Back when The New Mutants was in production. It was part of an ambitious slate of X-Men movies that were pushing the franchise in bold new directions. Deadpool was a self-aware comedy. Logan was an R-rated drama for adults. And director Josh Boone‘s tale of young mutants being held in a psychiatric hospital was a horror film.
As you probably know, The New Mutants was delayed several years due to Disney buying 20th Century Fox and effectively hitting stop on all X-Men projects. This means the new film is the end of the line for the original X-Men franchise (the characters will be rebooted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of course). However, that doesn’t mean Boone wasn’t thinking ahead. The filmmaker had envisioned a trilogy of X-Men horror films. With each one tackling a different subgenre through a comic book lens.
Despite the horror aesthetic of the film, Boone told us in a recent interview that he didn’t set out to make an X-Men horror film – it just happened organically as he started exploring the material:
I guess the best way to talk about it is that it’s not like [co-writer Knate Lee] and I sat there like. “Yo, we’ve gotta make a horror comic book movie”. We really wanted to make New Mutants. And it sort of organically became that, just through adapting the material. We just sort of wanted it to be as grounded and performance-driven as possible. We didn’t want it to look like any Marvel movies, we wanted to shoot on real locations. I did everything I could to make sure the aesthetic was not like anything else.
In fact, the horror tone emerged directly from the X-Men comic book runs he enjoyed as a kid. Which directly informed the characters and setting of the actual film:
We loved Marvel Comics so much in the ‘80s, so all our references were really [from before] the movies. There’s a whole generation now where that’s not the case, but it’s like, even when I was a kid, I remember seeing these really evocative, scary, Bill Sienkiewicz covers for New Mutants, and I was like, “This ain’t like normal Marvel stuff.” I’ve loved that Demon Bear [storyline] since then, and loved his artwork and thought it was unique and different and its own thing.
As part of his pitch to Fox, Boone literally assembled a comic book of his own. Borrowing panels from X-Men books to sell the studio on the tone he was going for. And while the original pitch was modified due to budgetary constraints. He was able to envision a trilogy of X-Men horror movies. Each one introducing new characters and exploring a different corner of the horror genre:
So after I made [The] Fault [in Our Stars], I ran back to Fox and said. “You’ve gotta let me develop New Mutants”. Knate and I made them a comic book, which was like a PDF where we’d gone and taken frames from all these comics we love and strung them into a vision for what the series was going to be. The characters we chose were always the characters – we had plans, obviously, to bring in new characters in the next movie – the character of Warlock was featured in all the early drafts of the script, but it was so expensive that we weren’t able to do it. Basically, cutting him out of the narrative allowed us to make the film. So our plan was always to have Warlock come back in the next one and try to tell his story then. They were all supposed to be kind of separate horror genre films: the first one’s like a rubber reality horror movie, the second one was supposed to be an alien invasion movie with Warlock, and then the third one was going to take all these elements from the X-Men crossover from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s called Inferno to be a kind of supernatural, apocalyptic horror movie. That was the plan.
Right now, it seems highly unlikely that any of those sequels will get made. Boone confirmed to us that he never spoke to Disney about reworking The New Mutants to connect it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But he also seems to be at peace with that:
I never had a conversation about it. I just can’t imagine that they’d ever had a conversation about that unless the movie did the business and had the demand for them to have that conversation. At the same time, too, if I was them, I’d want a clean break. Like I said, I can kind of step outside myself to talk about any of this stuff. But I imagine they’ll do their own thing, but certainly. The cast and I would love to go make another movie. If there’s the demand for it, I think that it’s something that we’ll end up having a conversation about. But to me, now, I’d just be thankful to get this one out so everybody can see it.