X-Men: Days of Future Past is a little under 18 months away, and director Bryan Singer is announcing casting news via his Twitter account on a regular basis, with what feels like everyone who showed up for a frame in the first few X-Men movies returning for this one.
So let's take a look at what we know so far, along with a little bit of speculation as to what could be next.
A lot of people.
No, seriously: Days of Future Past is effectively of a direct sequel to 2011's X-Men: First Class, so it's not a shock that much of the main cast from the '60s-set film — Michael Fassbender (Magneto), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) — are all back.
But the time traveling nature of Days of Future Past means that a lot of the contemporary X-Men from the original three films — the first two directed by Singer, and the third by Brett Ratner — are also returning. Hugh Jackman will play Wolverine for the seventh time (counting his memorable First Class cameo), and Ian McKellen (modern-day Magneto) and Patrick Stewart (modern-day Xavier) are also on board, according to Singer.
This past weekend, three more X-alumni were added to the already large Days of Future Past cast: Anna Paquin (Rogue), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) and Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde). The latter's inclusion seems especially notable, given the important part that Kitty Pryde played in the "Days of Future Past" comic book story that serves as inspiration to the film.
Though that's already a lot of X-Men, there's no indication that Singer is stopping here. Someone like James Marsden (Cyclops), who's playing a big role in the 30 Rock wrap-up, sure seems like a possibility given his importance to the franchise, but there's been no word yet on his involvement. (And yeah, his character died in The Last Stand, but a) time travel, and b) X-Men characters have been known to come back from the dead once or twice.)
Halle Berry (Storm) may seem like a long-shot to return for what is likely a small part, but she is one of the many big names in Movie 43, so really anything is possible. Rebecca Romijn — the original movie Mystique — had a quick First Class appearance, so no reason to count her out, either.
There's even been word that Alan Cumming, who appeared in 2003's X2: X-Men United as Nightcrawler but did not return for The Last Stand, is interested in returning.
"Enough time has elapsed that I would like to go back to it," Cumming was quoted by NME via ComingSoon.net. "I haven't gotten the call. Someone told me that Nightcrawler doesn't appear in the story but I don't know, I think they would have called by now."
Also in the "no word either way" category: Kelsey Grammer, The Last Stand's Beast (but with younger Beast confirmed to be playing a role, maybe?); and plenty of First Classcast members like Caleb Landy Jones (Banshee), Lucas Till (Havok) and Zoë Kravitz (Angel Salvadore)
Also, hey: Along with the bonanza of returning characters, it's likely that the movie will introduce a couple of new-to-movie characters, right? Purely speculating here, but given the nature of the story, might noted time-travelers Cable or Bishop be a possibility? Or maybe Rachel Summers — a product of the "Days of Future Past" comic book story?
Inevitably, a few X-Men wont be in Days of Future Past (as unlikely as that may seem right now). It's looking at this point that Famke Janssen, who played Jean Grey in the first three movies, is not planned to return. In a recent interview with Collider promoting Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Janssen said, "If you run into Bryan Singer, just tell him I’ve been sitting by the phone, I’ve been hearing rumors of all these people getting cast; what about me? I’m waiting."
Yet there have been multiple reports that Janssen will cameo as Jean Grey in this year's The Wolverine, so don't count her out yet. (Yes, she also died in The Last Stand. It's Jean Grey we're talking about.)
January Jones also doesn't seem optimistic about a Days of Future Past role — quoted by MovieWeb as saying "I don't think Emma [Frost]'s in this one" — news likely to please the many fans less than enthused by her performance in First Class.
WHAT'S THE STORY?
Days of Future Past is one of the most famous X-Men stories of all time, originally appearing in 1981's Uncanny X-Men #141-#142. It presents a bleak alternate future where most of the X-Men are dead, and mutants are hunted even worse than they are in the mainstream Marvel timeline.
It's all because the X-Men failed to stop the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, led by Mystique, from killing the anti-mutant Senator Robert Kelly. That caused all sorts of major problems for homo superior, and prompted the adult "Kate" Pryde to transports her mind back in time into her younger body to warn the X-Men about the consequences of the assassination. The story also served as the introduction of Rachel Summers, the alternate future daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey that remains an important part of current X-Men comics.
In a newly published interview with Empire, Singer made it clear that time travel is an important part of his story, and that he even consulted with James Cameron.
"You have to create your rules and stick with them," Singer told the UK film magazine. "That's why Terminator and Back To The Future work so well. And there are certain mechanisms in X-Men, certain powers, perceptions and characters, that make this possible."
Singer also made clear that the movie will indeed take cues from the comic, albeit in a way that makes sense for the format.
"It has a lot of aspects of the comic," Singer said. "The actual comic of Days Of Future Past had a whole ton of stuff going on, so it’s like any of these things; you have to distill it. But I think the fans will be pleased that some of the most exciting parts of Days Of Future Past are going to be connected to this movie."
Comic book superstar Mark Millar is a creative consultant on Fox's Marvel movies, and a few months back implied that the movie will have something important to the "Days of Future Past" comic book story but not yet really seen in the movies: Sentinels, the giant mutant-hunting robots long a part of X-Men lore.
“You've got robots, you've got time travel, you've got superheroes," Millar said in an interview with SFX. "It's got everything in one film."
At the time, Matthew Vaughn — the director of First Class — was still scheduled to direct Days of Future Past, so any or all of that may no longer apply. Speaking of Vaughn, back in 2011, he spoke with HitFix about his speculative plans for a First Class sequel. (Keep in mind that First Class took place in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, 13 months before John F. Kennedy was assassinated.)
"I've got some ideas for the opening for the next film," Vaughn said. "I thought it would be fun to open with the Kennedy Assassination, and we reveal that the magic bullet was controlled by Magneto. That would explain the physics of it, and we see that he's pissed off because Kennedy took all the credit for saving the world and mutants weren't even mentioned."
Though Vaughn is no longer directing the film, now that we know Days of Future Past is the inspiration of the film, could it be that it's not Robert Kelly's assassination that the X-Men are trying to foil, but rather a much less fictional politician?
It's just speculation for now, but at the rate things are going, we'll likely learn a lot more about Days of Future Past between now and its scheduled July 18, 2014 release date.