The first two members of Josh Boone’s X-Men: The New Mutants, currently set to be released April 13th, 2018, have finally been officially announced. Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) will play Illyana Rasputin, aka. Magik, a mutant teleporter and magician in possession of a wickedly cool “soulsword” (and is also the younger sister of steel-skinned gentle giant X-Man Colossus) while Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones, Doctor Who) will play Rahne Sinclair, a werewolf-esque mutant with a helluva Catholic guilt complex.
While this morsel of X-Men casting is intriguing, it wasn’t exactly a hot scoop for those in the industry know. Drew McWeeney reported rumors of Taylor-Joy and Williams’ involvement in New Mutants waaaaaaay back in March 2016 when he was still writing HitFix’s MotionCaptured. Boone had also been dropping hints of the actresses’ involvement since the start of the year. The casting lacks a certain amount of surprise, but I don’t fault Fox in the slightest for snapping up these two actresses for their newest X-Men film. Taylor-Joy is one of the most interesting younger up-and-coming actresses and Williams’ performance as the formidable Arya Stark, along with her non-GOT work on Doctor Who and films The Falling and iBoy, also mark her as an actress to keep a close eye on.
It certainly wouldn’t hurt Fox to draw from the Game of Thrones well again for prospective talent (drawing from the Downton Abbey cast clearly worked for Disney). Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey was one of the very, very very few good parts of X-Men: Apocalypse, and Fox is doubling down on their investment in her with their third swing at the Dark Phoenix Saga. There have also been rumblings of Turner appearing in New Mutants, which would bring some added value and intrigue to the film. I bet a lot of people would be interested in seeing the on-screen Game of Thrones siblings acting opposite one another on the big screen.
Fox is going to need all the help they can get to steer their main X-Men films back on course. Deadpool and Logan have been critical and commercial stand-alone successes that have appeased X-Men fans and buttressed the franchise, but their central X-Men films are back at square one. With James MacAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence jumping ship from the franchise, Fox needs the cast of New Mutants to click with audiences. Hopefully the casting for remaining fellow New Mutants Cannonball, Sunspot, and Mirage will soon come out of the woodwork. I am holding out hope that Fox will use New Mutants as an opportunity to assemble a diverse group of superheroes. However, the cold, cynical lizard side of my brain is telling me there’s a more than decent possibility that Fox executives would prefer to cast Blake Lively, Cherokee Princess, as Mirage and call it a day.