6 Huge Things We Learned On The Set Of X-Men: Apocalypse

The year is 1983, about 10 years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Thanks to Mystique publicly saving President Nixon from an attack by Magneto, it’s a world in which homo sapiens know about mutants and have largely accepted them into their society. Of course, prejudice still remains underneath the surface, and there are mutants still suffering.

It’s during this time that a great evil awakens. Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), considered to be the first mutant, emerges after thousands of years to find his race facing discrimination instead of being worshipped as the deities he believes they are. What’s a seemingly immortal mutant with god-like powers to do in this case? Recruit four powerful followers and set a Biblical cleansing of the world into motion, one that will wipe out the weak while the strong rises from the ashes.

Last summer, we visited the Montreal-based sets of X-Men: Apocalypse on the 56th and 57th days of shooting to see what director Bryan Singer has in store. It’s going to be a brave new world for these characters, so ahead of the film’s May 27th premiere, here are some major details about the coming "end of days."

1. Apocalypse Will Have These Awesome Powers

In every incarnation of Apocalypse, the villain has a hefty arsenal of abilities. In the trailer, all we’ve really seen of Isaac’s version is his uncanny ability to grow to immense size. Though, because the scene involved a walking Professor X, some fans speculated it was happening in the astral plane. So, what are Apocalypse’s powers exactly?

While persuasion was mentioned during the Comic-Con panel as his most important power, Singer clarified that it’s not explicitly made clear whether this is a mutant ability or simply charisma. Even if it’s the latter, the character still has many others to play with, one of which is the power to imbue other mutants "to heighten their powers and abilities beyond anything imaginable." He can shield himself from psychic attacks, making it difficult for people like Xavier to penetrate his mind. Though, Singer clarified again that Apocalypse is not a psychic.

"His ability to physically damage, destroy, or build is in the non-biological world," Singer said. "That’s in the physical world. He can change… the inorganic molecules of things and so, you know, these are some of the powers that we’re exploring." How is it possible for one mutant to acquire so many abilities? "He moves from body to body," Singer said. "Apocalypse himself is not a physical form. He’s an energy." The director continued:

What he does is he accumulates powers by moving from body to body, and what’s wonderful is he thinks, in the beginning of the film, he’s found this great body. He’s found, I don’t want to give away this particular body... but it’s a familiar one that you’ve seen a number of very famous mutants have. It kind of ends up being the wrong one, because he gets stuck in it for a long time, but then suddenly he has this opportunity, and that becomes his agenda.

While Apocalypse may seem like the God of the Old Testament — that’s how Singer best thinks of him — he’s not really a deity. "If there isn’t the order and the worship, then he’ll open up the Earth and swallow you whole," Singer said. After discussing the character with Isaac, the concept evolved. "He’s the first mutant, perhaps, but he’s not God necessarily. He’s imbued with certain unique powers, some of them may or may not be from his birth - we don’t know."

2. We’ll See The Origin Of Storm In X-Men: Apocalypse

During the days of X-Men Origins, when there was talk of Magneto getting his own after Wolverine, another name thrown around by some fans — perhaps it was just me — was Storm. While she won’t be getting her own standalone film anytime soon, we’ll get to see her origins as a street thief in Cairo in X-Men: Apocalypse.

Said actress Alexandra Shipp, donning the character’s signature mohawk from the Age of Apocalypse story line:

This Storm is a little bit different because you’re meeting her in Cairo. You’re seeing kind of a little bit of where she comes from, and you’re seeing all of the pain that she’s gone through. It’s not like she’s in the mansion having a great time.

Shipp referenced the character’s younger years when her parents were killed by a plane crashing into their home when she was 5. "She’s kind of just all really messed up, and the only mutants that she knows are bad mutants. The only mutants that she knows are the mutants who use their powers for stealing or protecting thugs." As a result, she leads a life on the street, using her abilities to distract bystanders while she grabs their cash.

"I don’t necessarily see her as a bad person or as a bad mutant," Shipp continued. "I don’t see her as a villain. She doesn’t know that she’s a villain. This is all she’s ever known."

3. Magneto Will Be Totally Different When We First Meet Him

We’ve seen Erik (Michael Fassbender) suffer at the hands of the Nazis. We’ve seen him become a being of vengeance. We’ve seen him become a leader, a terrorist, and, to some, a freedom fighter. But we haven’t seen him become a follower.

When we pick up again with Magneto after Days of Future Past, he’ll have been living off the radar in Poland for about 10 years. Even his biological son, Quicksilver, who’s been searching for him hasn’t yielded results. It’s in Europe where he tries to make a new, normal life for himself. He’ll have a job (at a steel mill), he’ll be in love (with his comic book baby mama Magda), but he’ll be broken.

Fassbender said,

At that moment when things are being taken away from him again in Poland, it’s almost like he’s looking for an answer or he’s challenging God. It’s like, 'What do you want from me ‘cause I tried everything? I’ve tried to lead a good life. I’ve tried to do it correctly, whatever that is, and now you do this to me. So what is it that you want?'

When Apocalypse, then, arrives on the scene, Magneto sees him as a Biblical being, allowing him to go against his usual nature and become a follower. "He appreciates that this guy is going to do what he couldn’t do. You know? He’s got just so much more power than him. He’s such an immense force."

4. No One Is Safe

Even though the end of Days of Future Past offered us a glimpse into the future of this new X-Men timeline, characters can still die. That would mean that X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t necessarily leading up to where we see Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and the X-Men in X1. Writer-producer Simon Kinberg said,

There are some things obviously that lead in that general direction that was part of sort of the philosophy I guess at the end of Days of Future Past is that you cant fully change the course or current of the river but you can just divert it a little bit. And that’s what we diverted a little bit. So some things will be surprises and some things — you know, people could die that were alive in X1, 2, and 3, or people could survive that had died in X1, 2, and 3.

Singer further teased, "What says [that] the awakening of a being [who] has such power can’t acquire the power to destabilize that [timeline]?" With a movie that’s named after the end of days, it seems very likely that not everyone will be walking away from this, especially when you see what Apocalypse has planned. According to Singer, the villain wants to "make a massive global shift."

I don’t want to tell you what he’s going to do, but it’s visually unique, something that hasn’t -- he’s going [to] do something really bad to the Earth, that’s going to cause a lot of people to not live, and those that survive will be the strongest.

By the looks of those massive cyclones in the trailer, it can’t be good.

5. How Stryker Fits Into X-Men: Apocalypse

The cat’s out of the bag. William Stryker is back in X-Men: Apocalypse. Even actor Josh Helman was surprised to see himself return. Though it appeared Stryker was the one to pull Wolverine up from the water in Days of Future Past, he was quickly revealed to be Mystique in disguise. So what has the real Stryker been up to? Helman said:

The last time you saw Stryker he was under the employment of Trask and was very, I think, dedicated to what Trask was doing and interested in all of his studies. And I think in 10 years after that is just, I think he’s been developing his own plan for exactly how he wants to proceed and, I think, learning from the mistakes of what happened.

On set, Helman joined Lawrence, Hoult, Peters, and more for a scene showing the aftermath of a devastating explosion. (The location will remain top secret for now.) Is Stryker the reason behind all of this destruction? Quite possibly. What we know for certain is that Stryker helicopters onto this location, and leaves with an unspecified "cargo." With that, let's turn to the trailer.

In the first footage released of X-Men: Apocalypse, there's a shot that sees Quicksilver, an unidentifiable figure, and what looks to be Nightcrawler and Moira MacTaggert lying in a green-lit cell. Look familiar? If you saw X2, you might notice a similarity to grown-up Stryker's underground base at Alkali Lake. Now, here's another trade secret -- we learned that an Alkali Lake set was being built for the film.

Adding more mystery to the mix, Helman said of his version of the character, "I think, this is a very verbose way of saying that, yeah, it hues somewhat closely to the ideals that Stryker, particularly in X2 has, but we are now playing with different permutations of that."

6. How Deadpool Led Olivia Munn To X-Men: Apocalypse

The fan-favorite Psylocke was not initially in X-Men: Apocalypse. According to Simon Kinberg, he was up in Montreal with Bryan Singer during preproduction and they felt like they needed a different Horsemen. "We just started going through the cycling of the different Apocalypse Horsemen over history," he said. "We felt like we wanted it to be a female character and pretty quickly settled on Psylocke."

That's when Kinberg thought of Olivia Munn. The actress and Attack of the Show geek girl personality auditioned for a role in Deadpool a couple weeks earlier in L.A. Kinberg said it "ultimately wasn't the right character for her," but he wanted to keep in touch. "She has to do something in the X-Men world," he said.

She was already on his mind when he and Singer were thinking of who should play the character. After emailing Munn to see if she'd be interested in the role, she responded with examples of fan art of her as Psylocke. They quickly realized that no one on set had more background knowledge of the mutant from the comics than Munn.