Joss Whedon confirmed this weekend that the brother and sister that he had previously teased for Avengers 2 are, as practically everyone already guessed, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Then Bryan Singer tweeted that he's cast Evan Peters as Quicksilver in his X-Men: Days Of Future Past. But for those who haven’t been reading the comics for the past 40-odd years, who are these two, how can they be in both franchises and who should be cast? We answer all these questions and more below...
They’re Pietro (Quicksilver) and Wanda (Scarlet Witch), the twin children of Magneto and his gypsy wife, Magda. She was a fellow Auschwitz survivor who the magnetic mutant married after World War II. On seeing an early and devastating example of Magneto’s power at work, Magda ran away and, heavily pregnant, took refuge on top of Mount Wundagore and gave birth to the twins. So far, so similar to Latona in Greek myth – but Magda, worried that Magneto would turn up to claim his children and force her to reveal them, vanished days later, apparently sacrificing herself for them.
Even more unfortunately – wouldn’t you know it? – the mountain was a prison for the Elder God Chthon (think Cthulu’s cousin) who was attempting to escape at the time of the birth, leading to a pitched battle against the mystical Knights Of Wundagore . Basically, Magda’s idea of “refuge” is not ours. Even amidst all this, the god reached out and twisted baby Wanda’s mutation as she was born. So Pietro had the fairly normal – for Marvel – power of superhuman speed, while Wanda was gifted with a stranger mutation. She could twist probability to manipulate outcomes by throwing “hexes” and, later in life, could alter reality itself.
Back up: these two are Magneto’s kids?
They are – but that doesn’t mean they’ll be referred to as such in Avengers 2. In fact, the terms of the legal agreement between Fox and Marvel probably rule out any references to their father or the fact that they’re technically mutants rather than superheroes (there is a difference in comic-book lore). Much as we’d like to say otherwise, the chances of an Ian McKellen cameo here are roughly equal to the chances of Hulk picking a bunch of flowers to give bashfully to Iron Man.
Meanwhile, the Quicksilver we see in X-Men: Days Of Future Past will not be acknowledged as a member of the Avengers, but will - we assume - be someone Magneto knows is his son, since otherwise what's the point? And we're pegging the relationship on future Magneto, because while it might be technically possible for the 1970s Maggie to have kids Peters' age, it seems a little unlikely.
Incidentally, Quicksilver already appeared, super-briefly, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, suspended from rubber cords in the middle of a steel cage in order to stop him building up any speed and escaping - but given all the time-line issues in that film and inconsistencies with other movies and especially X-Men: First Class, there's a question whether that's even canon (see Emma Frost's apparent age in that movie, for instance). Scarlet Witch didn't appear there that we could spot, but her name does appear in Stryker's database in X-Men 2.
Well, the twins were originally X-Men baddies, part of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But pretty soon Xavier and company discovered that the pair were only working with Magneto because the Master of Magnetism saved them from an angry, mutant-hating mob (he was unaware of their relationship at the time, in the soap-opera-tastic way of comics). At worst, the Maximoff twins were part of a Brotherhood Of Mutants Led Temporarily Astray. Once everything was straightened out, they were free to be recruited into the Avengers by one Tony Stark. The pair was part of a second generation of the supergroup, along with Captain America and Hawkeye – the latter of whom had a bit of a will-they-won’t-they thing with Scarlet Witch.
So everyone lived happily ever after?
Not remotely! The pair briefly re-sided with Magneto against the X-Men, and in the 40 years since then have undergone more ups and downs than a popular playground see-saw. They went through years of uncertainty as to their parentage (they generally go by the surname “Maximoff” after the guy they thought was their dad), had difficult marriages (tragic in Wanda’s case), saw their children imperilled and generally found that battling evil-doers openly was the least of their worries.
Aha, that’s probably the best story involving either or both. The Scarlet Witch had lost her husband and her kids to forces way, way beyond her control, and her reality-twisting powers became increasingly unstable. Quicksilver became (justifiably) concerned that the other Avengers would kill her to prevent her destabilising the whole world, and convinced his sister to forestall this by using her powers to give everyone their very own happy ending. Incidentally, she also made her family, the House of M(agneto) rulers of the planet. But Wolverine and a few others saw through the changed reality, confronted the pair – and Magneto – and once again threatened to kill her. Whereupon Scarlet Witch de-powered 90% of the world’s mutants, including her own father. Cold! This fuelled Marvel storylines for years, giving them lots of stories about people adjusting to life without power and / or regaining powers. There's been some gubbins about another entity taking control of Scarlet Witch long before this, however, and then giving her amnesia, but let’s just ignore that because it’s well rubbish.
Who knows? The famously feminist director is known to have worried about the first film becoming a sausage fest, so we suspect he’s thrilled to have another woman to write for – and another interesting male character. Whedon said, “You know, they had a rough beginning. They’re interesting to me because they sort of represent the part of the world that wouldn’t necessarily agree with the Avengers,” he says. “So they’re not there to make things easier. I’m not putting any characters in the movie that will make things easier.”
Were we in charge, we’d steer clear of the soapier elements of their endless love-lives and family dramas. Given that we can’t talk about mutants, perhaps they’ll be anti-government types looking to challenge S.H.I.E.L.D. and, by extension, the Avengers? They could be initial antagonists who team up with the Avengers against a bigger threat. Anyway, at this stage even Whedon doesn’t know exactly what they’ll be doing; he’s just said that they’re in the current version of the script. Remember that versions of the first film contained the Wasp, and about six different St Crispin’s Day speeches for Captain America (all of which got cut), so a lot of changes could still happen between here and the screen.
Yeah, but will Whedon kill them off?
We’d guess not – particularly not Scarlet Witch, since he wants more women around the gender-imbalanced place (by that we mean Hollywood as much as S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Quicksilver’s safe for at least the first movie, surely, because it’s not good form to introduce a new character just to kill him off. Does anyone else sense a River and Simon Tam vibe here? She’s the slightly otherworldly character who can be fragile or powerful on a whole other level; he’s the brother with his own issues going on; they’re both cast adrift in a hostile world.
And what will Singer do with Quicksilver (and perhaps Scarlet Witch)?
Well, we're guessing not much. Shooting on X-Men: Days Of Future Past is already well underway, so it seems unlikely that Quicksilver plays a major role in the movie. And of course he's also jostling with the past and present versions of about seventy bajillion other mutants: there's only so much screen time to go around. If we were guessing we'd predict that he will fight and fall alongside Magneto in the film's devastated future timeline.
Left from top: Eva Green, Natalie Dormer and Alexandra Daddario. Right from top: Tom Felton, Dave Franco and Jeremy Sumpter
That’s the million-dollar question – or, given Marvel’s budget-conscious ways, the at-least-hundred-dollar question. Whedon often casts from his back catalogue, which might lead us to consider Much Ado About Nothing’s Jillian Morgese (not a bad shout) and Fran Kranz, but he’s not slavish about returning to the well. In the comics virtually every male character falls for Scarlet Witch at some point: with Scarlett Johansson already spoken for elsewhere, we should probably cast our eye around the world’s other most desirable actresses.
Speculation’s centred on Eva Green for Scarlet Witch, presumably because she’s played a witch endlessly already, and Tom Felton for Quicksilver because he previously played a morally ambiguous character with very pale hair. But Green has two comic-book films due this year already, with 300: Rise Of An Empire and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, and both seem a bit obvious.
We reckon Whedon will cast younger for both parts, because there are enough Avengers north of 30 already (all but Black Widow, by our count). We’re not worried too much about pairing the actors by looks: first of all, the comic book pair don’t look terribly similar, and secondly that’s a job for make-up and costumes (this is the industry that cast Jessica Alba and Chris Evans as siblings, after all).
For Scarlet Witch, you need someone who can mix power, unpredictability, hella good looks and basic goodness underneath. Natalie Dormer might make a good Wanda, judging by her Game Of Thrones work, or Olivia Thirlby in Dredd mode: either could bring the witchiness without being completely untrustworthy. Rooney Mara could amp up the tortured elements; Alexandra Daddario could offer a slightly more mainstream, not-yet-crazy take on the character.
For Pietro, you want someone a little snarky. Ironically, Tom Hiddleston would have done rather well, were he not busy elsewhere in the Marvel universe. Dave Franco has the eyebrows and the grin for it, but might be a little too sardonic to take any of it seriously. Friday Night Lights’ Zach Gilford could give us the clean-cut version, or Jeremy Sumpter might look the blond part. We’re quite taken with the unlikely but amusing notion of casting Vincent Kartheiser (a Whedon alum, let us not forget) and Alison Brie (below) – they work well in Mad Men, and could fit the roles. What’s more, Brie would be a hugely popular choice with the fanboys. But let us emphasise: that's not a choice to get attached to.
But enough of our speculation! Who would you cast?