With each new X-Men movie comes new mutants. We’re now seven films deep into this franchise, but given the embarrassment of riches in the comics, there are still plenty of exciting mutants we’ve yet to see realized onscreen. With this May’s X-Men: Apocalypse we’re getting a couple new faces, one of which is fan favorite Psylocke, brought to life by actress Olivia Munn.
Psylocke has a complicated history in the comics, so fans were no doubt curious to see how the character would be realized on the big screen. In Apocalypse, director Bryan Singer and co-writer Simon Kinberg opted to use the character as one of the titular villain’s Four Horsemen, a tool of evil that aids Oscar Isaac’s character on his quest for world domination.
When I visited the Montreal set of X-Men: Apocalypse last summer along with a small group of reporters, we got the chance to speak with Munn during a break from filming. She was in full costume at the time of the interview and was gracious enough to show us some of her fighting moves, teasing the actress’ most physical role yet. Kinberg had told us that Psylocke was a last-minute addition to the ensemble, but when he offered the part to Munn, she sent him back fan art people had made with her as the comics character. So we had to ask, did she find the fan art creepy or flattering?
“It was awesome. Whenever fans do things like that, I just think it’s the coolest thing. I mean, it probably takes them no time at all but I’m not artistic in that way, so I’m always amazed by it.”
Based on the glimpses we’ve seen of the character in the trailer, Psylocke has one of the most comics-accurate costumes in the entire film franchise. As it turns out, that’s a direct result of Munn’s passion for the character:
“I think my first thought [when I saw the costume] was it has to be purple, because we were going up against time and making it. It was black at first because that’s the way to—the latex is in black and all the armor is in black and it’s just easier, but I was like, ‘You’ve got to make it purple.’ That was kind of my first thought when I saw myself in the costume, which was in Photoshop.”
Her passion extended to Psylocke’s complicated backstory, which we won’t see addressed in the film but which Munn made sure to point out to the filmmakers:
“I was like, you know, there is that storyline, and I was really big about staying so true to Psylocke. In fact, I was like, ‘Um, she’s actually Psylocke because of the alien that took her body. She took on the name Psylocke because that was the alien’s name. And she becomes Psylocke after the Apocalypse,’ but they’re like, ‘Stop talking’ (laughs). I mean, I literally wrote a paragraph and at the end of it was like, ‘Do you guys want to fire me now. Am I too nerdy?’”
Indeed, Munn had been a fan of the character for a very long time when she was asked to join the ensemble, and once she signed on, it was important to her that the sexuality of the character didn’t undermine her independence:
“Well, I’ve loved Psylocke… To me, I know that Psylocke is dressed very sexually. Out of all the costumes, it’s really revealing, but it’s important to know that she always had substantive plotlines… Just because she’s dressed like that, she’s not this promiscuous, slutty girl that’s—in fact, Apocalypse is the one who dressed her and gave her that outfit.”
The actress put a lot of work into diving into the psychology of the character, who has been used as a tool for others more often than not:
“The way that I see Psylocke is as a very powerful weapon that has been used and abused by different people so that they could use her powers, and she’s somebody who’s just looking for righteous purpose. Right now, that’s why she’s one of the bad guys.. She’s definitely someone who’s very strong, who’s been through a lot. She has really powerful abilities and is just looking for a purpose.”
Indeed, Psylocke’s method of killing says a lot about her state of mind:
“The thing about Psylocke is that, I can see the way that she’s dressed but it has nothing to do with how strong she is and how powerful she is. That is something that I love about Psylocke. When most superheroes don’t enjoy killing or don’t want to kill but they will kill if they have to, Psylocke can create anything with her mind. She can kill from afar, like Magneto or Storm, but she chooses to create a sword, which is a very intimate way to kill someone. She experiences it.”
Speaking of which, what powers will we see Psylocke wield onscreen exactly?
“Psylocke is telepathic and telekinetic. In the movie, we see her being a telekinetic. We don’t see her being telepathic. It’s a decision [we made] because this is the first time we’ve really been able to see the character of Psylocke and have her really, truly exist in the movie. I talked about it with Simon Kinberg. There’s just so much going on, especially with Apocalypse’s power, and then trying to take on all of the X-Men. When you are telephatic, I feel that it’s a power that you want to hold close to your chest. It’s a card that you don’t want a lot of people to know about because it’s so much more powerful when people don’t know that you have this power.”
But not to worry, diehard fans, Munn is adding sly references to Psylocke’s telepathic abilities throughout:
“Some of my fight scenes that I have, I’m able to go after them quickly because I’m already assessing what they’re going to do but they don’t know that I have that ability. We create the sword and some other things, but the telepathy is incorporated in our decisions and everything that we’re doing. My character might ask a question but she already knows the answer, but we’ve already thought about that. It’s more of something I think for the fans to be able to know like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool moment because you can kind of see that you’re one step ahead with her.’
In terms of weaponry, we’ll get to see Psylocke use both a physical sword and a psy-dagger, which actually came about from a suggestion by co-star James McAvoy:
“That was actually James McAvoy’s idea. He was like, ‘If you can use both hands, then you can go, you can switch, you can …” Because the thing about sword work is that you’re always keeping somebody off guard. They don’t really know it’s happening. You’re really throwing people off. He was like, ‘Well, you can really throw them off if you’re going from your real sword to your psychic sword and then just switching hands and it’s just …’ I was like, ‘That sounds awesome.’
And while we won’t be delving too much into the character’s backstory—she’s described as Apocalypse’s “bodyguard” in the film—Munn still has plenty of ideas for a spinoff film should the character take off:
“I think if Psylocke had a chance to tell her story, it would be great to start with the genesis and have an understanding … I think maybe like right as she’s getting out of university and before her whole family—we jump in right before all of her family is taken out and we have an understanding of what she had to lose. Then her figuring out her powers and how powerful she is. I think that would be a great thing to, because it’s something that I always loved about her. That she came from a good family and lost everything. Yeah, I would just like to tell that story.”
In the X-Men universe anything is possible, and with the family growing even larger with films like Deadpool and Gambit, we may see a bevy of spinoffs come our way in the next few years. For now, though, the next proper X-Men movie arrives on May 27th.
For more on X-Men: Apocalypse, peruse my other set visit articles below.
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: Over 75 Things to Know about the Epic Superhero Sequel
- 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