The long-delayed X-Men spinoff The New Mutants hits theaters later this year at long last following a number of release date pushes and a full-on studio swap. What began as another unique entry in 20th Century Fox’s stable of increasingly bold Marvel Comics adaptations like Logan and Deadpool—one that revolved around a group of teen mutants being held in an asylum—is now in this weird middle ground of having been made by Fox, but released by the new 20th Century Fox (now called 20th Century Pictures) under the ownership of Disney. The Mouse House of course also owns Marvel Studios, so it remains to be seen whether The New Mutants will officially become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or if it’ll be kind of burned off like last year’s Fox holdover Dark Phoenix.
Regardless, The New Mutants co-writer and director Josh Boone certainly had big plans for the film in the midst of production, as revealed during a set visit interview that Collider attended way back in 2017. We can now finally share with you what Boone had to say about New Mutants back then, with the caveat that we’re unsure how/if Disney has altered the intended approach in post-production.
“I’d say biggest influences for this movie were [One Flew Over the] Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining and Dream Warriors. I do love Dream Warriors, I loved the first [Nightmare on Elm Street] as well, but this is very much a rubber reality horror movie for the first about 75% of the movie and then it becomes something else. It follows the logic of those early Wes Craven movies and all that.”
Indeed, from what we know of New Mutants the film finds its central characters—led by a cast that includes Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Charlie Heaton—questioning their reality as their mutant powers begin to manifest inside this asylum. Boone added that Stephen King was a heavy influence on his approach, which should come as no surprise given that he’s currently in the midst of adapting The Stand as a CBS All Access miniseries.
“I’m excited about it. [It’s also] Stephen King-y, less in terms of all the adaptations and more in terms of the books, where the trick he always played that I thought was what makes his stuff work so well is, he keeps it so grounded and credible with the characters that when the supernatural stuff is introduced, you go with it because you care so much about the characters.”
To that end, Boone admitted that most comic book adaptations devolve into a CGI battle for the third act, and acknowledged he and his filmmaking team were actively trying to limit that aspect of The New Mutants:
“I still feel like when you watch most comic book movies, your eyes glaze over in the last 40 minutes where you’re like, ‘Okay they’re going to fight for 40 minutes or whatever.’ We’ve tried to limit that stuff, but make that stuff be really important and impactful where there’s not a lot of redundancies with all the visual effects and all the action stuff, just to keep it moving quick and have time for as much character stuff as we can.”
In terms of pushback from the studio on upending the traditional narrative for a “comic book movie,” Boone said 20th Century Fox was all for it—again, acknowledging that these comments were made was in the middle of production and we’re unsure what/if anything changed once filming wrapped:
“It’s funny, [Fox is] so emboldened by Deadpool and Logan and stuff that they really let us… I can’t believe they’re letting us make this movie. If you knew all the stuff in it, I still am like, ‘Do they know how fucked up this movie is?’ It is, but we’re trying to make something that would make you scream just as much as it’ll grab your heart and make you cry. Truly, I’ve shown a couple of scenes to people where everybody who saw them cried and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to make people cry.’ So be excited, because that would be something that hadn’t been done before, I think, for most horror movies.”
Tonally, Boone compared the film’s PG-13 rating to the intensity of something like The Dark Knight:
“It’s a supernatural horror movie. I’d say this is pushed as far as you could push a PG 13, as far as Dark Knight was pushed or whatever with Joker putting somebody’s head in a pencil and all that, or Two-Face’s face, we’ve pushed stuff as far as we could push it.”
The filmmaker also revealed on set that his original pitch to Fox was a trilogy of New Mutants movies, with each film tackling a different type of horror film subgenre:
“When [my co-writer Knate Lee and I] went to go tell Fox we wanted to do this movie, we made them a comic book. It was a PDF that pitched them kind of a trilogy of films where each one is its own unique kind of horror movie. The first one is the supernatural horror movie. I won’t say what the other two are, but they’re all horror movies, but a different horror movie each time.”
Again, it’s unclear if Marvel Studios—under the tutelage of Kevin Feige—will want to integrate Boone’s story and characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or if they’re just basically releasing The New Mutants as-is and then will ignore it when they reboot the X-Men in a few years. Regardless, given how many balls Marvel Studios is juggling at once, and their absolutely packed slate ahead, it’s probably unlikely that we’ll get to see Boone’s full vision for a horror trilogy of New Mutants movies onscreen.
This all serves as yet another example of why Disney’s purchase of Fox is more limiting than it is expansive. Sure Marvel Studios can now use the X-Men and characters like Wolverine and fold them into the official MCU, but what we lose is the specificity and unique ambition of Fox’s standalone films. It really felt like that studio had found a solid path forward apart from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in terms of crafting uniquely toned adaptations like Logan and Deadpool, and while I’m certainly curious to see what Marvel Studios does with these characters and properties, a part of me will always mourn what could have been had Fox remained a standalone entity.
The New Mutants opens in theaters on April 3rd.
Reporting by Nick Romano.