Director Josh Boone and actress Blu Hunt talk about the movie finally landing and an awkward screen test involving Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams.
It was set to be in theaters in April 2018. Then it got delayed. And delayed again. And again. Finally, The New Mutants will be released this Friday.
It’s been a long journey for the movie directed and co-written by Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars). Four young mutants played by Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) and Henry Zaga (Looking for Alaska) are held in a hospital for psychiatric monitoring. Doctor Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) helps them deal with their superpowers, until the arrival of a new patient, Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), changes everything.
Boone and co-writer Knate Lee based the script on a three-issue arc with the character Demon Bear from author Chris Claremont and illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz. « We were really trying to honor the artwork and the tone in the 1980s comics, » Boone told me during a video chat in which he called Claremont and Sienkiewicz’s work both « dark » and « impressionistic. » The director said he wanted his movie to be a horror superhero story like the comics.
But The New Mutants doesn’t only aim for that feel. « It’s also kind of a John Hughes movie, like The Breakfast Club, where it’s much more character-driven and focused on the individual traumas the characters have experienced, » Boone said. « I’m a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I like a little humor in there, some gags and some laughs. »
When asked about working with a cast made of five young twentysomething stars, the director praised the experience. « It keeps me younger. »
There’s something else that sets this movie apart from other superhero installments: the love story at its heart between the female characters played by Hunt and Williams. « In the comics, those two girls have a telepathic connection. They had an intimacy that the other characters didn’t have, and as Knate and I worked on this, it just became apparent that they were going to fall in love, » Boone said.
Once Williams, known for her role as faceless assassin Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, got the role of Rain, she helped Boone find the actress who’d played Dani. As part of their first test read to gauge their chemistry, Hunt and Williams had to kiss. « We hadn’t met before. It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been. I felt that my whole career was riding on that kiss with Maisie Williams, » Hunt told me via video chat. « But we were able to engage like friends immediately, and the chemistry was already there. »
For Hunt, the relationship her character shares with Williams was part of the appeal of playing Dani Moonstar. « I love the love story between her and Rain [Williams]. I’m the lead of an X-Men film where I also got to have a girlfriend — instead of a boyfriend — and I got to be an indigenous superhero, » the actress said. Hunt is of Native American Lakota ancestry. Her character in the movie is Cheyenne.
The New Mutants team is well aware the movie has had a few more release dates than normal, even for COVID-19 times. But they’ve opted to face uncertainty with graciousness and a sense of humor.
Hunt was only 21 when she made this movie, and she told me she’s grown a lot since she played that character. « I don’t know if I could have played Dani as who I am now. I think it worked that we were the same and very young. But it’s been nice to figure out what I want in my life and out of my career. If the movie had come out right away, I wouldn’t have had any of that time and it could have been overwhelming. »
« You can ask me anything, » Boone said when I started inquiring about the soap opera around the movie release. The filmmaker referenced the merger between 20th Century Studios with Disney in 2019 as traumatic. « We found ourselves in limbo for maybe a year. That’s what I call ‘the dark time,' » he said. But Boone insists the rest of the process was positive — from the shooting to being able to finish the movie on his terms and witnessing its ultimate release in theaters.
He’s even happy the film is in cinemas the same week some viewers will get to see two other highly anticipated movies: Tenet and Bill & Ted Face the Music. And he has some advice for those who decide to check out The New Mutants: Wear a mask and follow the theater’s safety protocols.
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