What we learned at “The New Mutants” virtual press conference

Even a pandemic can’t stop The New Mutants! After two years of delays, that included the Disney/Fox merger, the Coronavirus, and the closure of almost all the movie theaters in the country, 20th Century Studios’ The New Mutants will finally be released in theaters on August 28th.  The film, which was directed and co-written by Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars), is based on the popular X-Men spin-off comic book series created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod and follows a group of superpowered teenagers that are being held captive in a secret facility. The new movie features a talented cast of actors including Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), Blu Hunt (The Originals), Henry Zaga (Teen Wolf), and Alice Braga (I Am Legend). 

We Live Entertainment recently had the opportunity to attend a virtual press conference for the film that included filmmaker Josh Boone, as well as the movie’s entire cast. Boone began the conference by making light of the film’s unusual journey to theaters. “We went and made this movie about kids being trapped in this institution, this facility. Then Henry (Zaga) and I went and made a show about a pandemic (CBS All Access’ The Stand). So, I think I need to stop making things because they keep happening in real life,” he joked. Boone also addressed rumors of multiple reshoots and set the record straight. “We never did a reshoot,” he explained. “We were supposed to do reshoots but because of the merger, once it was done it was done. So, we never went back and did reshoots. We were always using the same footage and the same material from the start of it all the way to the end of it.”

The New Mutants adapts artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s ‘Demon Bear’ storyline from the comics, and Boone explained why that story was so important to him, and why he wanted to use it for the new film. “I wrote this with my very best friend in the world, Knate Lee. We grew up in the 1980s reading Marvel Comics,” Boone said. “I still vividly remember to this day seeing the covers of the New Mutant comics that Bill (Sienkiewicz) started working on, those ‘Demon Bear’ ones. They did not look like any comic book covers that I had ever seen before. I had just never seen anything like that before, so it really captured my imagination and I thought about them for years. I remember being in L.A. when I first moved there, being in an apartment years before I ever made a movie and I had a stack of New Mutant comics. I was lucky enough to make a movie for Fox that was successful, and we begged them to let us take a crack at these comics that we loved when we were young.”

Charlie Heaton and Anya-Taylor Joy, who play Sam Guthrie/Cannonball and Illyana Rasputin/Magik, respectively, also talked about the source material and if they drew inspiration from the comics for their performances. “I looked at them because you try to find as much information as you can about a character,” said Heaton. “I got the script, which gives you a lot, but you try to find as much as you can. But as much as the comics give you the shape of these characters and who they are, I find, that they don’t give you full-fledged characters. So, it’s exciting to read, but at least for me preparing, I’m looking at more of the script itself than the comics. The comics help with the look and style, but this is a film, so you have to make it about the characters and make them real. That comes from conversations Josh and I had from looking at the script and then going off of instinct, and when you are playing a character, you have to give a piece of you to it as well and find what piece of you that you want to give. That’s kind of how I came up with Sam, and also this idea of power, and when you have something inside of you that manifests, and you try to control it, it plays with your emotions. So, it was a lot of things really, not just one thing.”

“I dove in for fun, but I have to say it gets a bit confusing as to how much time Illyana spends in the Limbo and how old she is, so she is tough to understand, and I love it,” continued Joy. “I dove in for fun, and then as Charlie said, you have to kind of go off the script because even if in your head you pull something from a comic book, someone who has not read the comic when they go and see it, they are not going to understand it. So, you have to use all the information you get from the script. But when you have Josh as your director, he’s an encyclopedia of anything you’d ever need to know. If you are ever stressed on set, you can just ask Josh and he’ll break it down for you. We have the perfect director for the job and he wasn’t going to let us mess with characters that he’s loved for a very long time.”

The film focuses on a key relationship between Maisie Williams’ Rahne Sinclair/Wolfsbane and Blu Hunt’s Danielle Moonstar/Mirage, and the two actresses discussed the chemistry test they did together during the audition process. “We met about two or three months before we shot the film. I’ve done a couple of screen tests before, but this was the first time I had to kiss a stranger in the screen test. It was a nerve-racking experience,” said Williams. “I was nervous too,” added Hunt. “I think I knew I got the part as soon as we kissed. That was real. It was definitely crazy because I watch Maisie’s show (Game of Thrones). So, going to this audition across town, I couldn’t even believe I was there while it was happening. Then, our whole relationship between our characters and us as friends on set was really amazing. Making a movie about friendship and that character relationship was really important to me. Dani is probably my favorite role I’ve ever played.”

Because the film was shot three years ago, the two actresses also talked about how they have changed, and what they have realized about their characters since making the movie. “I feel like I did realize a lot of things about my character after filming,” explained Hunt. “I definitely realized how close I was to her just as a person, which I didn’t realize while I was filming. Then when I left, and I was able to look back, and think about Dani, it suddenly came to me that Dani and I are really the same person which is weird because usually you play a character, and it was strange for me to play someone that was so much like me. That was something I really didn’t realize until a lot of time had passed. But since it is three years now that we shot the movie, I definitely think I have grown as an actress and a person, so if I had to play Dani again it would be interesting. I think she would be like me and have come into her body for the first time because she was an uncomfortable teenager.” 

“At the time, I think we were all a lot younger and it was only three years, but I feel like at this time in our lives you change a lot,” Williams added. “At the time I was just really uncomfortable when I was playing Rahne, and I had on the wig and clothes, it made me feel as an actor very uncomfortable and it is hard to do your job right when you feel captive, or you can’t get your ego out of the way. For me looking back now, that was all perfect to feel that way, uncomfortable in the clothes, because that is who she is. She doesn’t have a lot of confidence, so it was something I was really fighting at the time, but it worked for the role.”

Henry Zaga, who plays Roberto da Costa/Sunspot, discussed how he relates to his character and how he would play him differently given the opportunity now. “I think all of our characters suffer from physical discomfort, either from our powers or growing pains,” he said. “Talking about the love for these characters, I was feeling like I had to live up to a role. I should have used that fear and insecurity for Roberto because he is trying to live up to a façade to be a pretend, self-confident, seventeen-year-old who is really craving love and is really sensitive. He just can’t face that because it causes so much pain. So, I think we can all relate to that discomfort.”

Finally, veteran actress Alice Braga, who plays Dr. Cecilia Reyes, talked about the young cast, how they’ve grown since filming, and why audiences will relate to their characters. “It was interesting to see their work because when you see the story, you can see how many teenagers are going to connect with each one of them in different ways,” Braga said. “Someone is going to connect more with Maisie’s character, or Charlie’s, or Anya’s because I think the movie talks to young people going through their lives. We shot this three years ago, and the actors have all changed a lot from when we were shooting. I think a lot of people that are watching the film are going to remember themselves and how they were, or they are going to see themselves around that age. I think the movie is really cool because of that because it takes on the subject in a way that is entertaining and really goes deep into these kids who are figuring out their lives, their feelings, and their roles in the world. I think it is really nice to have an action film and an entertaining film that deals with these issues in a real way.”

The New Mutants  will open in theaters beginning August 28, 2020. 

Written by
A graduate of Emerson College, Jami Philbrick has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years, and most recently was a Senior Staff Reporter and Video Producer for Mtime, China's largest entertainment website. Before that, Philbrick was the Managing Editor of Relativity Media's iamROGUE.com for 4 years and has written for a variety of magazines and online publications including Wizard Magazine, Nerdist.com, and Collider.com. Philbrick has also been a contributor on Fox News, News 12 Westchester, AMC Movie Talk, and the PBS movie review series, Just Seen It. Philbrick was the 2019 recipient of the International Media Award at the 56th annual ICG Publicists Awards, and has interviewed such impressive talent as Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Bill Murray, Al Pacino, Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Willis, Mark Hamill, Spike Lee, Frances Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Stan Lee, and Kermit the Frog.

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