Whilst the news of his casting made it seem a little less likely that we'd be seeing a true Old Man Logan adaptation for the upcoming Untitled Wolverine Sequel, we were pretty excited when it was announced back in April that British stage and screen actor Richard E. Grant had joined the cast of Wolverine 3.
Grant joined Hugh Jackman's snarling Logan/Wolverine, Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier/Professor X, and the rest of the impressive cast for the superhero endeavor which began filming in June of this year. But who is he playing? No character was revealed along with the announcement of his casting, and still we're being kept very much in the dark about his involvement — until we get more "leaks" from the Wolverine 3 set, we suppose.
Cast your mind back to the last offering from the Fox-Marvel Cinematic Universe, X-Men: Apocalypse. Another link in the continuity-hopping, time-travelling chain that is the X-Men series, there was plenty of set-ups for future X-Men movies, but what of Wolverine?
We meet Wolverine/Weapon X in a cameo during the Alkali Lake sequence of Apocalypse, where he does what he does best, and what he does isn't very nice. Because what he does is slice and dice, and woe betide you're one of Stryker's goons when Weapon X gets free.
After Wolverine's frenzied and (of course) shirtless rampage through the facility, the young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) steps in to remove the apparatus from his head, appearing to restore a memory of a kind to him. Wolverine steps out into the snow and escapes, still with a confused and muddled mind. What happens next, no-one knows.
An Apocalyptic Link?
We return to Alkali Lake during the already heavily analysed post-credits sequence, during which time some mysterious Men In Black enter the facility and leave with a vial of Wolverine/Weapon X's blood, which they place in a briefcase marked "Essex Corp". There's been much said of this already, knowing that it is likely foreshadowing the next big X-Men villain, Mr. Sinister — who could also provide our link to the upcoming Gambit movie.
Mr. Sinister/Nathaniel Essex is a long running threat in the Marvel Universe of the comic books, hailing back to the 1980s. A geneticist-turned-supervillain, he had a hand in the creation of Weapon X, experimenting on captive mutants as part of the program which made Wolverine the adamantium laced mutant he is today.
We don't yet know where the future of the X-Men movies shall lead us, but Mr. Sinister is probably going to pop up again somewhere in the Fox-Marvel Universe quite soon. If not in Gambit, then perhaps in Wolverine 3, as his tease in X-Men: Apocalypse did seem to be linked to the Weapon X program.
So, could Richard E. Grant be playing Mr. Sinister? Gotta say, we could see him in with the pale skin and bondage get-up.
Could Grant Be Mr. Sinister?
Wolverine 3 has been widely speculated to be drawing from Old Man Logan (as teased by Jackman himself) but that's starting to look a little less likely as time wears on. Partly because both Grant and other Wolverine 3 actor Boyd Holbrook — who is said to portray the "main villain" of the piece — seem to be playing characters of a description which have no counterparts in Old Man Logan.
We know next to nothing about Grant's character right now, only that he's "a villainous mad-scientist type", as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. A villainous mad scientist eh? Before Apocalypse we might not have picked Mr. Sinister out of a line-up as the most likely suspect, but now...
Because Mr. Sinister is, in every sense of the word, a villainous mad-scientist type. Born in the mid 1800s, Nathaniel Essex was a concurrent of Charles Darwin, examining the mutation of the human genome. His obsession with genetics — fueled by the death of his young son — led to his falling down the rabbit hole in attempts to create the "perfect" evolution of humanity.
At some point he woke up Apocalypse to aid him in his work, and the First Mutant later transformed Essex into an immortal being with pale skin, dead eyes, and a weird sense of fashion — thus Mr. Sinister was born.
But when it comes to mad scientists and Wolverine, the most obvious connection would be to the Weapon X saga, which has already been hashed out in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and referenced heavily in multiple X-Men movies, notably X2: X-Men United. We can pretty safely say that we probably aren't getting another Weapon X adaptation (at least, we hope not) but it's a big part of Wolverine's backstory, so it wouldn't be a huge surprise for some facet of the story creep into Wolverine 3.
But What About The Time Skip?
And, of course, we know that Wolverine 3 is set to take place in the future — one of the big reasons the Old Man Logan rumor has been so pervasive. Apocalypse is set in the 1980s, and the "future" that Wolverine 3 will be set it in is assumed to be the future pertaining to the current time, so some many years after 2016.
Now, if he was up and running a corporation in the 80s we can assume Nathaniel Essex would be at least around 20-30 years old, which would make him at least 50-60 years old in 2016. Grant is currently 59 years of age, which doesn't seem to leave much wiggle room for a time-skip forward.
However — as previously mentioned — the Mr. Sinister of the comics is more than a 100 years old, having been born in the 1800s, and he's generally considered to be immortal. So he very well could've been around during the age of Apocalypse and pop back up later for Old Man Logan looking pretty much the same.
Or, y'know, the filmmakers could just ignore it like they did with First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse — the cast of which don't seem to have aged a day in the 20+ years of narrative time the three films have been set across.
One thing we do know for certain is that the X-Men: Apocalypse post-credits scenes were intended to set up narrative strands to be carried on by later movies — Wolverine 3 specifically — as Simon Kinberg told Collider:
"[The 'X-Men: Apocalypse' post-credits scene is] a nod toward potentially a lot of different movies. I mean certainly the Wolverine movie is related to what happens at the end of it."
So, if we aren't going to see another Weapon X adaptation, then this does only seem to leave Mr. Sinister as an option, and Grant would seem to fit the villain's profile. But until we find out more about the Untitled Wolverine Project, all we have is speculation.