CS Interview: Co-writer/director Josh Boone on The New Mutants
ComingSoon.net had the opportunity to chat with 20th Century Studios’ The New Mutants co-writer/director Josh Boone to discuss the long-awaited and long-delayed final installment in Fox’s X-Men franchise. The New Mutants is finally heading to theaters this week!
Even before the film began its extended stay in post-production hell, the project had a few early bumps in the road, including the early leak of the Demon Bear animatics in late 2016, and while Deadpool‘s leaked test footage helped Fox earn faith in Ryan Reynolds and co. to launch the beloved franchise, the same can’t be said for Boone, who had to work a little harder to convince the studio on his vision.
“It’s funny, the process of developing it took a long time, I made Fault in Our Stars for Fox, it did well, so I felt like I could go ask Fox for something else,” Boone recalled. “My best friend and I, who I’d grown up with in Virginia Beach, we grew up Marvel fans of the highest order, we kind of read everything we possibly could, I would always remember the Demon Bear story because Bill Sienkiewicz’s art was so distinct. I hadn’t seen anything like it in the comic book before. It was impressionistic. It was dark. It was moody. None of the characters wore super hero costumes. It was angsty, which was Chris Claremont’s forte, but not with art like this. You know? I mean, it was in a different level. I always thought Demon Bear would make a great movie of some sort. I had a stack of New Mutants comics in my apartment when I lived in LA 10 years before I made movies, I worked in a record store. But I held onto that story and I thought about that story, and when I had the opportunity, we made Fox a comic book, kind of pitching them what the movie would be, utilizing all of the art from the series that we loved. I never had a light bulb go off that was like, ‘You have to make a horror comic book movie.’ It was because the material was already that. It sort of organically just said, this is what I’m going to be. And I knew I wanted to merge it with sort of John Hughes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that sort of like, I don’t know, like a deeper look at kids than a typical comic book movie typically would, and a comic book movie that actually stars kids as opposed to adults, which is most of them.”
One of the most important things to Boone when it came to Fault and New Mutants was to have original author John Green and artist Sienkiewicz on the sets and to “have them as involved as possible” so as to be “a vessel” for bringing their work to life on screen. That being said, Boone did also note that comic creator Chris Claremont was “not really” involved with the production, nor really talked with the 41-year-old filmmaker, but stated that Sienkiewicz would “keep Chris appraised of what was going on” and describing the artist’s involvement in the source material.
“I’ll get my own stuff in there and all that, but like, I’m really trying at the end of the day to capture something special about their work,” Boone explained. “So trying to keep that in there is sort of the trickiest and hardest part. Having them involved always helps. Bill was the best cheerleader. He read drafts of the script. Instead of doing an actual audio commentary for the Blu-ray or whatever, I did a career retrospective interview with him you can listen to over the movie. Bill was so creatively involved in this as much as Chris was in the Demon Bear story, he was really a co-creator/partner on it, when they did these issues. I think it’s the longest Bill’s ever stayed on a book, other than Moon Knight, maybe those two. So he jumps around a lot, but there was something special about this one, where there was a lot that he could do. We made the bible because nobody at the studio even knew what Mutants was. Truly. I mean, Simon of course knew, but he was dealing with all the X-Men stuff, so it’s like, he didn’t have any time to go and try to figure out the other X-Men properties, you know? I guess I would say this, we’re lucky because the things that we loved a lot when we were kids have now become popular. I guess is I would say, Stephen King has become as legit as they come. X-Men, New Mutants, Marvel. This was my childhood in the 80s, and back then it was frowned upon by everyone.”
While the constantly shifting release schedule may have proved somewhat frustrating for both fans, cast and Boone, the co-writer/director did find that this delay and acquisition by Disney allowed him to keep it as much in line with his original vision as possible, especially as they made it for “probably half the price that we really wanted” originally.
“The movie became what it is by doing that, which is always the process, the tension and friction are usually good and helped, and definitely, there were much more expensive problems for them to worry about than us,” Boone expressed. “We had a really great cast, an interesting story that had gone through a lot of evolutions during the screenwriting process from having Professor X and Storm in it, and Storm was very much the Alice Braga character, all the way to it being separated in time from those movies, you know? Interesting development, and any time you get involved with a corporation that owns a giant IP, this is what you will surely go through to some degree or another. I asked my agent once, I was like, ‘Is this supposed to be this, you know, this much?’ He’s like, ‘Dude, if you’re working on a Marvel movie or a comic book movie and you’re anything but miserable, I’d be worried about you.’ So I’d say I wasn’t miserable the whole time, but occasionally.”
When it came to getting the look and style of the film, Boone has pointed to multiple inspirations from the past, including Dream Warriors and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and in looking at the footage that continues to be teased leading up to release, he also points towards the 1990 cult classic Jacob’s Ladder as a point of inspiration and how he sought out the right cinematographer to bring that dark and moody look to the film.
“I went and got Peter Deming, who’s like the greatest cinematographer on the planet,” Boone brightly stated. “He did Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, the last season of Twin Peaks. I just like, I did not want it to look like a comic book movie. I know comic book movies mostly build every set you see. Some of them are virtual, you know, we shot in all real places. We only built really two sets. We wanted it to look real, and because of that, we wanted the movie to feel grounded. So we spent a lot of time building character and dealing with reality of things on the way to getting to all of the big super heroics and Marvel type of stuff.”
20th Century Studios in association with Marvel Entertainment presents The New Mutants, an original horror thriller set in an isolated hospital where a group of young mutants is being held for psychiatric monitoring. When strange occurrences begin to take place, both their new mutant abilities and their friendships will be tested as they battle to try and make it out alive.
The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, The Witch) as Magik and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones, gen:LOCK) as Wolfsbane, with Henry Zaga (13 Reasons Why) as Sunspot, Blu Hunt as Dani Moonstar, and Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton as Cannonball.
The New Mutants adapts the monthly comic book series of the same name that launched in 1982. Created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod, The New Mutants follows on a group of teenage mutants as heroes in training in the Marvel Universe. The feature is expected to be a departure from the sci-fi-action spectacle of other X-Men films and is instead being described as a “Stephen King meets John Hughes”-style horror movie.