'The New Mutants' Director Josh Boone Details His Plans for a Trilogy (Exclusive)
By John Boone
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"I'm so excited for people to see it," says director Josh Boone. It's not an uncommon sentiment to hear from a filmmaker, but for Boone, the release of his The New Mutants is a (notoriously) long time coming: He signed on to co-write and helm the project more than five years ago, with the original release date set for 2018.
The standalone X-Men film centers on five mutants -- shapeshifter Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams), sorceress Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), speedster Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton), Roberto da Costa aka Sunspot (Henry Zaga) and illusionist Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) -- grappling with their newfound powers in a mysterious facility run by Alice Braga's Dr. Cecilia Reyes.
Now, a studio merger, zero reshoots and a handful of years later, people will finally get to see The New Mutants, one way or another. "I'd be happy with whatever medium gets everybody who wants to see it the chance to finally be able to see it," Boone told ET.
On Thursday, he and his cast assembled for Comic-Con@Home -- another unforeseen fold in the film's rollout, as Boone admits, "I never got to go to a real one." During the panel, Boone debuted the opening of the film, which you can watch below and then scroll on for ET's exclusive interview.
In conversation with ET's Ash Crossan, Boone discussed the long journey to release, why he wanted to center an LGBTQ love story in a superhero movie and his original plans for a New Mutants trilogy.
A lot of people know you from your work on The Fault in Our Stars, so The New Mutants, at least on the surface, feels like this big departure. How did this get started? I read that you made a New Mutants comic that was presented to [producer Simon] Kinberg at some point.
Josh Boone: I wrote this with my very best friend who I've known since the day I was born. Our moms are best friends, so we have pictures of us when we were little infants together. But we grew up in the 1980s and read Marvel comics religiously, and the way that we learned how to tell stories was we'd go get the new issue of Spider-Man and we'd actually perform it onto a boombox and pretend we were all the characters. So, we've been such huge comic book fans for so long.
Once I had made The Fault in Our Stars, I knew Fox had the rights to all the X-Men stuff, and I had long loved New Mutants because it was so much darker and more character-driven than some other X-Men stuff was, for me personally. It felt like it could be very different from any other comic book movie, just in terms of the aesthetic, the way that it looked, the way we dove into characters. So in that way, it's not that different from The Fault in Our Stars and even Stuck in Love, my first movie, or The Stand that I just made. It all goes back to character and performance. This one is certainly much more so like that than a typical comic book movie would be, I think. It has all the stuff fans want, but it's also got a bunch of other stuff as well.
Well, this seems like it takes place in maybe one location, so the character has to be the most important element.
Yeah, it's in a very contained setting. And we shot all this on a real location, so that already gives it a very different feel from a typical X-Men movie or a typical Marvel movie, because there were very few huge sets constructed. It just all starts to feel a little more grounded naturally by doing it that way.
The trailer got a really big reaction for the horror elements and people were really jazzed about that. And then there were a lot of reports that the movie was leaning more into horror. So how would you describe the tone? Is it a YA-meets-horror kind of thing?
It's exactly what we sold them and went to go make. We never were able to do any reshoots or any pickups because the merger happened. And the next thing I knew, it was a year later and I'm at Disney and they said, "Would you come get everything finished?" And I went and finished my cut, finished the visual effects. There was really just a stop gap for about a year and then [I] came back and finished it.
It has horror elements, but it's also a love story. I wouldn't say that it's not -- the spine of it is very much Blu and Maisie's relationship -- and it's also very much a story about friendship. In that way, it is sort of John Hughes a little bit, a little Joss Whedon-Buffy crew. I love that stuff, so I tried to sprinkle all those tones in that I like and hope that it would fit well these characters that we were lucky enough to be able to borrow from the Marvel universe.
You mentioned all the reports about the reshoots that weren't true--
We never did any reshoots. [Laughs]
There was a lot of public talk about the behind-the-scenes of this movie. So, to clarify, how much would you say this movie has changed over time from when you initially shot it to now, when it's coming out?
It really is still the same film. All that we did was, it had been about a year since I looked at it when Knate [Lee] and I were able to go back and open it up again and start working on it to get it ready for release, so we did a couple little tweaks here and there that were things that naturally occurred to us watching it with a break of a year. But the story never changed at all. It's always been the same thing that we wrote and went and shot the first time. Most movies do go reshoot stuff -- almost every single one of them -- so I'd be the first to say if we did, because it's normal. But it's weird, we were never able to reshoot. So you're seeing the result of the one shoot that we did with nothing additional from later.
When the merger was announced, what went through your mind? Did you think, "This movie may never see the light of day." How did you feel?
No, I was never worried that the movie wouldn't come out. It was really unfortunate. It was unfortunate for every movie at the time at Fox, I think, because Fox had no idea what was going to happen. Disney didn't know what they [were going to do]. The X-Men movie had already been done, they'd been finished and they put, for sure, their money and their time into completing the big $200 million Dark Phoenix. Ours was so much cheaper than that and so much smaller than that that it just, I'm sure, took a position of less importance.
But it also, too, is just not like these other movies. That one probably felt like more of the one to focus on because of the cast and everything else. I don't think it was anything personal against ours. We always had test screenings where people loved the movie and always had people who watched it and felt it was very different from other comic book movies. So, I'm just really excited for people to see it. I'm very happy with it. I got to deliver the movie that I wanted to make and nobody bothered me. That's the best-case scenario. [Laughs]
I read that you had sequels in mind for this. Do you think that's something that could still happen at this time.
I have no idea about anything really. The world's in such a strange place right now. I mean, I sold it to Fox. Knate and I made them a digital comic book utilizing all these frames from the comics that we loved and designed a three-movie trilogy where each one would be a different kind of horror movie. The second one was going to be an alien invasion movie about the character Warlock. The third one was going to dive into the X-Men crossover series from the '80s, Inferno. And this was all designed before the merger happened, so we didn't really think about it much after that or beyond that.
I do think that Marvel listens to the fans. So, if the demand's there, the possibilities are endless, especially now that you would have more characters at your disposal if something went forward.
Yeah. The script for a very long time had Warlock in it and about six months before we went to go make it, we really had to cut the budget in half to be able to go get it made. So, we lost a lot of stuff we loved. I'm sure the cast would love to come back. We'd all love to go make another one. Whether that happens or not is up to the movie gods, the Disney gods.
You mentioned a certain relationship being at the center of this movie, and that's Rahne and Dani. So this is a love story?
Yeah, absolutely, sure. We didn't really think about it or call it that when we wrote it, it's just that in the comic book, Rahne and Dani have a telepathic relationship which gives them a lot more intimacy than a typical relationship in a film would. That just naturally became what it became. We don't really focus on it as being a gay relationship. It's just a relationship that naturally develops over the course of the movie.
But I'm proud of it because I haven't seen it in a comic book movie yet in a real way, where it wasn't background. Like, when you see the articles where there was a gay couple that kissed at the end of Star Wars -- and I'd say there's multiple movies that are like that. In this genre in comic book movies, I'm not saying that we're first -- if it had come out earlier, we certainly would have been first -- but we do explore a real relationship between two teenagers in a way that's not typically done in a comic book movie.
I want to do a quick breakdown of these characters, because we're meeting them for the first time. So we have Maisie Williams, she's Rahne Sinclair. Give us the quick and dirty.
She's probably the closest to me, personally, because I was raised by quite extreme Evangelical Christian Baptists in Virginia when I was a kid. And Rahne has a lot of personal issues and problems because of her religious upbringing, so her power is basically she's sort of werewolf-y, but it's so much more something she's been taught to be ashamed of through her religious upbringing.
And we have Anya Taylor-Joy, who has that amazing Soulsword. Tell me about her.
She's our badass. She's the one who comes ready-made to already be a superhero. She's done a lot more than these other kids have in the reality of the movie. Her powers just lend themselves more to that. But we tried to make there be real psychological dimensions to all the powers, so her powers are directly related to childhood abuse and a bad situation that she was in when she was a kid, where to escape this childhood abuse, she would go to this place in her mind called Limbo and over time her powers of imagination made that place become a real place. She has a complex and interesting power, which is she's created her own kingdom where she is a goddess, of sorts.
We have Charlie Heaton as Sam Guthrie, aka Cannonball.
All of these kids who were in this Institute...they're there because something horrible happened when they used their powers for the first time, whether it was intentionally or not. Charlie comes from a working-class background in Kentucky, where he worked in a coal mine with his dad and a terrible accident happened because of his power. So, he comes to where they're staying really with a lot of shame and a lot of guilt, so all his power is sort of something he keeps inside of him that when it comes out, it's really like an explosion because he keeps it buried so deep.
And Blu Hunt [as Danielle Moonstar].
She is the star of this movie and she really is the star of this arc of the comics, where they deal with her Demon Bear story. She had never done a movie before and we really wanted someone with a real, deep connection to Native American culture and tribe, so we couldn't have made this movie without her. We saw hundreds of people and she was without a doubt the person that we wanted in it. Just like it was important that Henry [Zaga] be from Brazil, we really wanted to try to get some of those things as right as we could possibly do and still make the movie be really good. And Blu having a real relationship with a tribe that's part of her family and everything was a big thing for us, for her to bring as much authenticity to that role as she could.
She has a very complicated power where, in our narrative, she's there because of her power but she's not quite aware yet that she has a power or what it is that she's doing. It's all unconscious. A lot of the movie is her having to deal with and face this power that she has that has wreaked a lot of havoc and hurt a lot of people, unbeknownst to her. But hers is very much a rubber reality horror power where she's able to bring your greatest fears to life. Think Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors and you'll be close to one of our touchstone movies that we were inspired by when we wrote it.
Then we have Alice Braga [as Dr. Cecilia Reyes].
She is really the character that we borrowed who doesn't appear in this actual run of comics that we based the movie on, but we needed a character to serve the purpose and we felt she would really be the right character to use. I can only say so much about her. She had a very complicated role, because you are uncertain as an audience member and as various characters in the movie as to what it is exactly that she's up to during all of it. She's playing very much close to the hip and interacting with them all on an individual basis differently from person to person. I'll just say she's sort of a mysterious character and even what her powers are are left for later in the film.