The X-Men franchise under the banner of Fox has officially come to an end with the release of the critically panned Dark Phoenix. While fans are still ruminating on the possible future under the Marvel Studios banner, longtime composer and editor of the franchise John Ottman revealed to The Hollywood Reporter one of the more exciting recent projects that never came to fruition was a spin-off film focusing on Nicolas Hoult’s Hank McCoy, aka Beast.
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Talking to THR, Ottman detailed that his assistant at the time of work on 2016’s Apocalypse, Byron Burton, came to him with a pitch for a spin-off of the hairy blue character, and after expressing some minor doubts on the project’s potential, Burton offered to crank out a script in two weeks and Ottman accepted the challenge and offered the chance to pitch it up the chain if he felt it was good.
When Burton returned with a draft two weeks later, Ottman was happily surprised, believing the film could work and boarding the project by helping with tweaks to the script and developing it as a $90-million film that would feature the return of fan-favorite characters Professor X, with James McAvoy (Glass) reprising his role from the prequel series, and Wolverine, although given Hugh Jackman’s retirement from the role following Logan it’s unclear how the casting would work for the character.
The script had the story set between the events of Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, with Hank still using the serum introduced in Days of Future Past to get control of his beastly nature, which following a Danger Room sequence it’s clear he is struggling to maintain. While working to adjust to his problems with his mutation, Hank has also been helping a scientist with a similar genetic mutation by offering him samples of his serum, but he realizes that a string of creature attacks on an snow-covered Inuit village are linked to a negative effect on the scientist from the serum.
“We wanted to have the tenor of John Carpenter’s The Thing where you are in this inhospitable environment,” Ottman told THR.
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Hank travels to the village to confront the scientist for a final showdown and teams up with Professor X and Wolverine, whom the former found using his mutant-monitoring machine Cerebro, and after defeating the scientist, it’s revealed in a post-credits scene that Mr. Sinister was observing the events.
“The idea was we would have Sinister as this multi-film villain orchestrating things,” Burton, who in addition to once working as Ottman’s assistant is a freelance contributor to THR, said. “We wrote a late-’80s outline of an Omega Red film where the idea is Sinister is testing the X-Men.”
Given the inclusion of core franchise characters Professor X and Wolverine, Fox told Ottman and Burton that they would have to reach out to Dark Phoenix writer/director Simon Kinberg, who has acted as the creative head for the latter X-Men film series and was working on the now final installment at the time, for approval, but the 45-year-old writer declined to read it out of a fear of being influenced by it for his movie, also claiming he was working on a way to reintroduce Wolverine into the series and feeling including him in the spin-off would confuse timelines.
The script for the project entitled Fear the Beast, which the two reiterate still needed to go through more edits, has been shared in full for audiences and can be read here!
“The fact we got the script we got in a few weeks is a testament to Byron, but at the same time every script is ever changing,” Ottman said. “As perfect as you think a script is, it will always dawn on you something is illogical or has to be redone.”