This week’s announcement that “Kick Ass” director Matthew Vaughn will helm Fox’s “X-Men: First Class” raises some interesting questions.
According to boxofficemojo.com, “First Class” will be an origin story, detailing how Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr became Professor X and Magneto, respectively. The film will further chart the pair’s early partnership against a common foe and the eventual deterioration of their relationship into the antagonism seen in the first three “X-Men” adventures.
Classically-trained thespians Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen played X and Magneto in those first three films, respectively. With both characters being considerably younger in “First Class,” the question of whom to cast in the roles becomes a major concern. At first brush, it seems almost a no-brainer that neither Stewart nor McKellen can return. Dimewars.com reported as much this week, quoting from a recent interview with Stewart in which he states that he doesn’t anticipate being asked to participate.
But would it really be so unthinkable? Stewart’s appearance was digitally altered for flashback scenes of a younger Xavier in 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand.” The altered Stewart looked fine, proving that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
Is it a matter of budget, then? Possibly. Even with effects-driven wonderland modern Hollywood has become, altering an actor’s appearance to the degree required for an entire film, probably wouldn’t be cheap.
Assuming Stewart and McKellen won’t return, who should be cast? A recent article by Josh Wigler at MTV.com suggested Tom Hardy for Xavier and Mark Strong for Magneto.
I don’t like either choice. Wigler proposed Hardy because he played a younger version of Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: Nemesis” and because he’s worked with Vaughn before. Ignoring the fact that “Nemesis” was an awful movie, do you really want to hire an actor like Hardy to do a young Patrick Stewart impression? Would Hardy even agree to do so? It seems unlikely.
Strong is more of a wild card, but while he bears no discernable resemblance to McKellen, I can’t see him bringing the same gravitas to the role as McKellen. Then again, who would? Regardless, based on what I’ve seen of Strong in “Kick Ass” and “Sherlock Holmes,” I don’t think he’s the right choice.
Who would I choose, then?
I was initially at a loss to answer that question, but then I saw a commenter at MTV.com suggest Terry O’Quinn of TV’s “Lost” for Xavier. O’Quinn is looking for work, too. Only problem is, although he’s a sound choice, he’s only 12 years Stewart’s junior. I’m guessing this part will require someone significantly younger. That puts us back at digital-effects square one. O’Quinn’s appearance would, in the least, be easier to alter so that he looked younger, but why bother when you could probably achieve the same effect with Stewart for just a little more effort?
So that puts me back at being uncertain who I’d cast. If it’s at all feasible, I’d suggest making the necessary adjustments to bring back Stewart and McKellen, but that seems unlikely — maybe even a bit selfish on my part. I’ve little doubt that capable actors can be found, though. If last year’s “Star Trek” reboot proved anything, it’s that few actors are truly irreplaceable.
The film at least has a capable director in Vaughn. Although I’m one of the few who didn’t like “Kick Ass,” much of the rest of the world seems to adore it. Vaughn did a phenomenal job with 2004’s “Layer Cake,” too, so I know he’s a capable, talented director.
I suppose it will boil down to both the film’s budget and to what Vaughn wants. I can’t imagine Fox would turn him down if he lobbied hard for the budget to afford Stewart and McKellen — or even just one of them.
Either way, it won’t be long until we hear who lands the roles; “X-Men: First Class” is scheduled for release on June 3, 2011.
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