CS Visits the Set of The New Mutants
It’s Wednesday, August 16, 2017 and we are at the Medfield State Hospital in Massachusetts, which has played host to several film shoots in the past including The Box and Shutter Island. On this night 20th Century Fox (before it became 20th Century Studios under Disney) is filming The New Mutants, what would ultimately become the final installment in Fox’s storied X-Men franchise. At the time, though, director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) had no idea of the many twists of fate that would leave his film unreleased until this very weekend just over three years later, August 28, 2020.
At the time of shooting the New Mutants crew had taken over five buildings at the imposing Medfield, which in the movie is referred to as Milbury Hospital. All five buildings represent one in the film. Outside the main building is a big, ominous angel statue in a fountain. The epigraph reads: “In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge.”
We head inside one building, where we find the common room set full of old furniture, board games, a stereo/tapedeck, TV, DVDs (Buffy and X-Files), a foosball table, books, art supplies/easel, loudspeaker, and a security camera to keep an eye on our teenage heroes. All the games are Greeked, with made-up names like Oh Snap!, Electric Quiz, Gravity Maze, Chaos, Password, Codenames, etc. The film was originally meant to be set in the 1980’s, but the studio told them to change it to modern day after the poor reception of 80’s-set X-Men: Apocalypse. That said, the setting still has a bit of a timeless quality, not really of any one era.
Outside at the graveyard exterior the ground is covered with fake snow. It is, after all, summer. They have the stunt double for Anya Taylor-Joy’s Illyana Rasputin/Magik attached to wires holding a glowing sword that will be enhanced with CG later. They’re filming her fall from the sky from directly overhead into the snow. She is lifted up by a huge crane with a light on the top that flares up when she falls.
Within the context of the story it’s supposed to be hard to tell whether this is a flashback, hallucination, or actually happening. Josh Boone tells us Magik is coming out of limbo in the shot. In video village artist Bill Sienkiewicz, the comics artist who originated the 80’s “Demon Bear” storyline on which the movie is based, sits with Boone sketching on a drawing pad and chatting with him between takes.
After they do the wide shot of Magik falling out of limbo, they do a new setup with Henry Zaga’s Roberto da Costa/Sunspot carrying an injured Dani Moonstar/Mirage (Blu Hunt), with Charlie Heaton’s Sam Guthrie/Cannonball and Maisie Williams’ Rahne Sinclair/Wolfsbane heading to the rear of the facility.
In yet another setup, Cannonball runs out of the building into the snow looking up at something we don’t see which we discern is Demon Bear, a giant bear-like creature that draws power from negative emotions first introduced in the pages of The New Mutants #18. Cannonball is wearing a hoodie and baseball cap. He has a visible bruise on his cheek, and brandishes an arm cast for the whole movie. He looks like he’s starting to prep himself for something, trying to use his powers of flight.
As it stands now, on the day of the film’s release when it is getting pounded by critics (and it’s co-creator) and seemingly buried in a COVID-19 market where many theaters have yet to reopen, The New Mutants stands much like Charlie Heaton did that night: Bruised, bandaged and trying hard to muster the strength to save the day. And, like that final Cannonball scene from that night in 2017, The New Mutants is a franchise that we never got to see truly take flight.
The New Mutants is now playing in theaters.