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Dark Phoenix Director Simon Kinberg on Wrapping Up the X-Men Saga

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy weighed in on how the wanted to finish the franchise.

sophie turner as jean grey in x-men: dark phoenix.

Next week will see the release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the tenth live-action X-Men film to hit theaters. It will also be the last X-Men film completed before the Disney Fox merger, which returns the mutants to the Marvel fold (jury is still out on what all is happening with the much delayed New Mutants).

The film is written and directed by Simon Kinberg, who co-wrote The Last Stand and scripted Days of Future Past, and Apocalypse. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kinberg discusses revisiting the Dark Phoenix saga, as well as taking over for Bryan Singer, who helmed the first two X-Men films, as well as Days of Future Past and Apocalypse before his ensuing scandals brought him down.

The latest iteration of the X-Men started off strong, with 2011’s stylish X-Men: First Class. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, the Kingsman franchise) rebooted the series in the swinging sixties, introducing audiences to younger versions of the beloved characters. It helped that he assembled a stellar cast for the film, with Michael Fassbender as Magneto, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult as Beast. First Class is also the only X-Men film with a female writer, Vaughn’s longtime collaborator Jane Goldman.

First Class was followed by 2014’s Days of Future Past, which was overstuffed but well received. The third film, 2016’s Apocalypse, stumbled with poor reviews and a middling box office performance. The film’s stars, whose contracts expired, were unwilling to return for a sequel unless Kingberg took over directing duties.

For Kinberg, it was a chance to redeem himself after his poorly received stab at the Dark Phoenix storyline in The Last Stand. He also solicited advice from his stars about what aspects the wanted to explore, with Fassbender wanting to delve into a Genosha storyline. “I knew Genosha [an island refuge for Mutants] was something Michael had wanted to explore. He was a fan of comics even before getting involved in the films and we’d never gotten to do it in the movies before, so when I was trying to come up with where geographically we would meet him, Genosha sprung to mind and it was something that interested him.”

McAvoy wanted to delve deeper into the psychology of Charles Xavier, and the hubris and ego that comes with leading your own super team. “[James McAvoy and I] had talked in the past, not specifically about this movie, about the notion that there is an ego drive involved with this character [Prof. X], and a patriarchal side to a man who names a superhero team after the first letter of his last name. He lives in a mansion and feels that he has the right or the wisdom to define the fates and the identities of these kids around him. There was something about that that was obviously benevolent and paternal, and there was something about it that could tip into something that was a little patriarchal and domineering.”

Kinberg also discussed shifting the focus of the film to its female characters, who have long been relegated to the sidelines of their own stories, saying “The movies had been so focused on Xavier, Magneto and Wolverine as the leads of the films. I just thought this was an opportunity to tell a story where not just the lead character, but other female characters around her could at least take an equal amount of screen time and lines and focus from the main male characters.”

Dark Phoenix hits theaters on June 7th, 2019.

(via The Hollywood Reporter, image: Doane Gregory/20th Century Fox)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.