With Dark Phoenix now unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses, we must bid goodbye to the X-Men franchise. Or at least, the version of it that existed under Fox. With the studio now part of the Disney empire, we can expect our favorite mutants to be rebooted as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s just a matter of when… and who?
Assuming that next year’s New Mutants is not a secret backdoor pilot for the MCU’s X-Men (a theory you can hear more about on NIHF’s podcast, The Watchmen), let’s take a look at who could be cast as the new X-Men team. But because the X-Men roster is so vast, and the inscrutable Kevin Feige hasn’t given us much to work with, let’s just re-cast the core team.
That would mean the following: Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Nightcrawler, Beast, and of course, Wolverine. On the villain side: Magneto and Mystique.
Charles Xavier (Prof. X)
*checking Google Images for “bald actors”*
The obvious choice here is someone like Bryan Cranston or Mark Strong, both of whom would be excellent fits for the role in their own ways. But I’m going with Ralph Fiennes, an incredibly versatile actor who’s not averse to franchise films. Fiennes has the chops to make Prof. X his own. While it’s hard to follow in the footsteps of Sir Patrick Stewart (and, I suppose, James McAvoy), Fiennes can provide the right mix of pathos, genius, and stubbornness that Xavier requires. Plus, it’ll be cool having the guy who played Voldemort and M in the MCU.
Scott Summers (Cyclops)
Here’s an actor who’s no stranger to stepping into a big franchise and playing a fan-favorite character: Alden Ehrenreich. The (former?) Han Solo is the perfect choice to play the X-Men de facto leader in the field. He possesses the stoicism and presence to pull of Scott Summers, and can clearly handle the action with aplomb.
Jean Grey (Phoenix)
I’m tempted to propose Emilia Clarke here, just for the Solo reunion with Ehrenreich. But I suspect I’d be one of maybe eight people in the world that would care about that. (Plus, the last time we had a “Game of Thrones” alum in this role, it didn’t really work out.) What about Saoirse Ronan? She’s proven herself to be a fantastic actress, arguably the best of her generation. She certainly looks the part of Jean Grey, too. Hell, it might even be cool to let her keep her native accent and change things up a bit. I only wonder if Ronan would even take the role, since her previous attempts at franchises (The Host) and effects-driven film-making (The Lovely Bones) didn’t turn out so well.
Ororo Munroe (Storm)
Zazie Beetz is the obvious choice. She’s already got two comic book movies under her belt, but even without those, she’s a fantastic actress with all the qualities necessary to play Storm. In fact, I would hope that having an actress like Beetz would let Storm take a more central role in the team, similar to how Halle Berry was able to beef up her role in the older X-Men films after winning the Academy Award. Storm is a core member of the X-Men and should be treated as such; Beetz could make that happen. (And her already being Domino in X-Force shouldn’t be an issue, if reports are accurate that the R-rated Deadpool stuff will be separate from the PG-13 everything else. But even if it isn’t separate, it just gives Deadpool more fodder to break the fourth wall with.)
Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler)
I somehow doubt that an actor of Timothee Chalamet‘s caliber and clout would take a role like Nightcrawler. But I can’t really think of anyone else who would be a good fit here. Chalamet would crush this role in his sleep, but even greater actors have leaped head-first into the MCU, so perhaps Chalamet could be convinced. He has exactly what it takes to pick up from where Kodi Smit-McPhee and Alan Cumming left off.
Hank McCoy (Beast)
Controversy alert, but I’ll go out of left-field with this one: Dev Patel. Hank McCoy should be a mousy, nerdy guy who only becomes the Beast when he absolutely has to. It’s not totally dissimilar from another big, colorful Avenger who you wouldn’t want to piss off. Patel might not leap to mind when thinking of a guy named Hank McCoy, but that’s beside the point. The Oscar-nominated actor can convincingly play a meek scientist, and certainly has the range to play the character’s more rage-fueled side. And since he’ll be somewhere around 30 when cameras roll, he’s the perfect age to stay and grow with the part over several years.
Raven Darkhölme (Mystique)
Rebecca Romijn did the best she could with an underwritten Mystique role in the original trilogy. I know Jennifer Lawrence gets a lot of hate, but frankly, I’ve always quite liked her in the role. This is a tough one. Clearly, the role needs to be scaled back a bit. Mystique was never supposed to be as central a character as she’s become due to Lawrence’s star power. With that in mind, I would rule out obvious choices like Dakota Johnson or Margot Robbie. I like the idea of Lea Seydoux, a talented actress who people would probably recognize (she’s the Bond Girl in Spectre). She looks great, is as talented as anyone working today, and isn’t a big enough star to overwhelm the rest of the team. I’d even be OK with her keeping her French accent.
James “Logan” Howlett (Wolverine)
This is the toughest one to pick, for obvious reasons. Something tells me Tom Hardy (the obvious choice) would either be unwilling or unable to take the role because of Venom, so that’s that. Who’s left? Lots of options, several of whom are good but few who really generate a lot of enthusiasm. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jon Bernthal could potentially be great, but I like the idea of Scott Eastwood. We’ve seen him here and there (mainly the recent Fast and Furiouses), but he’s new enough not to bring any baggage with him from other roles. He’s got his father’s hard stare and quiet cool, along with something elusive that’s buried beneath the surface. The question mark here is: can Eastwood play the pure rage required for Wolverine? I don’t know, but I’d like to see him try.
Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto)
I’ll admit that this pick has a bit of stunt casting to it, but the idea of seeing Ralph Fiennes re-unite with and play opposite Liam Neeson is too good an opportunity to pass up. And hey, Neeson would kill it as Magneto. We’ve seen that Neeson can kick ass with the best of them while also retaining a humanity that makes him empathetic. Lehnsherr is a complex character, someone whose methods we don’t agree with even if we understand where he’s coming from. Few actors can play that duality with the skill that Neeson would bring to the part. And Fiennes would be the perfect screen partner for him (see Schindler’ List and Clash/Wrath of the Titans for more).