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Jessica Chastain Eyes X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Jessica Chastain

After X-Men: Apocalypse suffered a critical drubbing and saw a sharp box office drop from the hugely successful Days Of Future Past, the mutant team would have been forgiven for taking a break to let the likes of Deadpool and New Mutants have their moment in the sun. But talk about the next main instalment, X-Men: Dark Phoenix began to solidify in April, and is moving forward with Jessica Chastain in talks to play the villain, Shi’ar Empress Lilandra.

And if she does indeed sign on, she'll be joining a stuffed X-cast that will see the return of Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult plus younger Apocalypse recruits Alexandra Shipp, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan and Kodi Smit-McPhee. The presence of Lawrence, McAvoy etc. is more surprising given that their deals ended with Apocalypse, but this storyline is big enough to need them back.

Turner's Jean Grey in particular is required as the title suggests that the First Class cast will deal with the Dark Phoenix saga that became one of the most beloved (and controversial) in the comics and was brought to the screen in X-Men: The Last Stand back in 2006. It details how Jean's growing power unleashes the Phoenix Force – a mystical, all-powerful and barely controllable cosmic force that is key to her abilities, but sees her becoming a threat to her comrades and the wider world. As for Lilandra, she's one of the aliens who decides that the Dark Phoenix must be destroyed. We'll see how much of her story carries over to the movie.

Even the writer of The Last Stand, one Simon Kinberg, has admitted that it didn't quite get the treatment right, and he'll have the chance for a do-over as the prolific producer and X-franchise stalwart is directing this time, making his shot-calling debut after writing the script and producing all the recent X-movies.

Fox has scheduled the movie for 2 November 2018 (at least in the US, though it's likely to be a similar schedule here). Chastain, who worked with Kinberg when he produced The Martian has just gotten married (congrats!) and will next be seen in films such as Molly's Game (19 January next year), Woman Walks Ahead and The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan.

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