The production of X-Men: The Last Stand was a troubled one, with Bryan Singer departing in July 2004 in favor of Superman Returns. He took screenwriters Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty along with him, and even David Hayter — who co-wrote fan favorite X2: X-Men United — wound up dropped from the film.
With a completely different team on board, thematically and stylistically X-Men: The Last Stand was hardly a critical and box office success. Released in 2006, it was generally viewed as an all-action film that had dropped the deeper symbolism found in the first two X-Men movies.
But what kind of movie could we have seen if the core team had stayed on? In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, David Hayter has just given us a sense of the scale he imagined — and it sounds fantastic!
Jean Grey On The Rampage
X-Men: The Last Stand is a strange film, with the iconic "Dark Phoenix Saga" relegated to a B-plot, and the A-plot lifted from Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. In the original version, though, we had a much more comic-book-accurate plot — one in which Jean Grey emerged from Alkali Lake, gifted with tremendous power, but soon wound up tempted to lose control.
Hayter imagined this dovetailing with the ongoing plot of mankind hating and fearing mutants:
"The image that I wanted for X-Men 3 trailer was essentially, you see Xavier and Logan facing off against Jean and her eyes are on fire and she's become the Dark Phoenix and they are talking about the war between humans and mutants and she says something along the lines of, 'Don't worry, I'll put an end to it.'"
It's a chilling idea: that in the X-Men film universe, the power of the Dark Phoenix isn't turned against alien worlds but against the human race.
Twisted with fury and anger, Jean threatens humanity — the all-powerful mutant they feared now finally made flesh. Hayter continued:
"And then we cut to this statue of Iwo Jima in Washington, as the sun is coming up, but it's still twilight and purple, and you see a flare of orange and it melts away. She fires through, on fire and blasts right through it. You see the Capitol Building and she flies up to the White House and lands into the middle of the street. We cut opposite and we see the entire army arrayed against her. She's like "Come on!" and we cut to black."
Over the last few years, we've seen concept art from early in the production give us a sense of the scale and beauty of Singer's plans. Take, for example, this gorgeous (if terrifying) glimpse of Jean Grey's telekinesis leveling an American city:
The original plot was much more faithful in its treatment of the original comic book. In fact, back in 2004, Sigourney Weaver was approached to play the part of Emma Frost! The idea was that Emma Frost worked alongside Magneto, who desired to manipulate the empowered Jean Grey. Little wonder Jean wound up twisted into going to war with the human race — just as Magneto would wish!
- The Marvel/Fox 'X-Men' Deal Is Officially Dead: Why You'll Never See Mutants In The MCU
- Why The World Needs The X-Men More Than Ever Before
- "I Am Phoenix!": Jean Grey's Top 5 X-Men Scenes!
This, X-Men fans, is what we could have had. Of course, history went in a very different direction; Bryan Singer moved on to Superman Returns, taking the screenwriters with him. Although Singer and Hayter had worked together on the previous two films, Singer's successor never got in touch with Hayter. Personally, I have to admit that I can't help wishing we got to see that original version — but then, maybe we wouldn't have gotten the excellent Days Of Future Past to fix it?