This story first appeared in the Dec. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Fox is building its own Marvel-style superhero universe with X-Men, marrying the actors from the first trilogy of movies to the stars of 2011's reboot in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past.
But assembling such an expansive cast could prove a heroic dealmaking task. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen already are set to reprise their roles of Professor X and Magneto, respectively, while Hugh Jackman is in negotiations to return as Wolverine in the new movie, set for release July 18, 2014. (Jackman also will star in a second stand-alone Wolverine movie next summer.) But Halle Berry, James Marsden and other original X-Men are not yet confirmed to come back for a story that will straddle the 1960s setting established in 2011's X-Men: First Class and the future of the original trilogy, where mutants are a hunted minority.
First Class stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult are locked into the sequel, which is eyeing an April production start, possibly in Canada. Those actors had sequel options in their original deals (a fact that became a headache for Lawrence, who had to negotiate scheduling of The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire).
By contrast, new deals must be struck with the original trilogy stars, though insiders say negotiations haven't been overly complex. For one, Jackman and the others will appear mostly in scenes depicting an alternate dystopic future, so pay and time commitments are not substantial. Second, there is a great deal of goodwill on the part of the actors to return, thanks mostly to the involvement of Bryan Singer, who directed the first two installments of the original trilogy and was a producer on First Class. Singer stepped in to direct Days of Future Past when First Class helmer Matthew Vaughn backed away for mysterious reasons.
Vaughn and Simon Kinberg developed the script based on the classic 1981 comic book Uncanny X-Men. Fox and the producers were working on attracting actors to return when Singer took the helm, giving that effort a major boost. In casting the 2000 original, Singer gave Jackman his breakout role and provided major career boosts for Stewart and McKellen.
Says a source close to the dealmaking, "There is a lot of willingness to participate because of Bryan."