Editor’s Note: The New Mutants film has had quite the odyssey. Starting over at 20th Century Fox prior to Disney acquiring the studio, it teased fans with various release dates and moments of uncertainty. And that’s before we all faced a global pandemic! While delays and changes might kill other films, The New Mutants and its fans persevered, and once it came under the Marvel Studios umbrella and received President Kevin Feige’s implicit stamp of approval, interest in the film rose significantly. Amazingly, we’re now just one week away from its premiere. Contributor Michael Lee had the opportunity to attend the film’s virtual press conference and shares his impressions below. The New Mutants premieres Friday, August 28th!
20th Century’s The New Mutants release is marked by multiple delays that took place during Disney’s acquisition of Fox and the current global pandemic. And now, two years after all of that, the X-Men spinoff is finally hitting theaters. But unlike some of the previous X-Men films, The New Mutants will pit its titular heroes against their greatest fears in a strange psychiatric ward located in a very remote location.
I had the chance to attend a virtual press conference with other fellow journalists to hear Maisie Williams (Rahne Sinclair aka Wolfsbane), Anya Taylor-Joy (Illyana Rasputin aka Magik), Blu Hunt (Dani Moonstar aka Mirage), Alice Braga (Dr. Reyes), Charlie Heaton (Sam Guthrie aka Cannonball), Henry Zaga (Roberto da Costa aka Sunspot), and writer and director Josh Boone talk about what kind of impact the delays had on the film, how these characters will resonate with audiences, what it was like to work in an abandoned psychiatric ward, and how they changed from when they started filming to now.
One thing is for sure, even with the lengthy delays, fans’ dedication never wavered. They also sent out some cool artwork to the cast and crew to share their excitement.
“They’re my favorite fans because they actually don’t complain. They just do really cool artwork of characters,” Boone said. “So, there’s probably, like, 100 plus pieces of artwork that fans have done. I’d still like to figure out a way to do a book. I’d go get permission from everybody and do a book.”
Braga shared that sentiment when she learned about the artwork “It’s amazing that the fans are so loyal and so excited even with all the wait,” she said.
And Zaga recalled how fans made the cast feel like they were Beatles at the Brazillian Comic-Con. “And, as soon as we stepped on stage it felt like, I don’t know, like we were the Beatles. They love this, these characters,” he said. “It was like really an outpour of love and dedication to these characters. It was really cool to see.”
While there is no doubt that The New Mutants has its fans, one thing that comes to mind is that the delays stem from the numerous but unverified reshoots. Boone revealed that they were supposed to do them, but never got a chance to do it. “Movies do reshoots or pickups, or things like that. But because of the merger, once it was done, it was done,” he said. “So, we did, never went back, and did reshoots. So, we were always using the same footage and the same material, from the start of editing and all the way to the end of it.”
Some might be happy that reshoots didn’t happen considering that The New Mutants shot on location at an abandoned psychiatric ward. Though no one person had the same experience, they all agreed while it was fun, but there was a creepy vibe that you could not outrun.
One thing about shooting in an abandoned psychiatric ward that got to Zaga was the smell.
“I think there was something really creepy about the smell that just got into your soul before you thought about it,” he said. “It was spooky. And, I was also having a blast filming the movie. So it was kind of hard to…to feel bad about being in his place.”
Shooting on location in a place like that brings a tangibility to the film that the audience will feel. If the audience feels scared about the setting, you know the cast felt the same thing. “It brings a sense to it,” Braga said. “Like Henry said, like, a sense of smell, a sense of…you know, real fear. And filming at night was scary. I wouldn’t walk by myself. There was no way.”
“There were several crew members who had weird experiences there, who had to be walked to their car at night because they were scared to walk there by themselves after they’d be in the buildings all day,” Boone added.
The director remembered when one of the groundskeepers had awful stories to tell them and why they shouldn’t walk alone at night. He said that the same groundskeeper told him about how the state gave a kid, named Little Jimmy, a basketball court. While he found that sweet, he was shocked to find out that the kid was there because he had stabbed his family.
But The New Mutants isn’t just a horror thriller with superhero vibes. It is also a coming of age film that sees its collection of superpowered teenagers deal with growing pains.
“I think any opportunity to go back to teenagedom is not necessarily the most fun experience, but you definitely learn a lot about yourself afterward,” Taylor-Joy said. “It’s interesting because I think we all came into this knowing that while we were making a superhero movie, we weren’t really making a superhero movie. We were making a film about people who were having a tough time understanding themselves and figuring out their place in the world.”
Taylor-Joy sees how the film may connect with the younger audience, who are also trying to figure out their place within the world. “Trying to understand where you fit in, you’re no longer a child, but like, what is this weird adult world? I think they’ll definitely connect with it, she said.” And then, we have powers, which is really cool.”
Boone agreed. “It was really made for teenagers who are outsiders. People who feel out of place, and who are going through a tough time in general,” He said. “I sort of always say, I make couch movies, which are like, when I was a teenager, and I was really depressed, I’d have a certain movie I’d pop on and go lay on the couch. It made me feel better.”
Discovering one’s identity is a rite of passage for many teenagers. So to see that reflected on screen can mean a lot to the person watching the film. One thing to look out for in The New Mutants is the LGBTQ+ romantic subplot between Danielle Moonstar (Hunt) and Wolfsbane (Williams). Though their stories are rarely told or barely hinted at in major superhero films, The New Mutants will be among the first to represent the community in a meaningful way. Bringing that from paper to screen could potentially mean a lot to the community, so it was only natural that Williams would be nervous because she knew she had to get it right. “I’d done a couple of screen tests before, but this was, like, the first I had to, like, kiss a stranger in the screen test,” she said.
Hunt was just as nervous as her on-screen partner, but a budding friendship helped make things easier. “I was nervous. I couldn’t believe that I was even there when it was happening, you know. But it was fun,” she said. “Then our whole relationship between our characters and then us as friends on set. It was really amazing. It really got me through making the movie. Our friendship and character relationship were really important to me. It was, like, probably my favorite part of Dani, honestly, is like her, yeah, her relationship with Rahne.”
And that’s the one thing Boone is most excited for people to see. While the cool visual effects and mutant superpower fight sequences add a cinematic element, the film grounds itself with the romantic subplot. “People ask me, like, what, you know, what are you most excited for people to see?” He said. “And it’s like, yes, all the cool visual effects and the big fights at the end and all that. But just seeing these two girls under that dome looking up, I think, is really cool to see people do that in a movie.”
It’s not just the characters who are growing; the actors who play them also made a few discoveries about themselves. Looking back, Hunt didn’t realize how much she related to her character until after filming was completed. And because of that, it would be a character she would gladly revisit.
“I did realize a lot of things about Dani, about my character, after filming,” Hunt said. “I definitely realized how close I was to her as just a person, which I think I kind of didn’t really realize that while I was filming.”
“I think it was very strange for me to play someone that was so much like me,” Hunt added. “It wasn’t really something I realized until a lot of time passed. But it definitely…honestly having, what is it three years since making the movie…I’ve definitely, yeah, grown I think as an actor, as a person.”
Braga spoke about how the X-Men, at its core, is a metaphor about acceptance and sees how the film’s characters and stories will connect with the teenage audience in different ways. “It was really interesting to see their work because when you read the script or when you see the story, you can see how many teenagers, going to connect with each one of them in different ways,” she said. “Maybe someone is going connect more to Maisie’s character. Someone is going connect more with Charlie’s character or Anya’s, because I think it is a brilliant way. It talks a lot about young people going through their lives, being mutant or not. And the X-Men kind of have that metaphor of talking about being accepted.”
“Like we were saying, we shot this three years ago, and they changed a lot from that moment that we were shooting,” Braga added. “I think a lot of people that will watch the film either are going to remember them how they were, or they’re going to see themselves if they are around that age. I think the movie’s really cool because of that, because it talks on subject in a great way that is entertaining, but it really goes deep into these kids and young adults that are figuring out life and going through these feelings, understanding their body, and their role in the world.”
“I think all of our characters have some sort of physical discomfort, coming either from our powers or just from, you know, growing pains,” Zaga said
The New Mutants opens in theaters on August 28, 2020.
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.