Why The X-Men Cast Loves Returning To Their Roles Every Few Years

The cast of Dark Phoenix

One benefit of joining a superhero franchise is that, so long as you are doing a good job of adapting your comic-book source material, you get to return every few years and continue to develop the character. This can mean exploring new sides of a complicate hero (or villain). And sometimes, as was the case with Sir Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman, you can leap years into the future and play veteran shades of a character you helped create on screen. (And if you haven’t seen them in Logan yet, what the hell are you waiting for?)

We realized this when sitting down with the Dark Phoenix cast in London recently. Some members of the ensemble have been with this franchise since 2011’s X-Men: First Class, which introduced younger versions of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Evan Peters joined the fray in X-Men: Days of Futures Past, while Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan and Alexandra Shipp signed on with X-Men: Apocalypse.

Seeing as how they were getting a chance to evolve their takes on the characters in Dark Phoenix, under the guidance of new director Simon Kinberg, I asked them what they really enjoyed about getting to come back and revisit their roles every couple of years. Michael Fassbender made the connection to the roles his colleagues are getting in top-notch television shows these days, telling CinemaBlend:

I suppose when you watch a lot of the great television that’s out there at the moment, and it all for me started with The Sopranos, when you really get to dive in and really get to know these characters and follow them through different stages in their lives and different points in their life, where they’re at, it’s more of an in-depth study. That’s what this has allowed us to do, over four films, as opposed to just coming in [and] doing a standalone piece.

His co-star, James McAvoy, elaborated on that, noting:

Sometimes, you make a film and it’s just a standalone film. You put so much of yourself into it, and then it’s done. You walk away. And there’s a virtue in that. That’s great, because you get to just move on with your life and do something different. Sometimes you think back and go, ‘That was like, that was part of me that went into that.’ So, with Charles… you put a lot of yourself into it, but we get to come back a little and we get to reconnect and make something that lasts a little longer than just that three months or the two months where you are making a movie.

The X-Men cast seems to have developed into a professional family over the years – and how could they not? They have been collaborating with each other on the same saga for the better part of a decade, contributing to the storylines for Days of Futures Past, First Class, and Apocalypse before reuniting now for Dark Phoenix.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender noted that they have seen their own roles in the industry evolve over the same time frame, and it has been exciting seeing how the industry views the X-Men family and the work that they do:

Fassbender: It’s also nice to come back and work with the group that we have. It’s a fantastic bunch pf people. Really talented, but also generous of spirit. And so yes, it’s nice to come back. There’s the familiarity there, but there’s also something new.McAvoy: Even that, within the family of the filmmakers, as well, watching different evolutions happen there. Watching Simon [Kinberg] step into the director’s chair. And watching Sophie [Turner] step up and lead the movie.Fassbender: And watching Jennifer…McAvoy: Oh my God, become the biggest movie star in the world! From an 18-year-old – she was, like, in a film that had done alright to, like, the biggest movie star, ever. [Laughs]

Sophie Turner is a pretty massive star in her own right, thanks to the part of Sansa Stark on the wildly successful HBO drama Game of Thrones. In that situation, similar to the X-Men, she was able to return to the project every few years and keep evolving the way that the character was portrayed.

But when we spoke to Turner about Jean Grey and the X-Men, she singled out a specific device in this series that helps keep the characters fresh and new, explaining:

That’s the thing that I love so much about these movies is being able to develop a character over years. And the great thing is, as well, between each of these movies [there’s] 10 years time. They jump for 10 years. So every time, you have to go back and go, ‘Hmmmm, what have they been up to? What developments have been made in their lives?’ That’s something that I love, just fleshing out a storyline.

And sometimes, the ability to come back and live inside of a franchise just allows the cast to better understand the larger picture about how these movies are made. Just because you have made one doesn’t mean that you are automatically an expert on massive tentpoles. Even Evan Peters, who has put his Quicksilver into several memorable X-Men moments, admitted to CinemaBlend:

I think, also, in terms of, just shooting these films is a whole technical masterpiece that I don’t even – I’m not even smart enough to understand even a little bit of it. So it’s just kind of amazing to watch them do that and be a part of that so coming back, you sort of have a little bit of a better idea of what you’re in for, which allows a little more freedom to be creative and explore different sides of the character.

That’s refreshingly cool to hear that the actors in these massive blockbusters are still learning and growing with each new chapter, developing their roles and refining their approaches to how their comic characters are portrayed on screen.

The Dark Phoenix cast had more to say about this subject, so give our cast interview a glance:

In Dark Phoenix, the X-Men must band together and save one off their own after Jean (Sophie Turner) comes in contact with the alien Phoenix Force, enhancing her powers and putting the mutant telepath in danger. The new movie is being viewed as the culmination of the X-Men saga, so go see how it all ends when Dark Phoenix opens in theaters on Thursday night, June 6.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.