Since time immemorial (or at least since X-Factor #15, published in 1987), the villainous mutant Apocalypse has been associated with a group of four followers he calls his Horsemen. They usually take the analogues of War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death, and the most famous Horseman has always been Archangel.
Naturally, when Fox set out to make [X-Men: Apocalypse](tag:1194267), they simply had to use the Horsemen. Curiously enough, though, the film's writer / producer Simon Kinberg has just told CinemaBlend that things really changed for the Horsemen during the film's development. At first, only three Horsemen were really featured, and there was a simple reason:
"I don’t know why we made this decision, but we knew that Professor X was abducted in the middle of the movie, and we thought that almost counted as a fourth Horseman. And so that’s the way we constructed the original draft of the script. There wasn’t going to be a fourth one. The ‘surprise’ was that Xavier was the fourth Horseman."
The idea makes sense; Apocalypse has always gathered the strongest mutants to his side and attempted to sway their loyalty. As the world's most powerful telepath, Charles Xavier definitely fits the bill. We see in X2 that his powers could be used to kill every mutant on Earth, and it's no exaggeration to say he'd be able to do the same for every human. In the comics, a shape-shifting Skrull was able to impersonate Xavier and duplicate his powers; the Skrull literally devastated planets. When Xavier briefly became Onslaught, it took the sacrifice of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to beat the psychic entity!
Ultimately, though, there were real problems with the idea. Kinberg explained:
"Bryan [Singer] and I at one particular point – pretty late in the process – said, ‘He’s not really a Horseman – he’s not doing anything in the third act of the movie.’"
The trailers have made it clear that, pretty early on in the film, Charles Xavier will be kidnapped by Apocalypse. From this point on, it's up to the X-Men - led by Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique - to save the world without their mentor. This, logically, means that Xavier's role in the film will diminish after the kidnapping. Evidently it diminishes to the extent that Singer and Kinberg realised he wasn't really a Horseman at all.
Surprisingly, Singer and Kinberg initially considered erasing the fourth Horseman, and going with three. I admit that I find that bizarre - the idea of the Four Horsemen is, of course, borrowed from the Biblical Book of Revelation, so only having three Horsemen would be a very strange departure. Weirdly, it seems that the fact a pyramid has four sides was what decided Kinberg and Singer to have a fourth Horseman. Regardless of the rather strange logic, they decided they needed a fourth, and began to research characters who'd been Horsemen in the comics.
Again, as Kinberg explains:
"We started talking about who that would be, and just literally looked at the list of different Horsemen over the history of the comics, and Psylocke was the one we thought was the most intriguing. And, ironically, or as fate would have it, I had just met with Olivia Munn about Deadpool - like a week or two before. And Bryan and I were up in Montreal, and I said, ‘You know, Olivia Munn could be an interesting Psylocke,’ so we went on the internet and Googled her images. And one of the first things that popped up was a piece of fan art of Olivia as Psylocke."
Interestingly enough, Olivia Munn had actually turned down the role of the love interest in
- she didn't want to be "eye candy", and preferred to be a character with a fight scene. Evidently that rejection made her memorable, and Kinberg researched her. I do find it incredible that fan art transformed the shape of an X-Men movie. Munn got her fight scene; she even insisted on doing her own stunts, and the training videos she's posted have gone viral!
So there we have it. We almost got a very different story for X-Men: Apocalypse, with Charles Xavier himself as a largely inactive Horseman. What's more, we almost didn't get Psylocke - a character I'm so excited to see on the big screen! - at all! I'm confident Singer and Kinberg made the right decision, and I can't wait to see how Olivia Munn brings Psylocke to the big screen!
Which characters do YOU think would make an ideal Horseman? Let me know in the comments!