A $56 million opening weekend gross is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but when you're dealing with the blockbuster "X-Men" franchise it's still considered a disappointing number. That was the amount "X-Men: First Class" made in its first frame back in June, leading the majority of pundits to tag the film as a commercial underperformer.
Which is why when I briefly sat down with "First Class" producer Lauren Shuler Donner earlier today at an event promoting the prequel's DVD/Blu-ray release this Friday (where we also interviewed Lucas Till, a.k.a. Havok), I was interested in getting her take on its box-office performance. Though her response wasn't exactly frank, it did indicate she was rather let down on opening weekend.
"You know, I don't think there's a movie that any producer does that they don't wish it would do better," said Shuler Donner. "Even though it does well. So I'm glad that we did $56 [million]. I'm grateful for whatever we did, honestly!"
Which begs the question: will we be seeing a second installment in the "First Class" saga? It may not have met expectations, but its worldwide gross of over $350 million still makes it a success relative to its reported $160 million budget.
"I hope so. We're talking about it, you know, we're seriously talking about it," she said noncommittally, before adding, to my next question: "We definitely want Matthew [Vaughn] to come back. Absolutely!"
The next project on the producer's plate is of course "The Wolverine", a sequel to the successful "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" from 2009. While the latter film did well commercially, it was also critically-panned and disappointed many fans of the series.
Not surprisingly, then, "Origins" director Gavin Hood has been swapped out for James Mangold for this installment (following the departure of Darren Aronofsky), with the film taking a completely different approach than its predecessor. Indeed, the fact that it's not called "Wolverine 2" is significant.
"[We want] to distinguish it from the other one," noted Shuler Donner of the title. "It's much more of a standalone [movie]."
As for a start date, though the sequel was originally slated to begin shooting this fall, the production was later reported to have been pushed back to spring 2012. According to Shuler Donner, however, now it's looking more like summer 2012, if anything.
"I'm not sure when we'll start," she said. "Maybe summer 2012 we'll start shooting. It's based on Hugh's schedule, frankly. When he's available, we'll film. ...He's doing 'Les Miserables', and then he has to come and train for us. So it's all dependent on him."
Another looming spin-off of the "X-Men" franchise is the previously-announced "Deadpool" film, with visual effects artist Tim Miller attached to direct. Ryan Reynolds played the role in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", and Shuler Donner told me she can't imagine anyone else but him taking on the part.
"Absolutely, yeah," she responded when I asked whether Reynolds was still scheduled to portray the comic-book mercenary. "I can't imagine...who else could play Wade Wilson?"
She also stressed they would be staying true to the unpredictable character by making the film itself a wild and woolly affair.
"We're working on getting it ready, and presenting some things to the studio, cause we're gonna give it a little bit of a different look," she said. "It's a different kind of movie. If you know 'Deadpool'...it's true to 'Deadpool'. So you know, it'll be violent, and outrageous, and funny, and all that. So we're sort of putting it all together now."
You can pick up "X-Men: First Class" on DVD and Blu-ray Friday, September 9th.
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