it more and I'm enjoying it more than ever. I think the last Wolverine movie was a script I could really get into and this one equally is something I've enjoyed as much as any of the others.”
McAvoy was our last interview of the day, and even after a hours of tumbling around on a plane and shouting back and forth with Michael Fassbender, he bounds into the X-Mansion for our interview like he's still loaded with energy. Sporting a pair of bell bottoms and a snazzy button up shirt, it's strange to see the man playing Charles Xavier walking around, but there he is. As a matter of fact, Charles will be doing a lot of walking in the film.
“That's a huge part of the arc for him,” screenwriter Simon Kinberg mentioned. “Accepting, in some ways embracing the chair, as opposed to being condemned to it. It's something that by the end of the movie he's really taken his place in. I'm not to talk much about this, but it's in the Hank/Charles relationship that they've discovered a way to help him walk, but at the cost of other things. And over the span of the film, he embraces those other things and lets go of his legs.”
“It’s a movie about all of us, about all the guys in the X-Men,” McAvoy said when prompted that this was a film about Charles Xavier. “But I suppose the person with the biggest journey is arguably me. Because I change more than anybody by the end of the film compared to the beginning of the film.”
Walking and shaggy hair aren't the only differences you'll see in the character in this film, as McAvoy will be taking Charles to the darkest territory he's ever been on the big screen.
“I wanted to make Charles quite extreme, relative to who he has always been before. When I first took over the part, I was only able to do that to a certain extent, because ('X-Men: First Class') is about Michael’s journey, really. As much as I had a great part and I helped facilitate that – it was like a buddy movie and stuff, I had nice stuff to play – it was ultimately his narrative. In this one, it feels a little different in that I can go further with the extremity of it. I can go further with the extremity from what Patrick did, but also from what I did in the last movie, too. So you’ll find him very different. Not just because he’s got long hair, but because of what he is and how shaky his soul is.”
McAvoy's Xavier also has the distinction of being the only character in the film that meets up with his future self as played by Patrick Stewart, though we're unsure of the logistics of this sequence. Despite what you might think, the pair didn't put much thought into their shared screen time either. No overnight discussions were had about the importance of the scene, what it means for their characters. They just showed up and performed.
“It was my first day and their last day,” he mentioned. “It was quite a simple scene, really, in terms of—When you have two people who have the same person at different times in their life, checking each other out, it’s like… You don’t want to get in the way of it too much, with too much blocking, or too much moving around even. You just want to have us face to face, in a kind of… Not to get too sort of Federation about it, but to be in a nexus, you know what I mean? Almost a void space. It isn’t a void space. It’s not like just a black studio with a white light coming from somewhere. But you just want it to be those people’s faces, studying each other.”
Even though worlds are colliding in “Days of Future Past,” that doesn't mean we're not seeing even more mutants from the source material popping up as well. The one that seems to be causing the most stirs of excitement among fans, and the people on set, is Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask.
“Fox put together this enormous list of who it could be, and Bryan looked at that list and went 'Peter Dinklage,''' producer Lauren Shuler Donner tells us. “He was literally our first choice.”
Singer listed a number of reasons for casting Dinklage in the role–his appreciation for “Game of Thrones” and their shared New Jersey heritage among them–but that there's an irony in his casting that rings true in the story of the film.
“I like the idea of not a very big guy building very big robots, something ironically interesting about that. But he first and foremost, carries the screen, and there's not a second that you take him for, he even talks about that in a little speech he gives in congress in the movie about when he was young he was underestimated, don't underestimate small things.”
In addition to Dinklage as Trask, we'll be seeing even more X-Men show up, namely Quicksilver, Sunspot, Bishop, Warpath, and Blink among them. Though unconfirmed, it's a possibility these characters could show up in future films, if not another form of media.
“It would be nice to incorporate them into future movies,” Kingberg said, revealing Fox's interest in additional solo movies. “It's interesting to think about what the future of the X-Men world would be, because we now have these two separate timelines. We have the original cast in the future essentially and we have the past, younger cast. But no, (their inclusion) wasn't really built for future movies; it was that they serve a narrative purpose within the film. When we meet some of our characters in the future, it tells the story of mutant refugees and so we wanted to populate that with characters that the fans would recognize and potentially would be intriguing enough that they'd want to follow into who knows what- maybe it's movies, maybe it's a television show, maybe it's their own anime, it could go in a lot of different directions these days, there are so many different types of media that it would be cool if a movie that has this many characters could actually take advantage of a different media.”
The X-Men franchise is well known for hiding easter eggs related to the larger universe within its films. Hank McCoy's cameo in the first film, William Stryker's mutant list in X2, to name a few. I asked Singer if they were taking a similar approach with this one, even though there are already a ton of mutants at the forefront of the movie.
“There's a little one I did with Quicksilver the other day which was fun. It's cute, it's one of those nods to the larger universe. So yeah we do a few.”