X-Men: First Class wound up being an incredibly important film for the X-Men franchise. After two straight critical misses with X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the series really needed to get back on track, and Matthew Vaughn's film did just that. As great as it is, however, it could have been even cooler had initial plans worked out -- as budget cuts cost the blockbuster a couple of incredibly cool psychic battles between telepathic mutants Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Emma Frost (January Jones).
I learned the details of these never-made action sequences while recently interviewing screenwriter Ashley Miller as part of promotion for the new Austin Film Festival-published book On Story - Screenwriters & Filmmakers On Their Iconic Films. While talking about his work on X-Men: First Class - which was co-written by Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn -- Miller mentioned that the film didn't have a director when he signed on, so I asked him if that provided a bit of freedom to really make the X-Men movie he wanted to see. While the screenwriter noted that the finished film is "mind-boggling close to the movie that was made," there was a particularly sequence that didn't happen because it would have been too expensive:
There was stuff that we were playing with where we would have a couple of telepathic battles between Emma Frost and Charles. The whole idea of them was that Charles was learning how to use his powers, number one, and number two, that there were threats even in the safety of his own mind.
Continuing, Ashley Miller went on to describe the two psychic battles that X-Men: First Class was going to feature. While facing off mentally against the telepathic Emma Frost, Xavier was going to construct his own version of the mansion in which he grew up -- but the villainous member of the Hellfire Club was going to use it to turn the tables on him. Said Miller,
The first sequence was really first putting him in a vision where he thinks he's safe, but is really horrible. There was one sequence that takes place entirely in what's to become the X-Mansion, and Emma Frost just destroys it and nearly him. And she says, 'You hid in the place where you are most vulnerable. You're showing me everything.'
Similarly, the second psychic battle was going to take Xavier to another familiar place: Cerebro:
It all led up to a fight inside a space that Xavier had created in his own mind that looked very much like Cerebro, as we understand it now. It was cool, and it was in the context of him interrogating her and Magneto after they captured her. There was cool stuff like that, but difficult to realize.
Fox apparently didn't have the confidence required at the time to let the production of X-Men: First Class create a psychic battle, but we did get to finally see a big screen version of the comic book combat when Xavier went toe-to-toe with the titular villain in X-Men: Apocalypse (which also featured some time in the X-Mansion going poorly)...
To learn more about Ashley Miller's time working on X-Men: First Class, pick up a copy of On Story - Screenwriters & Filmmakers On Their Iconic Films, which is now available for purchase -- and, as always, be sure to stay tuned for more about the future of the X-Men franchise.