Dark Phoenix has touched down in New York City. 20th Century Fox brought the latest film in the X-Men franchise as well as Alita: Battle Angel to New York Comic Con for a special showcase, where select fans got a sneak peek at never-before-seen footage from the upcoming films.
“The climate for these kinds of movies allows for… what the Dark Phoenix story needs to be. We felt like, after the last X-Men movie we made… we wanted to a story that could also do that and be intimate at the same time,” producer Hutch Parker explained. “It is about someone who loses control and the people who love her… some of them want to save her, some of them want to save the world from her. Telling that story after Logan, telling that story after we went huge on [X-Men:] Apocalypse, it just felt like the right time to do it.”
“I don’t know that it’s like any other movie, not that I can think of, and I guess that it would be a weird mix between a family drama and, to some degree, I guess, a science fiction story,” director Simon Kinberg added. “It’s very clear to us the underlying material for the X-Men universe… the thematics are so rich and so powerful and important. With that, you feel an obligation to reach deeper into the material… There’s a lot of great work in this arena and the table felt long set to do what we wanted to do… It came up organically.”
“It is an combination of something like Logan, which is a drama, and it’s something that is larger and more cosmic. It is a larger canvas than something like Logan, but… it has intensity,” Parker explained.
During the panel, they confirmed Jessica Chastain will indeed play an alien character, with some scenes taking place in outer space.
Sophie Turner, who plays the Dark Phoenix herself Jean Grey, revealed how she learned about the film’s iconic storyline. “I was told about six months before we started shooting the movie. Simon kind of took me to lunch and sat me down and told me what the movie was going to be,” she recalled. “Luckily, he gave me enough time to prepare. It was a big undertaking… I know the fans are so in love with this storyline. I really think we did this justice.”
“I think I was just excited that we were taking a crack at something that’s a bit more grounded and a bit more human, if you will,” Tye Sheridan, who plays Scott “Cyclops” Summers, pitched in. “That’s the instance where things start to change… I think when things start to unravel through the film, suddenly my character has lost the love of his life and she’s lost control of herself and that’s a hard thing to swallow… There’s a lot of conflict in this movie between the X-Men.” He revealed we’ll see more “fragility” from Scott in the film.
“They deal so directly with alienation and prejudice and issues that certainly seem inescapable in the news these days and it’s no accident, I think, Simon wanted to tell this story and has empowered the female characters in this story,” Parker explained. “It’s just a natural, cultural instinct and that’s part of what you look for in your filmmakers.”
Dark Phoenix is Kinberg’s directorial debut. About that experience, he said, “It was great fun. I’ve been writing and producing for many, many years now… I’ve got to sort of practice direct on some big feature movies… and then I’ve also got to sit back and watch people like Ridley Scott and Kenneth Branagh… so I learned a lot. I learned a lot from watching Ridley direct.”
He went on to praise Scott’s openness to collaborate with other creators during the filming process. “You have an opportunity to take all of that talent, harness that and create something that’s better than something you could have made on your own,” Kinberg explained. “For me, what was exciting about direction in addition to being able to create the tone of the set and the tone of the movie… was to play with these actors in a different way.” In fact, he “tailored lines to them,” so that the characters had a more natural feel to them.
“That’s the thing about Simon: he’s so, so collaborative,” Turner agreed. “For all of us, by the time we started shooting this movie, we knew that everything in that script felt right and justified.”
Asked how she prepared for her role as the Dark Phoenix, Turner cracked a joke about her inspriation. “Yeah, I prepared with a lot of cosmic rays. I used to stand by the microwave and let them flow into me… and then I’d go scream at my mum and say, ‘Sorry, Mum! Dark Phoenix!'” she said with a laugh.
On a more serious note, she discussed the real-world influences behind the Dark Phoenix persona. “We mainly studied schizophrenia and multiple personalities for the movie,” she revealed. “We went back-and-forth with material like that.” For inspiration, she listened to a video of “what it sounds like and what it feels like to be schizophrenic”as she ran errands: “I got nothing done,” she admitted.
“I mean, mental illness means a lot to me personally,” she continued. “I felt like this movie — so often you can see superhero movies, they can be a bit gimmicky, but this, I felt, because it does kind of relate so much to the mental illness that I felt like everything had to be a respectful version of what it is… Not once does it kind of make fun of it or make it lighter than it is. It’s very real. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s beautiful.”
“On these big movies you get the least rehearsal time… you can’t fall behind in schedule, but we had the luxury, especially Sophie and I… we had the most rehearsal time together,” Kinberg recalled, adding that they “investigated the scenes” together.
Turner isn’t the only actor Kinberg worked with extensively. “I would say the person who I might have collaborated with in a similar way is Jessica Chastain,” he shared. She “came into this completely cold,” unlike veteran X-Men actors like James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. “Jessica had lots of question on the science-fiction level and then got deeper into the emotional level… We crafted the look together.”
“She’s many things in this movie,” he continued. “She’s ultimately the villain of the film. We talked about trying to find a voice for the villain that’s unique… She came up with this sort of metaphor. It’s not a fun metaphor,” he admitted, comparing her to “the veterinarian who has to give the news that your dog has to be put down.”
“That kind of weird, calm, eerie, terrifying voicing was just really different and way scarier than her being shrill or demonstrative,” he explained. “Once she found her way in, she locked into that.”
“Simon never really thought of anybody else for that role and wrote it for her, had no idea whether she’d really be open to it,” Parker revealed. “But he did a really great job on the script and knew the movie and the ambition of the movie so well, was able to communicate all that to Jessica… I think the threshold she maintains in what she’s interested in… is extraordinarily high… She’s just an extraordinary actress. The bar was high.”
“Simon had to show the goods,” he concluded. The Dark Phoenix segment then ended with 13 minutes of never-before-seen footage from the film.
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