Writer/producer Simon Kinberg has been involved with 20th Century Fox and Marvel’s mutant movies based around The X-Men, since co-writing the divisive X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. In 2012, he was joined by co-producer Hutch Parker as the duo who were going to shepherd The X-Men movies and its spinoff characters into a cohesive shared universe similar to what Marvel Studios had been doing with The Avengers and beyond.
Some of those movies, like X-Men: Days of Future Past, have turned out better than others (*koff, koff* Fantastic Four), but their work with Hugh Jackman and James Mangold on 2013’s The Wolverine have culminated in the success of its follow-up, Logan, which grossed over $80 million this past weekend despite the decision to make it under an R-rating.
LRM sat down with the duo a few weeks back for the following interview where we covered a bit more ground than just talking about Logan, venturing into other Marvel properties like Alpha Flight and even Fantastic Four.
LRM: Obviously Hugh wanted to do another Wolverine movie, as did James Mangold. What were your thoughts when they started telling you some of their ideas? “Old Man Logan” is a given, but doing something separate from the previous “X-Men” movies, R-rated, standalone… did you feel that was a crazy idea?
Hutch Parker: No, I think we all thought it was critical to break new ground, and break ground that I thought we all had longed to move towards, which the comics speak to, which the fans have long asked for. I think Hugh, as an actor--going back to the beginning of these--has always been game, but the criteria has always been the same, which is, “I need a role that I can kind of sink my teeth into.” Jim is as ambitious and bold a storyteller, I think, as well as probably one of the best working experiences I’ve ever had with a director. His ambitions were very, very clear. From the beginning, this was something that Hugh and Jim had identified as a goal and a goal post, and frankly, it was a pretty easy one to sign onto.
LRM: Obviously, you managed to get “Deadpool” out there with an R-rating, but it took a long time to get that made because Fox was against an R-rating, but that ended up working. When you were starting this one, was it a little clearer that you could do an R-rating?
Simon Kinberg: When we started this one, we made the decision for this one to be R-rated and it was well before Deadpool came out, so Deadpool had nothing to do with the R-rating of the movie. I think it was important to all of us, to all the filmmakers--and Hugh I count as one of the filmmakers--Hugh especially, I think, wanted to be able to take the gloves off so-to-speak and make the movie that was most accurately portraying the way Wolverine is in the comics. The way he is in the comics is a more R-rated character. I mean, the violence in the comics is automatically R-rated, and so it felt liberating to do that. It felt like what Hugh was saying about a continuation of doing something that’s different from The Wolverine and the X-Men movies that preceded it, and to make it a little more mature and sophisticated and dangerous and radical than we’ve done before. Those are things that R-rated movies give you that PG-13 movies sometimes can inhibit.
LRM: You also went really young with Laura/X-23, which I’ve spoken to with James about before. Most people would want to get a hot 20-something actress to play a teenager, but you didn’t do that.
Parker: Yeah, again, in every instinct, Jim’s drive is to do something emotionally authentic, psychologically real, and I don’t think it’s the same thing. If you cast a 20-year-old playing a teenager, you’re falling into the false tropes that Hollywood does a lot. I think for all of us, the instinct was that we want to try to be as authentic as possible, and authentic emotionally. To do that, being willing to cast a girl who was both lethal and who you could never forget is a little girl, and to explore the relationship between father and daughter or daughter and grandfather meant respecting those choices. When you ask about the R-rating, when you ask about the casting of Laura, they’re all coming out of the same place, which is how do we most authentically serve the idea of the movie and tell the story in the most authentic way? In that, we hoped it would be bold and provocative and feel really fresh, because that felt different to what we’ve seen before.
LRM: James has talked about doing an X-23 movie, and anyone who sees “Logan” will probably want to see that, too, because she’s great. What are the factors of doing something like that? Is that something realistic?
Parker: I think it’s a real possibility. Again, the real criteria is always to find a story that can really be unique, distinct, compelling, surprising, bold…you know, all of that. She’s an amazing character, and Dafne does a great job launching the character in the film, so I think there’s a good chance you’ll see something of that kind down the line…at least I hope so.
LRM: I want to ask about continuity stuff, because that’s something you dealt with in the last few X-Men movies between the reboot with “First Class” and “Days of Future Past.” Now you have a movie out of continuity, so how do you deal with that stuff moving forward with more movies that are planned.
Kinberg: I feel like what we did on Days of Future Past was reset the continuity, right? Obviously at the end of the movie, Famke and James Marsden are alive whom we had killed in X3, so the continuity has changed, the time line has changed, and there’s not much--I don’t think--that we do in Logan that conflicts with the possibilities that are opened by the end of Days of Future Past. If you think about the fact that Logan takes place a number of years after Days of Future Past, the end of (that movie) is Logan living happily in the X-Mansion, but many things happened in the years that came between the future part of Days of Future Past and the beginning of Logan. We’ve had fun, in a way, being able to reset the timeline four movies in and then open up the possibilities of stories that could be told.
LRM: You’re working on other movies right now including “Deadpool 2” which is in production, but what about Gambit? A lot of people want to see Gambit, who obviously had a small part in the first Wolverine movie, but Channing Tatum was at Comic-Con to promote his version of the character so is that going to happen sometime soon?
Kinberg: Yeah, it is going to happen, and it’s just a question…I mean, Channing is--in the best possible way--as committed and as rigorous about getting the character right as Ryan was with Deadpool and as Hugh was with Logan on this movie, and so it’s been about finding a filmmaker and someone who can capture that voice and hand it off to Channing. He’s been a really critical part of the process, and we’re hoping that the movie--probably given his schedule--will be ready to go this year and probably shoot next year.
LRM: One thing you set-up with the last “X-Men” movie is doing another “Dark Phoenix” movie, although you actually wrote “X-Men: The Last Stand” which covered the same story, so what would you want to do differently this time?
Kinberg: Well, I can’t confirm that we’re doing a ‘Dark Phoenix’ movie, but I’ll talk more about X3 (i.e. The Last Stand) actually then what I would do. My regrets about X3--and there are things that I think are really great in that movie and for a lot of people say they like that movie--but my regret about the movie is that the Dark Phoenix story was sort of the subplot and the main plot was the cure story, if you remember. I think the main mistake (among others) we made in that movie was taking something that is as profound, dramatic and epic, potentially, as the Dark Phoenix story, and pushing it down to be the B-plot of a movie when it really should be the A-plot of maybe one or more movies. That’s I guess what I would say about is that I felt as though we--for whatever reason, and it was a combination of different impulses and different input--we made a movie that wasn’t truly a Dark Phoenix story, it was a continuation of the X-Men saga and Dark Phoenix was one of the stories within it instead of focusing on Dark Phoenix as the story.
LRM: One of the groups in the X-Men comics that I like, and we haven’t seen, is Alpha Flight, but from what you’ve said you wouldn’t want to do much. Is Alpha Flight in the toy box that you can use?
Kinberg: The thing that’s amazing about the X-Men is that there are hundreds or thousands of characters and a handful of really great teams, and Alpha Flight is one of them. It’s not something that we’ve been actively developing, but when you think about what the next phase is beyond the movies we have on our plate like Deadpool 2, New Mutants, whatever the next X-Movie is going to be, and potentially X-23, there are a lot of movies on the docket right now and Gambit, and X-Force would come after Deadpool 2. On the other side of those, then we have to start thinking about, not just what are the sequels to the movies that already exist, but what are the new universes that we can get into and Alpha Flight could be one of them. I wouldn’t want to stick them into an existing movie--I think they deserve to have their own.
LRM: What about Fantastic Four? Obviously, on paper it was great, and I liked the cast. It was not a completely terrible movie, I guess...
Kinberg: That’s kind.
Parker: That’s a nice way to put it.
LRM: Is there any interest in doing more with them or is it just about focusing on X-Men now?
Kinberg: We worked on that together, Hutch and I, so we can both speak on that. I’ll take the first and then Hutch can correct, or reinforce me. We’re very interested in doing another Fantastic Four movie. We love that cast, and it’s really about getting the tone right. I felt like on that last movie, we did something bold and it didn’t entirely work, and I think part of the issue is that we went away from the core tone and vibe of the comics. The comics themselves are fun and playful and really about inner-personnel family dynamics, and we did something different and took a chance, and I am proud of the fact that we took a chance, but disappointed that it didn’t totally work. I think as we go back into it and talk about it, we’d want to be truer to the core voice, tone, vibe of the source material.”
LRM: Obviously, you’ve been able to get the tone of the X-Men movies right. Even “Logan” has some humor, but I’m a huge Fantastic Four fan…
Kinberg: So are we.
Parker: It’s such a great comic, and I’d like to see us get it right.
Logan is now playing nationwide and you can check out our interview with James Mangold below: