Danger Room. Activated. Simulation In Progress.
Nerds are the lifeblood of comics. Nerds are also the lifeblood of the comic-based cinematic universe. Most know that I have been obsessed with Marvel’s X-Men Universe for 30+ years. With the recent news that Disney (the owners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and television shows) bought out Fox’s rights to the X-Men characters (with the exception of the Legion television show owned by FX, as well as The Gifted television show still owned by Fox), now is the perfect time for speculation by nerds everywhere about when and how, or even if, Marvel plans to bring the X-Men into the MCU.
Disney likes franchises and reboot-ish movies, as evidenced in the new Star Wars films. While Star Wars wasn’t technically a reboot, it was close in look and feel. Changed primary heroes and overall cast, with the exception of standbys needed to affiliate it (and excite the old fandom), a near reboot doth make.
Fox gave Disney a wonderful opportunity to reboot the entire X-Men franchise with the phenomenal Logan. By closing out the well-loved (practically adored) Wolverine series on the notes it did, it gives Disney an opportunity to reboot the series with all new actors, even from the McAvoy storyline. This may be exactly what Disney wants to do. If nothing else, Disney will regain the fans alienated by plots dismally glossed or flat-out changed from anything ever set in ink.
X-Men: The New Old Class.
So, on to my nerdy re-imaginings. If I held a place on the casting crew for an X-Men MCU reboot, I would select the following for the original X-Men First Class Team. (And don’t forget to check out how I would cast X-Men Villains and X-Men Expanded Team in upcoming articles!)
A Dream of Peace.
Few actors are as brilliant or suited for the role of Professor X as Sir Patrick Stewart. McAvoy, while I was at first uncertain, superseded my expectations and did a good job. But, in a reboot, new faces and styles must be considered. Here are my two choices:
Mark Strong: Strong is one of those brilliant actors who can play an action tough guy in one movie and totally sells it, and then can turn around and play a super smart brainiac in the next and the viewer never blinks twice because he is that good. Seriously, the man is an expert Straight Man, a humorous and even playful rogue, or a cold, calculating villain. His film credits more often have him a villain, more recent roles have proven his “good guy” abilities. Professor Xavier, however, needs a touch of calculating, even cold at times, in the role as he deals with the enormity of a world bent on destroying mutant kind and how he must meet that as peacefully as possible. Strong would be ideal.
Ben Kingsley: Kingsley is a renowned actor who has tackled everything from stage theater to lighthearted comedic pieces. Mr. Kingsley can deliver so much emotion in a simple expression that he would be more than capable of expressing the myriad of emotions and thoughts that Charles displays on a regular basis. I also feel that his
ability to express himself so clearly would be a vital asset to when Charles clearly must say one thing when he most definitely feels or thinks another.
The Inevitable Weapon.
As with Stewart’s Professor Xavier, Hugh Jackman gave us an unprecedented Wolverine. Papi had the look, the ‘tude, the snarl, and just the right amount of vulnerability. I’ve never been a big Wolverine fan, but Jackman’s performance won me over to loving the monster and the man. And while Wolverine is not part of the original First Class of X-Men, he is, nevertheless, vital to the franchise (not to mention the Summers/Grey relationship). But on to my two choices for Logan in the reboot:
Scott Eastwood: Yep, Clint Eastwood’s son. While prettier than his old man, Scott Eastwood is still grizzled when he wants to be. And many did say “too pretty” when Jackman first took up the claws but I think he proved us all wrong – so deliciously wrong. And Lil Eastwood could do the same. I mean, look, he’s already killing it with the cigars and on track physical needs. Eastwood’s screen time proves ability outside of his fitting appearance for the role.
Iwan Rheon: Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. I hate that guy on GOT! But that’s kind of precisely my point. Wolverine has deep, dark rage, and we have seen what Rheon can do with a psychotic break in a role. While he’s slight in his role on GOT, another 20 lbs and some weight workouts could have him Logan-ready in no time. We’ve also seen Rheon play incredibly vulnerable characters in the past. While Logan is not known for his tender side, he is probably one of the most vulnerable characters in the X-Men universe just due to the sheer amount of
screwed up his life has been. And I can see his on-screen chemistry with one of my picks for Jean Grey very very easily.
Not to mention, for some comic purists the fact that Rheon is only 5’8″ makes him perfect for playing Wolverine as he was written – short, surly, and dangerous. (Also I’m going to ignore the shit out of the whole Inhumans role he was cast in. So should you. The whole show really; ignore it. Well, just pretend Logan would be the first Marvel Universe role Rheon would be cast in.)
Love and devotion.
All right, if we’re casting or talking Wolverine, we need to immediately segue into Jean Grey. I liked Famke Janssen in the original role, although I despised the handling of the Phoenix Saga. I was not a fan of Sophie Turner as the younger Grey role, and I still did not like the handling of the Phoenix Saga. But the possibility the MCU won’t handle the Phoenix Saga properly is always likely. But they can cast a bitchin’ Jean Grey. Here are my picks:
Jane Levy: The role of Jean Grey is critical to the love triangle that is the basis for so much in X-Men, especially around Logan’s character growth and the introduction of the Phoenix Saga. Any actress who plays Grey also must be believable as someone Professor X would (and does frequently)
rely on for greater intelligence and telepathic abilities. Not to mention have the chops to be both all-powerful and benevolent and all-powerful and deranged as an entity created entirely to save or consume entire universes.
Levy has proven herself in multiple roles that show a great sense of vulnerability and charisma, as well as a darker side (um, hello Mandy Milkovich in Shameless!). It helps that she is also totally believable as a flaming redhead.
Rachel McAdams: Acting chops, for sure. She can play sweet and she can play a complete bitch. Like Levy, McAdams could easily fill both the Grey role and the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix roles. Some may look down on the trend of “chick flick” movies in her repertoire but that’s not a bad thing necessarily. Those guilty pleasure movies have shown she has a range of acting ability that could work out very well for the pendulum of emotions and personalities that
is Jean Grey’s character throughout the comics. Plus, McAdams has never really burst onto the big screen in a truly defining role, although she’s had some very memorable roles in Mean Girls, and of course The Notebook. The only conflict is that, currently, McAdams is supporting cast as Christine Palmer in Marvel’s Dr. Strange.
To round out the love triangle, we come to Scott Summers. Honestly, I haven’t liked any actor that has been cast in this role to date. James Marsden had more chemistry with Jackman than he did with Janssen, and Tye Sheridan, while better, still didn’t do it for me. So here are my two picks:
Sam Page: Page has the All-American looks I expect Scott Summers to possess and I know from the roles he’s played that he can be charming and
self-deprecating or uncertain at times. He can also pull off humor when needed. The only concern I have is that Page may not have enough star power to capture the role of X-Men leader. Of course, I’m also okay with the potential storyline where Jean Grey is more of a leader for the group, as she is the latest comic series X-Men: Blue.
Matt Bomer: Bomer is a well-known name with the right look and enough star power to pull off a truly great Cyclops. His acting prowess has ranged from soap operas to gritty television horror/dramas to lighter but steamier cinematic roles. And while it would be a shame to cover up such beautiful eyes with Cyke’s visor, he does have the perfect jaw and chin to really POP! on screen. Plus, it would be nice to see the actor get a cinematic starring and leading role.
And pitted against either Eastwood or Rheon as Wolverine would be great on screen yum for fans to lap up, and he’d pair great with either Levy or McAdams as Jean (although I’d kill to see him and Levy in a tender and romantic scene together!!).
Bomer could do well in the role of Cyclops. He has enough on-screen presence to not fade into the background when stronger (and let’s face it) more interesting characters are on screen. He has no difficulty playing the stone-faced leader, but can show both affection and humor.
Depth Previously Ignored.
Iceman is the original team class clown, always mischievous and impetuous. His flamboyant style and devil-may-care attitude covered up deep insecurities stemming from his relationship with his family (and, in the most recent issues that I love, his realization that he is actually gay and had been hiding it for years). Since Bobby Drake is such a complex character, it is important to get just the right actor to portray him on the big screen. And, for me, it simply wasn’t Shawn Ashmore.
Lots of people scoffed when I began naming off my picks for Iceman, but I stick by the top two I finally narrowed down the list to. They are:
Randy Harrison: Best known as the lovable and hopeless romantic Justin in Queer As Folk, Harrison has an immediate endearing quality to him. Part is that coy smile he can turn on in a heartbeat, and the other part is that beautiful but realistic boy next door countenance. Although Harrison doesn’t have a lot of star power to go with his name, that isn’t as much of a factor for the character of Iceman. And it would also just be nice to have an out gay man playing a coming out character.
Sean Maher: Fanboys and girls would flip to see Sean Maher take the screen again in a hero story, even if it isn’t a space western. Maher has, of course, a cult following for his role in the Fox television show Firefly and then completed cinematic movie Serenity, based on the exact same premise and characters as Firefly. Like Harrison, Maher doesn’t have the big star power to drop on the role but he does have a loyal following of fans and is an accomplished actor in everything from voice acting to Shakespearean roles. Also an out gay man, Maher would be excellent to play Iceman.
Ah, Angel. The on-again-off-again team member for the X-Men. Good guy, villain, Worthington has done a bit of everything in the pursuit of being “normal” and the pursuit of revenge for when “normal” was a trick. Not a favorite X-Man of mine, he is nonetheless an original team member and worth recasting. Because neither Ben Foster in X-Men: The Last Stand nor Ben Hardy in X-Men: Apocalypse did either role or movie justice.
Angel was a hard one for me to narrow down. Mainly because I hadn’t put much thought into a character that, frankly, I tended to gloss over in the comics. But he did have several integral subplots that were important to the X-Men universe. So I put my thinking hat on, and sadly the perfect fit for Warren Worthington I could think of is the legendary Heath Ledger, may he rest in peace. After a sniffle for the loss of a true talent, I thought a little harder and here are the two actors I came up with:
Best known from Sons of Anarchy and Pacific Rim, Hunnam fits the bill physically to play billionaire playboy Warren Worthington. While he tends to sport a scruff style, more than a few photo shoots have shown just how nicely the actor cleans up to GQ level. We know Charlie is capable of playing the knave needed to play Archangel if the scripts went that direction (and they should). Hunnam could make just the right Worthington.
Michael Ealy: While Ealy doesn’t have the star power name to add to the franchise, he does have the quintessential billionaire playboy look, in my opinion. With a varied and long list of credits to his name, Ealy certainly has shown a range of acting that could be very useful in playing the tortured mutant who despised his wings at first mutation, to the competent businessman in search of a cure for all mutation, to the rage-filled Archangel. No stranger to science fiction or fantasy roles, Ealy could be an amazing addition to the X-Men franchise.
The Soul of the Team.
Professor Xavier may be the brain of the X-Men but (to me) Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast has remained the team’s steadfast soul. A man mutated into a savage beast yet upholds all aspects of culture and humanity is a bit cliched, but the writing made that point moot. Beast touches the soul of those who read it. So, of course, we need an actor who can touch our souls.
I didn’t dislike Kelsey Grammer as Beast, but I do think Nicholas Hoult as young McCoy and Beast did a better job. Although I wish they would have settled on his make up and let it be rather than change it from movie to movie. Actually, I wouldn’t mind having Hoult back in the role, but for the purposes of this article, I will stick with my original promise to re-cast everyone.
Diego Boneta: Boneta hasn’t had many large roles on the silver screen, but he has performed for TV and has had a musical career as well. Balancing just the right amount of gruff with nerdy, Boneta could make a great Beast. He spent most of his acting career playing the tenderhearted. I for one would love to hear the many literary quotes Beast is prone to rattling off periodically done by Boneta.
Taylor Lautner: We’ve seen him nerdy and slight; we’ve seen him buff and animalistic. I would be more than stoked to see Lautner combine his sexy smoldering animalism once more with a little awkward nerd and sweet poet. The added fangirl and boy boost couldn’t hurt either. Not to mention lots of moms would be more than happy to have a Lautner Beast speak sweet nothings at them.
There you have it. Those are this nerd’s casting picks for the X-Men First Class Original Team. I doubt I’m on the invite list for casting when Disney puts together the next movie’s line up, but I’ll put this out here now:
Dear Disney Casting Executives,
As you can see, I have put a great deal of thought into the re-casting of the X-Men First Class. I have a roster of Expanded Cast and Villains, and a script to get us going. You could do worse, Disney, and I’m not opposed to traveling for work. Let’s talk.
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of How to Be An Author, she strives to educate others through humor, simple instruction and uses her celebrity to advocate for others.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction ◘ Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories ◘ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court