With less than a year before its scheduled release date of June 3, 2011, casting announcements for X-Men: First Class are coming pretty much daily.
The film, inspired by the Marvel Comics series of the same name and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Stardust), depicts the early days of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and is the fifth installment of the franchise. Filming is set to start in London in August, so news is coming fast. Here’s a look at who’s signed up so far, who might be next and some guesses for the future.
Confirmed:the LA Times, the complex relationship between Magneto and Professor X — best buds turned enemies — is at the center of First Class. Aside from his comic book movie experience, McAvoy also brings a good deal of acting to the role, having picked up BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for his role in 2007’s Atonement.
Michael Fassbender (Magneto) — Though the most recent reports state that Fassbender, 33, is only in “negotiations” to play young Magneto, word from sources like The Hollywood Reporter suggest that a deal is close, though he’s also been courted for a role as a villain in the relaunched Spider-Man films. Fassbender, who broke out with domestic audiences after his role in Inglourious Basterds, would be making this his third comic book film, after 2007’s 300 and this past week’s maligned Jonah Hex. Like English actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, who played Professor X and Magneto, respectively, in the first three X-Men films, McAvoy and Fassbender are both from the British Isles—McAvoy is Scottish, Fassbender was born in Germany but moved to Ireland at the age of two.Earlier today, confirmation came that Walker, an American actor known mostly for supporting roles in Kinsey and Flags of Our Fathers, and currently starring in the title role of off-Broadway production Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, will play the young version of Beast. In the comic books, Beast — born Hank McCoy — is one of the original crop of X-Men, so the character’s inclusion makes sense, though he’s only three years younger than McAvoy; unlike in the comic books, when there appears to be at least a couple of decades difference in age.
Amber Heard (Mystique) — Mystique didn’t figure into the X-Men comic books until years after the “first class” disbanded, but it looks like there’s still plans for her to play a part in this movie, probably because of the sizable role the character played in the first three films. Current rumors have Amber Heard, another American, being targeted, and if you haven’t heard of the 24-year-old, it’s probably because you’re not paying enough attention to teen-targeted fare: she was in an episode of The O.C. and starred in The CW’s short-lived Hidden Palms.
Rosamund Pike (Moira MacTaggert) — Moira MacTaggert also didn’t show up in Marvel Comics until the ‘70s, but the character — a biologist distinguished for her research on mutants — has close ties to Professor Xavier’s past. Pike, 31, played parts in 2002’s Day Another Day and 2005’s Pride and Prejudice. Pike is from England, geographic striking distance to Scotland, MacTaggart's native land.
There’s still a lot that we don’t know about First Class, but Beast’s inclusion implies that the rest of the original X-Men crew — Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman and Angel — might also play a part, though that would break from the continuity established in the first three films, where Iceman was younger and a newer recruit than Cyclops, Jean Grey and Beast, and Angel didn’t show up until the third film.
So it very well may be just as likely that a character like Storm, established as an early X-Man in the films, may show up in the movie. Or Emma Frost, who was rescued at the end of the last X-Men film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Though that’s assuming that First Class will adhere to the movie canon, which hasn’t been specifically stated one way or another yet.
Other characters that seem possible, based on their role in pre-Giant-Size X-Men #1 comics, include Havok, Polaris, Banshee, Sunfire and the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, consisting of Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Toad and Mastermind. Juggernaut was one of the X-Men's earliest foes and is Professor X's stepbrother, but his role in 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, where he has no explicit connection to Xavier and appears to meet Magneto for the first time, complicates matters. Unus the Untouchable fans might be out of luck.