“It's as big as it gets.”
X-Men: Days of Future Past, though the seventh film in the franchise, is only the second film in the series to use the name of a previously established story from the source material. Published in 1981 in The Uncanny X-Men issues #141 and #142, “Days of Future Past” has become a fan favorite among the sagas of the X-Men, which producer Lauren Shuler Donner said they're adhering closer to more than previous films.
The film started out as something else though, more of a straight sequel to X-Men: First Class with just two sequences where we would see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprise their respective roles, but much like the mutants, that too evolved.
“Matthew (Vaughn) and I in working on the movie felt like it needed to have bookends that were Patrick and Ian,” Kingberg revealed. “They just were going to be stand-alone scenes that weren't going to be connected to the past, there wasn't going to be any time travel. And then we started saying, 'Wouldn't this be interesting if it was kind of like Godfather II?' where you're intercutting and seeing back story and future story and then, one day, I was with Matthew and I said, 'Have you read Days of Future Past.' He said, 'I think I know that. I've seen the cartoon…' Like Bryan, actually, he was really raised on the X-Men cartoons, and he asked me for more details. All of a sudden it was, 'Oh sh*t… we should be telling this story.'”
From that point the concern for the filmmakers became, could this film be made? What happens if Patrick Stewart or Hugh Jackman don't want to come back?
“Well, we were screwed then,” Donner said, putting it bluntly. “But as we thought about doing this story we reached out to those two, just to see if they would come back, and they did want to thankfully.”
Unfortunately before the script really took shape, Matthew Vaughn departed for a different feature, and that was when Bryan Singer decided to step back into the franchise that he helped bring to the big screen.
“Bryan and I spent October, really November and December revising the script together,” Kingberg mentioned. “He had mostly notes about character, and he was really focused on making the time travel element as logical and scientifically sound as possible given the fact that it's not real.”
As we came to find out in our discussions with Bryan, the time travel element was very important to him, and it all had to make sense, and he wasn't convinced to direct the project until he figured it out.
“This is a rare film where past and future are co-existing,” Singer said. “So I had to create a set of rules where that made sense to me. So that's what I set about to do, I created a very specific set of rules. 'When do things change? Who observes the change? Who has no memory of the change?' Who has no memory of what was and who does, and how that works. I think I cracked it…..When Matthew left the picture and I took it on, that didn't exist, there was a structure, but there was no concept of time travel or how it works. So until I figured that out I had some misgivings about doing the movie. Once I figured that out I was very hooked, I felt like they had me 'cause I was like now I know how to do this and shoot this.”
Singer further elaborated on his inspirations for the time travel elements, including such films as Time Machine, Back to the Future, Terminator and Looper. The Terminator influence didn't end there either, as Singer revealed to pitching his ideas on time travel to director James Cameron, which Singer says Cameron put his stamp of approval on. Simon Kinberg also revealed an encounter he had with James Cameron, who gave him some very blunt advice on writing "Days of Future Past."
“I was on a panel speaking with James Cameron and I had a book that was 'The Making Of Terminator 2,' from a long time ago, it's a 30-year-old book and brought it with me for Cameron to sign….I said, 'We're doing 'Days Of Future Past' and there are some people who think it influenced 'Terminator' and now 'Terminator,' at least for me, has influenced this movie…' He said, "Sure, I'll sign it." He just wrote in it, 'Don't f*ck it up. Love, Jim.'”
The importance that Singer has placed on the time travel components isn't lost on the cast either, and his ambition is hopefully not lost in the explosive ensemble superhero film, but Hugh Jackman thinks he'll stick the landing.
“It's important to (Bryan) to create the most incredible time travel movie of all time,” Jackman noted. “And that means, anyone who's even vaguely attempted to write a time travel movie, it's easy to pitch, and very difficult in the details. Because every line, every action, everything, you've got to set up the rules very carefully so an audience understands it, but then you have to pay it off in many ways. And it's difficult. As well as having 20 characters across that. So Bryan is in his element.”
Fans of the original “Days of Future Past” storyline know that it actually had Kitty Pryde going back in time, though in the upcoming feature it will be Wolverine. Potentially to the surprise of some fans, Simon Kinberg revealed that they never actually scripted a version of the film where Kitty was the time traveler.
“I'd gone through quite a bit of conversation with Matthew and the studio and a couple of iterations of outlines, so when you start thinking about the original story and sending Kitty back in time, unless you recast Kitty in the future as almost Ian and Patrick's age, she's negative five years old in 1970 – wherever it is in the past. So sort of quickly we felt like it wasn't going to be Ellen Page/Kitty and then, frankly, the immediate and most natural candidate, not because he's the star of the franchise, but because he is ageless, so he'd look the same as an actor in 1973 as he would in the future, was Hugh.”
Kitty isn't entirely out of the equation though as her powers are the conduit that allows Wolverine to travel back in time, though it's not always a smooth ride.
“Occasionally (Kitty) can't really hold him,” Donner mentioned. “And occasionally when there's turbulence in the past it effects him in the future because it's the same guy. Sometimes he'll start to get out of it and the worry is, if he pops out of it, all is lost. There are a couple of times where it gets a little hairy.”
Fans will be pleased to know that the mastermind behind the original “Days of Future Past” storyline, Chris Claremont, has given the film his blessing.
“We spent a day together and we talked through the changes that we'd made to the original story,” Kinberg revealed. “And he was really supportive about it.”