By now, you’re no doubt familiar with the name Simon Kinberg. The prolific writer/producer has his toe in what feels like every major movie franchise at the moment, from being part of the Lucasfilm brain trust for new Star Wars movies, to spearheading 20th Century Fox’s X-Men universe, to landing an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture for his work on The Martian. He is an incredibly busy guy, and he’ll be the first to tell you he’s also living out his childhood dream come true.
So last summer, while visiting the Montreal set of X-Men: Apocalypse, it was a joy to get to speak with Kinberg, who co-wrote and produced the 80s-set X-Men sequel. As the producer of Deadpool and Gambit and the writer/producer of Fantastic Four, Kinberg is pretty much the guy responsible for overseeing this new shared universe of Fox’s Marvel/X-Men properties, so he was able to quickly answer any and every question we had—well, at least the ones he was willing to answer so as not to spoil any upcoming surprises.
The set visit took place just a few days after Fox trotted out all of its shared universe actors at San Diego Comic-Con, where a curious interaction between director Bryan Singer and Hugh Jackman also played out. Try as we might, we couldn’t get anyone to confirm or deny Jackman’s presence in Apocalypse, but Kinberg shed plenty of light on the new post-Days of Future Past timeline, the process of writing an X-Men movie, his thoughts on the shared universe concept as a whole, finally getting to tell a good Scott and Jean story after the disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand, and much, much more. If you’re a fan of X-Men and/or filmmaking, I can promise you’ll find this interview a fascinating read.
SIMON KINBERG: We did, kind of. Not entirely—they end up at the mansion at the end and Jean and Scott are still a couple and Logan is still a triangle edge of that couple. Some things remain the same, but yeah we opened up the universe so that we could tell different stories going forward, getting to that point.
Can you outline this movie for us?
KINBERG: It takes place in 1983, ten years after the end of the past part of Days of Future Past. Everybody has gone in different directions—Charles has ended up back at the mansion with Hank and a new class of students, including Jean and eventually a young Scott; Erik is essentially living in hiding on the other side of the world in Europe, starting a very different life than we’ve ever seen his character live before, he’s not a villainous Magneto he’s actually a man who’s trying to sort of live a normal life; And Raven, as you sort of saw a glimpse of in the footage, is also living her own separate life almost like a mutant freedom fighter. The world itself that this takes place in is a world where mutants have been exposed to the greater world, because of what happens at the White House at the end of Days of Future Past. And [mutants] have been mostly accepted by the world, so it’s less of a time of fear and hatred and more of a time of acceptance with some prejudice still under the surface, and some suffering still under the surface as well. That suffering is what Raven’s character at the beginning of the movie is going around the world trying to stop.
So following up on Days of Future Past, was it freeing to have this open timeline or was it tough to pin down the story you wanted to tell? Am I correct in saying this isn’t leading towards the first X-Men anymore?
KINBERG: Yeah all of that’s correct. It’s not leading necessarily toward exactly where we found Patrick Stewart and the X-Men at the beginning of X-Men 1. There are some things that lead in that general direction, that was part of the philosophy we had at the end of Days of Future Past is that you can’t fully change the course or current of the river, but you can just divert it a little bit, and we diverted it a little bit. So some things will be surprises; people could die that were alive in X-Men 1, 2 and 3, or people could survive that died during 1, 2 and 3. In terms of being difficult, I don’t think it felt difficult because the world was more open, because it felt like we were still following the stories of our main characters. We imagine this like a trilogy of stories of Charles, Erik, Hank, and Raven and so we really were trying to tell what is the continuation and in some ways completion of their character arcs that we began in First Class, without thinking so much about how it links to the year 2000. It was really about these people who began in some ways as friends or strangers, became friends, became enemies, became lovers, became all of this—how do you complete that story and in some ways sort of bring the family back together in this film?
Talk about when you’re developing the script and you decide which mutants to bring in that we haven’t seen? Why do you decide to use Jubilee or Psylocke over someone else?
KINBERG: There isn’t really—with the main new characters, Jean, Scott, Storm and Apocalypse, those were very conscious decisions that we spent a lot of time considering, debating, and then making sure we had enough story to tell for those iconic characters, because when you bring in those kinds of characters you can’t just bring them in as a cameo; you really wanna delve into the characters. So the first decision that we made while shooting Days of Future Past is that we wanted this to be the Apocalypse story—obviously, because we had that tag at the end of Days of Future—and then we made the decision that we wanted a new sub-generation or semi-generation of mutants that were the young versions of the established characters of the original films.
So that was the first wave of decisions, and then the characters you’re talking about like Psylocke, Jubilee, Angel, Nightcrawler, we sort of build it from the inside outward. We began with who’s the villain we want, what’s the story we want to tell for our four main characters? Now what’s the next wave out from that of new characters we want to create who are gonna have main stories and who are gonna be part of the arcs of the main characters? For me, Scott and Jean’s arcs are very connected to Charles and to Raven. Charles is the sort of father figure for them at the beginning of the movie, and Raven is ultimately a leader for them going forward. It has to all feel like it’s connecting emotionally, thematically. And then we build the story from there: What are the plot points of the story? When does the villain emerge? What does the villain want? How does the villain get in power? How does the villain get super-empowered and then taken down? That’s the basic plotline of every story in history, certainly superhero story. And then within that structure we start to think about building the teams, essentially, on both the hero’s side and the villain’s side. Then it becomes more subjective, random. Who are characters we’d like to see? What are powers we haven’t seen before? What are characters it’d be fun to see the young versions of, or the new visual effects version of? And then that’s how we start to fill in the ranks.
But for instance, Psylocke was quite a late addition to the script and the movie. Bryan Singer and I were up here in Montreal and we felt like we needed a different Horseman, and we just started going through the cycling of the different Apocalypse Horseman over history. We felt like we wanted it to be a female character and we pretty quickly settled on Psylocke. And super randomly I think a week or two earlier I was in Los Angeles and we were casting Deadpool. I had met with Olivia Munn for a character in Deadpool that ultimately wasn’t the right character for her, but we were like “We’ve gotta keep in touch, she has to do something in the X-Men world.” And Bryan and I were sitting in Montreal a few weeks later and saying we should do Psylocke and I was like, “Dude, I just met with Olivia Munn two weeks ago. She’d be great.” Then we looked at pictures of her online and I emailed her and I said, “I think this is a great character for you” and she immediately emailed me back and sent me all this fan art online that fans had done of her as Psylocke. So that’s how that one came to be.
In the comics she starts as a very different person and then becomes Psylocke.
KINBERG: She is Psylocke at the beginning of the movie. She’s Psylocke when you meet her in this film.
So I mean obviously she’s not gonna start off as like a blonde and change race in the middle of the movie.
KINBERG: (Laughs) No. Anything can happen in these films, but no. We’re not attempting that. She’s pretty consistently the same character throughout the movie.
Can you talk about choosing the mutants you wanted for the Horsemen? Cause there are a lot of them.
KINBERG: Yeah there are. Initially the first question was a question of Magneto. A question of what we were gonna do with the person who’s been traditionally the main villain of the franchise. We had a very clear sense of what we wanted his emotional story to be, which actually goes back to—Michael Fassbender and I went to Russia last summer for the Days of Future Past premiere. We flew from the London premiere to Russia and on that flight we started talking about what interested him in continuing the story and the evolution of Erik, and we sort of came upon this story of a man trying to start a normal life and what that would look like for Erik and what it would feel like if he potentially lost that life. So that felt like it fit into a story that would have him on the side of the villains for some of the film, so he from a thematic and emotional standpoint rather than, frankly, a comic book standpoint, we felt like it would be interesting if instead of a leader for once he was actually somewhat of a follower, and how powerful and sort of jarring that could be for the audience, and how powerful that could be within the arc evolution of Michael Fassbender as Magneto; it’s one thing he hasn’t done yet.
So that was the first person that we decided would be an interesting Horseman, and then truly we just kind of sat there the way that anybody would, rather you were in a role playing game or a video game or doing fan fiction, and it was like who are the coolest characters you wanna see? And who are interesting combinations with one another, and who are interesting foils for the heroes of the movie? A lot of the way that Bryan and I work together is it’s about theme and character more than story and spectacle. The story and spectacle comes and obviously there’s amazing teams here, and Bryan himself has such a cinematic mind, but we start it from the inside. So a lot of those decisions are made based on who are the people that deepened the core ideas of the movie? Who are the people that challenge, emotionally, the main characters of the movie, or are mirror images of the main characters? Things like that we take into account when making those decisions. Some from memory and some from Wikipedia (laughs), because it’s a long list and we really weighed all the options. When we work we also spend a lot of time going back and watching the different versions of the cartoons, the Apocalypse cartoons.
All of that gets factored in. We spent as much time on this in the conceptual phase as I did in the writing phase. And that was true of Days of Future Past, though on Days of Future Past that was with Matthew Vaughn because as you know he was initially gonna direct that movie. So I spent on Days of Future probably six to nine months in the conceptual phase and four to six months in the writing phase, and it was about the same on this because it was stretched over a year and a half. Getting to the shooting script in that year and a half I would say nine months to a year of it was in the conceptual phase.
Apocalypse has a long history in the cartoons. Was there any particular storyline that inspired you? What did you want to capture for Apocalypse in this movie?
KINBERG: It’s hard to describe without getting too deep into it, but I will say this Apocalypse of our film is an amalgam of a lot of different versions of Apocalypse from the comics and the cartoons. I think the things that interested us the most—there are touches of some of the more controversial things, like his origin—but one of the things that interested us most was the notion of his being the first mutant and coming from a time when mutants were treated as gods. And what it would be like for someone who experienced a world in which he was treated as a god, to go from that to a world in which he was treated at best as an equal, and at worst as less than, and how radical that would make that character in our modern world. So that was something we talked a lot about, again thematically and emotionally for this character, for this actor.
You mentioned Deadpool, and recently Fox brought out all of its comic book characters on the same stage at Comic-Con. Is it fair to say this film will acknowledge that these movies might exist in the same universe?
KINBERG: Well this movie take space chronologically before those other films, so it’s more like those films have to acknowledge this than we acknowledge Gambit, Deadpool, or Fantastic Four or anything else that exists within the sort of Fox/Marvel universe. But I work on all of those films in one capacity or another, either as a producer on all of them and as a writer on Fantastic Four and this movie, so I’m certainly aware of all the different stories we’re telling at the same time, and they all are part of a larger fabric now, and so the world of Deadpool, the world of Gambit exists in a post-Days of Future Past post-Apocalypse world where all of these stories are the same as our shared history. The same way that each of us of different ages knows about Nixon and knows about Reagan and knows about 9/11, our fictitious events like the stadium dropping on the White House in 1973 is part of the world in which Gambit, Deadpool, Wolverine on forward exists.
Can you talk about Wolverine now, simply because at the Comic-Con panel it was difficult to decipher whether Hugh’s exit from the stage and his conversation with Bryan there was meant to suggest an appearance for this movie or something beyond a third Wolverine movie?
KINBERG: I only know that it was difficult to discern and that was not unintentional, so I can’t say anything other than what you already do or don’t know, which is I love Hugh, I love him as the character, I know that the final real Wolverine story that we’ll be telling is in the next Wolverine movie. And in terms of cameos or any of that kind of stuff, we’ll keep it as mysterious as it was on that stage.
Can I ask a timeline question? At the end of Days of Future Past we got the happy ending with everyone at the school alive and well, so are we headed towards that ending now? Like Storm couldn’t die, because they all have that happy ending. Is that right?
KINBERG: All these movies now exist in the same timeline and certainly the intention at the end of Days of Future Past was that final future we saw was the destination for the characters. So barring another time travel or something else that would upset the timeline, that would be the fate of those characters. And not everybody lives because you didn’t see everybody at the end of Days of Future Past.
Can you talk about the place in this movie for Cyclops and Jean Grey?
KINBERG: Yeah it’s one of the things I’m most excited about in the film. They’re really protagonists in the movie, as much as Erik and Charles and Hank and Raven and Apocalypse, the final two are really Jean and Scott. In the same way that we told the origin story of those four characters in First Class and continued in Days of Future Past, this is the origin story of Jean and Scott. They’re very young characters who are struggling with their powers—both of them—and at sort of different points in their lives understanding what it is to be a mutant, and controlling or not controlling their powers. This is a very different Jean and Scott from the Famke and James Marsden characters that we know from the original trilogy, they are almost opposites in some ways. Scott is not the squeaky clean leader, he’s actually kind of a messed up kid who’s really struggling to find his place in the world and not happy about being at the school. And Jean, as you saw in the Comic-Con piece, is someone who is also struggling with her power, sort of emotionally and physically.
You have Scott and Havoc in the movie for the first time together, so is there an acknowledgement of that in the movie?
KINBERG: Yeah for sure, I mean they’re brothers.
Oh so you flat out say it in the movie?
KINBERG: We flat out say it in the movie that they’re brothers and it’s something that we’re excited to explore, and something that we talked about when we were making First Class that eventually if it was possible to follows these stories all the way through. We didn’t know when we were making First Class that we would make the time leaps we made; in truth, that jump from 1963 to 1973 from First Class to Days of Future Past was just something that Matthew Vaughn and I came up with when we started developing the script, before we even knew it was Days of Future Past—we just knew it was a sequel to First Class. As we started to play he really liked the idea of a new decade, a new era, and picking up characters in the sequel 10 years later as opposed to most sequels which is kind of the next day or the next year. It was interesting to have a new chapter that we had to fill in the backstory for. And then making the 10-year leap again was not something that as we made Days of Future Past we were aware we were going to do, but it just sort of emerged as we were going. When we came up with the idea for using Havoc in First Class there was always a conversation of if eventually we could bring in his brother, so yeah that’s in some ways a big emotional part of this movie, their relationship.
When we spoke with Michael we asked about the father/son thing with Quicksilver and he said that something would happen, but could you elaborate on that?
KINBERG: I would say that something will happen (laughs). And I will say, not to dodge the question—I’ve now dodged the question—thematically this movie is very much about families coming together. It begins the movie with all these people fractured and in different parts of the world, and it is about the possibility and the challenge of a broken family coming back together in a new formation.
What sort of tone is this movie in relation to the last two movies? Because First Class was the fun and colorful nature of them coming together and Days of Future Past was dark and dour because of the future timeline.
KINBERG: I think this movie is a little bit of both, to be honest. In a way it’s dark in that the Apocalypse plot and the global stakes are heavier than anything we’ve ever done in this franchise, and it’s lighter because there’s a sort of youthful component to it and an 80s kitchiness to it that I think is maybe lighter and more comedic than we’ve done in the franchise. Part of the fun of this movie is from the moment we knew it was gonna be Apocalypse and the 80s was the collision of those two things, the collision of something really heavy and serious and extinction-level in its threat with something that was poppy and fun and goofy. So it’s a unique tone again, I think.
Does any of that have to do with the fan response to the Quicksilver sequence in Days of Future Past?
KINBERG: I don’t know if it has to do with the response. It’s a sequence that we loved as we were making it and it’s one of the things we’re most proud of about Days of Future so certainly we wanted to be able to play more. But I think really it came from the fact that we were casting main characters who were very young, so there’s a sort of innocence and fun and playfulness to high school, and that we were setting it in the 80s. For Bryan and I we’re from the same generation that has an amazing nostalgia for the 80s, so the idea of doing 80s music and 80s fashion—you just can’t do that in a serious way, it sort of offers itself up to silliness. So I think that dictated it as much as wanting to fulfill the promise of that sequence from the last one.
I assume when this movie starts that Jean and Scott and Nightcrawler and all them have already been at the school for a little while, is that safe to say?
KINBERG: I will only say it’s not safe to assume that (laughs).
Well for the characters that when the movie starts are already enrolled at the school, talk about writing that there’s already an implied history between certain characters.
KINBERG: Yeah I mean some relationships are new and some relationships have been around for a while. A big decision we made is that because of the changed timeline of Days of Future Past, it’s not a world in which mutants are hiding or passing anymore, it’s a world in which mutancy is known and the Charles Xavier School for the Gifted wouldn’t be a secret school, it would be a much more open school. The way we’ve imagined the school, the way we’ve written the school, the way we’ve shot the school is a brighter, happier place than we’ve ever seen before, I think, at the beginning of the movie. So that’s part of the backstory too is that he’s been there and not only has this place blossomed into the dream academy, but he even has plans to expand it beyond that. And then Apocalypse messes all that up.
What’s Charles’ headspace in this movie given what happened in Days of Future Past? Because he had a lot of interaction with Wolverine regarding people he’d never met yet.
KINBERG: I think in this movie Charles is still really one of the main stories of the movie, but if that one was him sort of going from being hopeless to having hope, this one is in some ways him having too much hope at the beginning of the movie and becoming a little more hardened by the end of the film. Actually the Professor Xavier that we’re trying to arc toward at the end of this movie is slightly different than the Patrick Stewart Xavier we saw. You’re going from a guy who basically runs a school for kids and students to someone that’s gonna start a superhero fighting team. So X-Men: Apocalypse is, as Bryan Singer has said before, in many ways the origin of the X-Men and the notion of a guy who would, like I say, start a Freedom Force in the basement of his house.
Can you talk about Apocalypse? Oscar Isaac had said that his powers were open to interpretation since they’re not clearly defined in the comics, but one of his biggest is the power of persuasion. Can you elaborate on what we’ll see from Apocalypse as a villain?
KINBERG: The way we approached it was he’s the most powerful mutant that we’ve ever had in one of these movies, and that he would be an unbeatable foe for any individual mutant. One of the things they do in the comic and the cartoon, as you know, is he has multiple powers—he has a power suite. So we do that in the film, he has various abilities and powers and one of them, like Oscar said, is the power of persuasion, and part of why that’s necessary is he needs other followers to be his Horsemen, and some of them are very hard to persuade, Erik being the hardest. What’s a little bit hopefully complex in the movie, or even ambiguous, is how much he’s persuading his followers with a superhuman ability or he’s just like any cult leader who’s really good at convincing people to follow him. So we don’t ever really make that explicit—it’s not like he’s putting people under a spell—but he is superhumanly persuasive.
With the glut of superheroes and superpowers now, does that enter into your brain to think, “I need to take a different approach to this?”
KINBERG: I’m definitely aware of it but you know, it’s funny, certainly there are way more superhero movies than there ever were, but I grew up where there were more superhero comics than there are now superhero movies and that was a part of my consciousness when I was a kid, I read all kinds of different comics, many more than the movies will ever be able to catch up with. So I don’t really feel that—I know it’s a popular thing to talk about, and it’s certainly true that there’s a plethora of superhero and comic book movies now and the majority of massive tentpole movies are disproportionately taken from comics than any other source and I recognize all that, but I don’t really feel the pressure or impact of it because I grew up with hundreds of superheroes in my mind. And on these films—I think you feel it in watching these movies and you see it with the kind of actors we get—we approach it from a character first standpoint, so the action is usually some sort of expression of character or drama, and we start from the inside and build outward and make it bigger from a very small, intimate place. We talk about powers and we create big action sequences, and there’s a responsibility to do that, but the real writing work for me and the work on set for me is working with the actors to craft these characters that would be interesting even if they didn’t have superpowers.
Can you talk about the casting of Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, and also to him playing an ancient Egyptian character, which is not necessarily something that Oscar Isaac looks like?
KINBERG: He was our first choice. When we started talking about Apocalypse, it was back when we were making Days of Future Past and we started talking about who could actually play the part from the standpoint of who could hold the screen and even dominate the screen with Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, all the actors we have. We had a sense that he and Magneto would have an intense relationship, so it really needed to be somebody specifically with Michael who you felt like could go head to head with. Oscar is just this incredible talent, this incredibly intense, brooding—so he’s more inwardly intense—actor that we just thought could be strong onscreen as a leading man. And in terms of his ethnicity, we wanted it to be someone who wasn’t white so that was actually another part of the decision process, so that was a nice coincidence for us even though he’s not, as you say, Egyptian or Middle Eastern. But really it came from a place of who’s the best actor in the world to us who hasn’t already been in an X-Men movie (laughs), or some other superhero movie because we couldn’t cast somebody from Avengers. It was just this crazy thing, a moment of luck that we got Oscar before—not before Star Wars, but before other movies could.
Does that make things more difficult when everyone has done a superhero movie at this point?
KINBERG: It does, but what’s fun about it is you get to discover new talent or break somebody into movies, like how Sophie Turner’s a huge TV star but hasn’t done a major movie yet, and Tye is a very big independent film star but hasn’t done a big movie yet and Oscar is in some ways also kind of an independent film star, other than Star Wars. So it’s fun because you get to—the same way we found Jennifer Lawrence when she had only just been in Winter’s Bone, and Michael Fassbender was relatively unknown when we cast him in First Class, he had to come in and screen test for the role. So it’s fun to be able to discover new people but certainly the list is shorter, because you can’t cast somebody who’s played the hero or the villain in another film. Sometimes there’s exceptions, like Chris Evans who played Johnny Storm and Captain America, but for the most part you have to find the next wave of actor. It was fun for Fantastic Four as well, breaking in Miles Teller or Michael B. Jordan or Kate Mara, it’s fun that you’re not just casting the same action stars all the time. When I was a kid it was like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Mel Gibson were the star of every action movie and they just kept circulating to different franchises, and now you can’t do that, and that’s an opportunity too.
You said you guys were talking pretty extensively about Apocalypse on the set of Days of Future Past, so are you already hatching ideas for the next film?
KINBERG: We’ve talked about it. We haven’t talked that extensively about it, but we certainly have talked about ideas and because I’m involved with other movies there I talk with the studio a fair amount, and with the other producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Hutch Parker about what the future could hold.
The X-Men universe is so big as far as characters go. Do you have characters that you’ve been dying to get into something that just haven’t made it in?
KINBERG: Yeah for sure. I have to say I was really excited to have Scott and Jean, because I never really got to write [for them]. I mean I wrote X3 but we didn’t really get to focus on those characters the way I would’ve wanted, partly because James Marsden was ironically busy doing Superman. And Famke, the Dark Phoenix story, the way that Matthew Vaughn—who was originally the X3 director—the way that he and Zak Penn, who co-wrote that movie, and I wanted to tell the Dark Phoenix story is a bit different than the way it ended up being told, so we didn’t really get to dig into those characters and they’re such huge, iconic characters in the franchise. I think those are the characters I was most excited about for this film, but there are definitely others. There’s others I’ve tried to get into movies and haven’t been able to and there’s other young versions of characters from the original trilogy that I’d like to play with, so yeah there’s a lot.
With this tweaked timeline, are there opportunities to include elements of the Dark Phoenix saga?
KINBERG: Sure, I think everything that hasn’t been told in First Class or Days of Future Past is up for grabs going forward, so it would absolutely be a story that we could tell in a different way.
Are there teases in this movie to her broader abilities or what she will grow into?
KINBERG: We definitely explore how powerful she is in this movie and that that can be something that is empowering and something that is dangerous.
Are there any characters that are just never gonna happen? Like, will there ever be a Brood movie?
KINBERG: Honestly if you had asked me 15 years ago I’d say yeah there’s probably characters, but now I’m like you look at Guardians of the Galaxy, you look at Ant-Man, you look at some of these franchises that take characters that are very, very hard characters to adapt and they do it brilliantly. Guardians was my favorite movie last year of any movie, and I wouldn’t have said 10 years ago that that can be a viable movie franchise let alone what I consider to be the best movie of last year. So yeah, I don’t think anything is off limits now, given the appetite of audiences and the fact that visual effects can do anything.
Speaking broadly, will audiences have a better idea after seeing this film how a movie set 30 years prior to a shared universe can actually differ from what they expect?
KINBERG: I think I understand your question, and part of the answer to me is people are getting more educated about shared universes and multiple movie storytelling, and I think some of that is due to what Marvel has done, some of it goes back to Star Wars, some of it’s what we’re now doing, but I actually think part of it is also just the way our culture works now. When I was a kid you went to the library and read one book. Today you don’t read one book, you read like 50 sites at the same time, so there’s a sort of horizontal way that we ingest the world now and when I was a kid it was more vertical. So I think this kind of storytelling where it’s like multiple movies telling a similar, intertwined almost like hypertexted version of a story, it’s easier for people to ingest that now because it’s the way our brains think and it’s different than when I was a kid. I watch my 5 and 9 year old sons and their brains are so different than mine was when I was a kid, and I was a pretty sharp kid but I can’t make the kind of immediate connections they can make because of the fact that they tap on something it takes them to an entirely different universe, they tap on something else it takes them to another different universe, then they tap back to the first thing they touched and it’s all connected in their minds. And that kind of complex tapestry communication I didn’t grow up with.
So as a writer does that mean you can trust that if you write two or three different stories in the same universe that people will notice the thematic connections?
KINBERG: Yeah, I believe that. I try to write it in a way so that it’s not necessary, it’s not requisite to enjoying a single movie to actually have an understanding of the other movies that it’s connected to, but if you do it’s a richer experience. And my assumption is that the majority of the audience does know that when Jean and Scott show up at the end of Days of Future Past that it is meaningful because we have erased something, changed history. But if you don’t know that, you simply feel that this is the first time that Wolverine has seen a woman that he clearly has feelings for in a long time. And my parents watching the movie, who are from a completely different generation, were like, “He’s happy to see her and that guy is jealous of their thing,” and it’s just a simple dramatic moment.
As far as Apocalypse goes, what was your thought process when designing him for the movie?
KINBERG: That’s really a question for Bryan, but he had a very clear sense of the way he wanted him to look, and he wanted it to feel, I think , a little less grounded than we’ve had in this franchise before, a little bit more otherworldly. He worked really hard with all kinds of different artists, illustrators, conceptual guys to create something that would feel still within the reality of the X-Men movie universe but just a little bigger—not physically bigger but tonally bigger than we’ve had before.
You pick up one of the best-reviewed X-Men comics and you’ll realize it’s as cosmic as Guardians of the Galaxy. Is there a possible future for X-Men in that or will it stick with our social issues that happen here on Earth?
KINBERG: I think it will still feel like it is about our social issues on Earth, but it does have a further reach than these movies have done before, and some of that is about just going back to ancient time. In the previous films, it really seemed to be that the first mutants were emerging in the 1930s to 40s and that was the beginning of mutancy, so to go back thousands of years into a time when mutants were treated as gods is already larger in its mythos than anything that we’ve done in this franchise before. So I do think that this is a bigger canvas than we’ve done in the movies.
You open the movie with sequences that are 5,000 years in the past. Can you describe writing that and what those characters are?
KINBERG: Yeah Bryan and I spent a lot of time looking at documentaries about ancient Egypt and pyramid theory—he knows the theories better than I do—and there was this movie we watched, something of the Pharaohs I can’t remember the name, but there’s a sequence in one of those movies that we watched, it was a great sequence from a movie from the 50s and 60s, sort of B movie. So we watched that together and we watched all these documentaries and tried to incorporate a lot of that like conspiracy theory, mythic stuff into the film. The opening action sequence has a lot of that built into it. I’d never written anything in ancient times, but we wanted it to feel like it had elements of sacrifice, of ancient religion, some of the Biblical feel of some of our favorite Bible epic movies, so a lot of that’s built into the film.
And the literal Four Horsemen are in there.
KINBERG: There are literal Four Horsemen in the movie and there’s a few iterations of that.
How does Stryker factor into the film and does the film acknowledge what happened at the end of Days of Future Past with Stryker and Wolverine?
KINBERG: Everything that happened in the past part of Days of Future Past is part of the reality going forward in these movies, so I’ll keep it that vague (laughs).
For more on X-Men: Apocalypse, peruse my other set visit articles below. The film opens in theaters on May 27th.
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: Over 75 Things to Know about the Epic Superhero Sequel
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: Olivia Munn on Psylocke’s Powers, Provocative Costume, and a Potential Spinoff
- Bryan Singer Reflects on ‘X-Men 1′, Talks the Evolution of the Superhero Genre
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: Evan Peters Describes New Quicksilver Sequence as a “Sequel” to the First
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: New Timeline Explained by Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: Bryan Singer on the Villain’s Powers, Costume, and Casting Oscar Isaac
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: How Did They Decide Which Mutants to Include?
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: Michael Fassbender on Working with Oscar Isaac, Becoming a Horseman