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WonderCon 2014: Simon Kinberg on X-Men & Fantastic Four

Screenwriter Simon Kinberg describes the Rogue scene that was cut from X-Men: Days of Future Past and his original plans for the Dark Phoenix Saga.

Fred Topel by Fred Topel

X-Men Days of Future Past Patrick Stewart Simon Kinberg

Screenwriter Simon Kinberg represented X-Men: Days of Future Past at WonderCon, showing the extended opening battle with Sentinels from the film, way more than has been released online. He also told the audience in Anaheim that James Cameron gave them advice on time travel for the film that brings the First Class and original movie X-Men together. We got to speak with Kinberg after the panel and follow up about cameo rumors, apologies for The Last Stand and the X-Men’s appearance in Amazing Spider-Man 2, as well as his script for Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot and the potential Mystique spinoff movie.

CraveOnline: Last we heard, Rogue is back in Days of Future Past, albeit briefly?

Simon Kinberg: Oh my God, you go straight to the hard questions.

Is that a hard question?

It’s kind of a hard question. We shot with Anna [Paquin] a big subplot in the movie and we watched it in the movie and then we cut it out of the movie because, she’s great in it and it was well shot, it just didn’t fit the film. It was a subplot that I created sort of as an appendage to the movie because I wanted to do something else that didn’t serve the main plot of the film.

I just wanted to see Ian [McKellan] and Patrick [Stewart] on a mission together. So I took them away from the main plot of the movie so that they could go off and do something, and she was the MacGuffin of that mission. It was a perfectly fine 10 minutes of the film that didn’t fit the film. So we pulled her out of the movie and pulled that plot out of the film. I can’t speak to any other rumors about any other way she could appear in the film, but I can tell you that the main plot that we shot with her, we pulled out of the movie.

Well, if it’s true that there is what they now call a cameo, it’s easy to imagine some footage could have been incorporated that wasn’t reinstating that subplot.

Yes, you’re not wrong. It’s easy to imagine how that would happen.

Was that mission possibly to reverse her cure from The Last Stand? Did you have a bit of residual guilt from that?

No, I have plenty of residual guilt from The Last Stand and this movie in many ways was like my chance to tell a better X-Men story. Though I’m very proud of what we did with X-Men: First Class but the two biggest stories for me growing up were Dark Phoenix and Days of Future Past. Those were the ones that I loved, so what I wanted to do with Dark Phoenix is different [than] what the movie ended up being. That’s a whole other interview and conversation, but on this one we had a lot more creative freedom and more encouragement to be loyal to the original books. At any rate, it wasn’t that.

It was them meeting Rogue for something connected to the main plot of the future story of Days of Future Past, but truly I just contrived it. I created it in order to get them on a final mission together. I think people will see it at some point and they’ll probably like it in and of itself. It’s a perfectly fine 10 minutes of movie. It just, in a film that has two time periods, two types of robots, 10-12 main characters that you really want to service, the notion of doing a standalone broken out subplot just didn’t survive.

Since it’s all in the past, our readers would love to hear your original idea for Dark Phoenix if you care to share.

It was just much more the Dark Phoenix story. What happened when we were developing X3 was it began as the Dark Phoenix story and then it evolved into combining also the cure plot. At a certain point in the development process or pre-production process, the cure plot took precedence over the Dark Phoenix plot. So what should have been Dark Phoenix A story, cure plot B story started to invert, I think partly because the other actors like Ian and Patrick were more related to that other story.

And, I think maybe there was a little bit of fear around, and this was an earlier time, but a little bit of fear around doing such a dark story. For me, Dark Phoenix was like how do you let go of someone in your life that you loved who was your lover or the woman you always loved or your daughter or your sister? How do you let go of them at a certain point? Dark Phoenix just seemed like such a great version of telling that emotional story, and that’s just not the story we ended up being able to tell.

Wolverine is now the one who goes back in time. How does Professor X meet himself, as we see James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart face off in the trailer?

I don’t think I can tell you that. Partly, the same mechanism that allows Wolverine’s consciousness to go back in time is the same mechanism that would allow McAvoy’s consciousness to go forward in time.

Are there no Timecop rules where if they touch they turn into a gelatinous blob?

[Laughs] No, there’s no Timecop rules like that but we do have pretty meticulous, strident time travel rules. You’ll see at the beginning of the movie, we take quite a bit of time to set up what the rules are of going back in time because we were all very concerned and preoccupied in the neurotic way about the butterfly effect. So both we didn’t want to be untrue to if something serious happens in the past it’s going to actually have an impact on the future, but the consequence of that is in order to hold onto the logic of the way that our film starts in the future, we would have to have the things in the past be minor events. We didn’t want them to be minor events. We wanted them to be able to spill out into the public consciousness int the ‘70s. So we created a set of rules that sort of bifurcate the past and future.

I always thought the Timecop rules were bullshit anyway.


What was James Cameron’s advice?

It was just really about making sure that we took the time paradoxes seriously. Really, that was the primary thing. We did at ton of research on time travel paradoxes, and there’s some movies that ignore them and there’s some movies where you never cut back to the future. So a movie like Back to the Future, you don’t really know what the impact on the future is until you really go back there. It’s a lot easier to tell that story than a story where you’re intercutting between the two periods, which is what we do in the movie. We have cuts to the future in the movie and there’s no impact on the people in the future. He talked with Bryan, he just was really focused on wanting to honor the paradoxes.

Could that mean we cut back to different futures each time?

No, we create a rule that would preclude that.

Did you get to write the X-Men tag that’s on the end of Amazing Spider-Man 2?

Yes. I did. I thought you were going to ask the X-Men tag that’s the end of The Wolverine. I wrote that too actually. I didn’t write The Wolverine. They shot that tag with Ian and Patrick with our crew largely but with Jim Mangold directing it while we were shooting Days of Future Past. Anyway, yes, the tag that’s on the end of Spider-Man is from Days of Future Past.

Is it just a fun one-off or a direct tie-in?

It’s connected to our movie.

What is the tone of Fantastic Four going to be given that the last one was very much a light comedy?

It’s a much more grounded, gritty, realistic movie than the last couple movies. If I had to say, the tone of it would be somewhere on the spectrum between Spider-Man and Chronicle. The other movies were even further on the spectrum of being goofy and fun than Spider-Man.

Raimi Spider-Man?

Raimi Spider-Man, yeah, not Amazing Spider-Man. Josh Trank’s instincts are to be as realistic and grounded and real with this stuff as possible. In many ways I would say it’s definitely more of a drama than comedy.

Is that true to the comic books, because Fantastic Four is one of the lighter Marvel books?

It’s still in the direction of Spider-Man. It’s not like Dark Knight. And even Chronicle has a lot of fun in it. We’re treating this as the origin of the Fantastic Four so in future movies you’d have them on sort of splashier adventures to some extent but in this one we tried to ground the science as much as possible and make it feel like it could take place in our world before it cantilevers into other worlds.

If there is a Mystique movie, do you have the option to write it?

I don’t know actually. I have certain options on movies. I don’t know how it applies to spinoffs. 

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever and The Shelf Space Awards. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.