If there was a perfect person to write X-Men: Days of Future Past it was Simon Kinberg. He penned X-Men: Last Stand and X-Men: First Class. He is keenly aware of both words and as a bonus -- he is a lifelong fan of the comic books.
We caught up with Kinberg for an exclusive interview to explore how the entire X-Men: Days of Future Past project even came together, and he tells us how it was decided that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine would be the one who would go back in time and bridge the worlds that had Ian McKellen as Magneto and Patrick Stewart as Professor X in the future and James McAvoy as Professor X and Michael Fassbender as Magneto in the past.
Kinberg also takes us inside the process of putting these worlds together and the complications of making something that is truly extraordinary happen in one of the must-see summer movies of 2014.
Movie Fanatic: As the writer of X-Men: Last Stand and X-Men: First Class, was it always a dream to get these two worlds together?
Simon Kinberg: It’s an interesting thing because when we finished First Class we were about to get to work on the film that we thought would be the sequel to First Class. It was going to be more of a pure sequel. We had all these great stories from the comic books, but none of them were Days of Future Past. Then in truth, someone from the studio said, “What if you had brought in Ian (McKellen) and Patrick (Stewart) as bookends to the movie and they’re not related to the main story, but they’re just in it?" The second they said that I wondered why we weren’t talking about Days of Future Past. So, I called Matthew (Vaughn, First Class director) and he was more of a cartoon fan of it. I sent him the comic book and he immediately said, “This is what we should do.” Then we called the studio and they were both incredibly excited and incredibly terrified. How do we figure out the schedules, the contracts, and the logistics? They had no contracts with any of the original X-Men cast members -- not even Hugh (Jackman). They were so excited for the potential for it in a post-Avengers world that they pursued it. We honestly kind of stumbled into it.
Movie Fanatic: Was it something you ever even considered?
Simon Kinberg: No, it was something that I didn’t dare dream. Even bringing in Hugh for a cameo in First Class was a very late in the game idea that we had. It wasn’t even scripted. There was never a notion that we could do this whole movie with all of them.
Movie Fanatic: Then, once it was a go, that had to be some pressure to put it all together as the writer of the story.
Simon Kinberg: The original story in Days of Future Past was really helpful. I note-carded it like I would do an original script. It was told, pretty much, perfectly. Then, we had to figure out, where is it missing sequences that help it conform to a three act structure of a movie? The first and biggest question was, “Who do we send back in time?” Because in X3 we cast Ellen Page as a 25-year-old girl and we wanted to send someone’s consciousness to their younger body and she would be negative 20 years old [laughs] at the time of James McAvoy and James Fassbender. We talked about Bishop. And then I was like, “There is a character who would be the same age in the 1960s as he is today and he happens to be the fan favorite from the movies.” We should make it Hugh going back in time. That sparked an interesting weapon X thing that we could explore with young Stryker, and it opened up the movie even more.
Movie Fanatic: What was the biggest challenge at that point?
Simon Kinberg: The second big question was for us -- and this is the hardest thing doing these X-Men movies – was whose movie is it emotionally? For us, First Class was Erik’s movie. Very quickly we figured Charles’ story. This is a guy who lost his sister. He lost his legs and his best friend. He lost his hope in First Class. Where is that guy five or 10 years later? Who is he? That opened up this broken man story – how does he became this Professor X we know, played by Patrick Stewart? That was just so rich. It is the origins of Professor X.
Movie Fanatic: You see that in the first X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer when James says, “I don’t want your future!” You can hear it in James' voice, everything you’re talking about…
Simon Kinberg: Well, those actors are so good! There will never be another cast like this.
Movie Fanatic: For you, the expectations once people hear about this movie being the combination of both X-Men worlds had to be sky high. Do you have to zero those out in order to focus on the task at hand of writing X-Men: Days of Future Past?
Simon Kinberg: You hope as a fan yourself, that the things that you hold sacred, are the things that are most sacred to them. You have to trust that. As a writer, you have to trust your own gut. I grew up a fan. I geek out the same way everybody does that there’s going to be a Days of Future Past movie! I followed my instincts as to what the core values of the original stories are. There are details of the storytelling that you have to change because it’s a different medium of storytelling.
Movie Fanatic: As a fan, and as someone who is ingrained in the universe now, what do you think it is about the X-Men that endears them so much to their legions of fans?
Simon Kinberg: Being outsiders. It’s a very character-driven book and the movies are too. Everyone knows what it is like to feel like an outsider. It’s as true for Prince William as it is for the most outsider, awkward kid in a middle American high school. It’s fundamental to the human condition. That is it.