Director Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy is definitely taking the classic Universal Monster franchise in directions it's never gone, but one very notable change is that the titular creature is no longer male. Within the film, it's an element that opens new narrative avenues and approaches, but it may surprise you to learn that it wasn't the direction Kurtzman originally planned. The Mummy was initially going to be played by a man in the reboot, but that idea got derailed when the writer/director saw his exact vision featured in the post-credits scene of Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
With the first trailer for The Mummy premiering this past weekend, I had the pleasure of talking with Alex Kurtzman over the phone this morning to talk about his latest blockbuster, and it was during our interview that he revealed the impact that Days of Future Past had on his approach. I asked him if he had always planned on having The Mummy be a woman in the film, but he explained that his original ideas were totally different. Said Kurtzman,
I'll let you in on a secret. There was a moment when I had sort of rendered a design that I liked for a male version of The Mummy. And in that version of The Mummy, the Mummy had been born with a skin pigmentation that at the time would have made him really sort of an outcast. And I thought it was an interesting backstory, because it began to tell the story of someone who had been bullied, which I found topical. I was reaching for a way to make the Mummy a character who is relatable, understandable, and that spoke to issues that we're dealing with now.
Odd skin pigmentation and living in ancient Egypt? Remind you of anyone, X-Men fans?
The image above is a screencap from the post-credits scene of X-Men: Days of Future Past, showing a young Apocalypse -- with white/blue skin - being praised like a god. When Alex Kurtzman saw this on the big screen back in 2014, he immediately had to start backtracking on his ideas for The Mummy. He explained,
I was going down that road, and then I saw the end of Days of Future Past. And they had the character that Oscar Isaac wound up playing as a boy, and it was, I kid you not, the exact same design. And I was like, 'Oh, man! That is not good!' And actually it was the catalyst, it was the moment of, 'Okay, not only is this not going to be different enough, Bryan Singer just did it, I definitely don't want to go down that road.' I had had that voice in my head for some time to make it a woman, and that was the moment where, the minute I saw that post-credits scene, I went, 'We have to start over.' I don't want to mess around even remotely with anything that feels familiar or feels like it's been done. I have to go in totally new territory.'
Alex Kurtzman told me later in the interview that his version of The Mummy will still feature the same aforementioned relatable and understandable elements of the eponymous character -- in the tradition of the Universal Monster movies -- but deciding to make "him" a "her" (played by Kingsman/Star Trek Beyond actress Sofia Boutella) forced other changes in his approach.
Looking back on it, Kurtzman explained that he felt that seeing X-Men: Days Of Future Past use his developing ideas actually wound up being the best thing for The Mummy, in that it pushed him to go in directions he wouldn't have otherwise gone in:
In a way it was very helpful to me, because it made me take that leap. And once we took that leap, the story presented itself in such a beautiful way, such a different way. A lot of the decisions, you spend a lot of time talking to people and you think it through as much as you can, but ultimately it comes down to what feels right. And the minute I allowed myself to let the Mummy be Ahmanet, it just felt right. And that's the best way for me to say it.
The Mummy will be arriving in theaters on June 9th, and be sure to stay tuned for more from my interview with Alex Kurtzman!