As you’ll no doubt recall, 2018 began with X-Men fans expecting no fewer than three additions to 20th Century Fox’s superhero universe: The New Mutants, Deadpool 2 and Simon Kinberg’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be, as Fox has since bumped New Mutants and Dark Phoenix far, far into 2019. Indeed, the former X-Men movie is now expected to release 16 months after first scheduled. 16 months!
However, had things panned out differently, the classic Dark Phoenix story would have made its way onto our screens much sooner – 2003, in fact, when Zak Penn asked Bryan Singer, director of X2: X-Men United, to shelve the cosmic adaptation for a later date on the belief that Fox’s franchise still needed to lay down its roots.
The Ready Player One screenwriter, who is credited on the X2 screenplay alongside David Hayter and Singer, recalled that very moment during a recent chat with The Hollywood Reporter:
On X2, part of how I ended up getting the job on it was that originally that was going to be the Phoenix story. I just said, ‘you’ve built up this real universe and you should establish it more before you go into Phoenix’. It was too soon to go into the Phoenix story and it was too soon to get cosmic. I would say that’s probably the biggest contribution I made was pushing it in that direction. There are a bunch of scenes I wrote that are still in there. I don’t remember what movie I left to do while they were making X-Men 2, but that was kind of the story of my life. I would come in and do something and then leave.
Not that Penn regrets his decision; X2 arguably went on to become one of the finest and most accomplished comic book movies at a time when CBMs were just beginning to mosey their way into the mainstream. How times change.
Next up for Fox’s franchise is the launch of Deadpool 2 this May, before Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix finally takes flight on February 14th, 2019 – the date once occupied by Gambit.