In a week marked by discussions about cultural appropriation, X-Men actress Famke Janssen is the latest figure to raise questions about casting in superhero movies. Janssen has claimed that she contacted the producers of X-Men: Apocalypse about reprising her role as the older Jean Grey, but was not tapped for a return, prompting her to assert that there is a bias in the X-Men films to recast female characters with younger actresses while allowing older male actors to retain their roles.
"It's not the first time obviously that it’s happened. In the X-Men series, they’ve been doing this for years," Janssen told Entertainment Weekly, referring to Janssen's character, Jean Grey, being played as a teenager by the younger Sophie Turner in Apocalypse. "Although women, it’s interesting because they’re replaced, and the older versions – or more mature, whatever the politically correct version of that is – are never to be seen again. Whereas the men are allowed to be both ages. Sexism. I think that I should be back along with my younger version and the way that we’ve seen it with Magneto and Professor X.”
Janssen is likely referring to X-Men: Days of Future Past in which both Magneto and Professor X were portrayed as both their older and younger selves, with Professor X being played by both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy, while Magneto was played by both Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender. Stewart will reportedly play Xavier one last time in the the third and final Wolverine film and there are no known plans for McKellan to appear as Magneto, leaving the roles to their younger counterparts for Apocalypse, and perhaps, beyond.
Jean Grey last appeared on film in X-Men: Days of Future Past, where she was portrayed by Janssen alongside Halle Berry's Storm, and James Marsden's Cyclops. Both Storm and Cyclops have also been recast with younger actors in Apocalypse, played by Alexandra Shipp and Ty Sheridan, respectively. Nightcrawler, whose last appearance came at the hands of Alan Cumming in X2, and Angel, played by Ben Foster in X3, were both recast with younger actors as well.
As for Janssen's specific feelings about Turner taking over the role of Jean Grey, Janssen said she's "excited."
“I’m actually really excited about it,” she explained. “[Sophie Turner] emailed me before she started filming wanting some pointers, and I said, ‘You don’t need any. You’re perfect. You’re great.’ So I can’t wait to see the movie and what she’s done with it.”
X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters May 27.