With the world devastated by war, and mutants in particular facing extinction, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his long-time friend/occasional enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen) hatch a plan to send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back in time to his younger self in the 1970s in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
While there, he must convince the First Class era versions of Xavier and Magneto to put aside their vast differences and bitter rivalry to work together and stop the dark, dangerous future from coming to pass. But it won’t be an easy job, as Charles Xavier in 1973 is in a dark place himself – and it might take meeting his future self to knock him out of a deep depression…
Stewart returns to the role of Charles Xavier he originated in 2000’s X-Men, reuniting with director Bryan Singer and his castmates. Slipping back into the character of Charles, Sir Stewart says that, “This time, it's been a little different because the background to our story is such that the X-Men find themselves not at the start of difficult situations, but almost at the climax of them – a time when not just mutants, but all of society is threatened with extinction by these machines, the Sentinels. The drama and intensity really never let up for us in this film; in the past, we've had lighter moments and sometimes even scenes of quite conventional action. But not in this one, because the external threat is so present and so demanding that everything is at a high level of tension.”
Patrick Stewart, who has played Charles Xavier/Professor X for over fourteen years, was not surprised that his character was returning in Days of Future Past. The success of the franchise has been impressive and Stewart could see where the stories were headed. And besides, “It’s going to take James McAvoy a year or two before he actually looks like me,” he jokes.
Stewart was happy to again work with Singer, whose vision has helped define the ambitions and success of the films. One of the changes Stewart has witnessed over the years is the approach to setting up a project of this scale. He had never before worked on a 3D film nor seen animated pre-visualizations of his scenes. The process has become more complex but also more precise, all of which excited Stewart almost as much as finally flying the X-Jet. Moreover, this time Xavier has a wheelchair that “actually hovers!” he marvels.
“Bryan was already a very mature filmmaker when we started working on the first X-Men movie. I think one of the ways he has changed is that Bryan has now become much more sensitive and intimate to an actor's way of working and preparation, and has absorbed that into his directing style and technique. That's something I was very much aware of when we were filming Days of Future Past,” Stewart continues.
Scottish actor James McAvoy returns to his role as the young Charles, who in this story has lost hope, has had his spirit broken, and is more vulnerable than ever before. Stewart shares on his scene with McAvoy, “It was challenging because of the nature of the scene that James and I had to play. It was my last day of work on the movie and his first. So I was in quite a different place and James had to pretty much start cold. But we both found the scene very interesting, and it presented an acting challenge as to how we would respond to being face to face with our younger or older self. I found that challenge fascinating and I wish we'd had more time on-screen together, because I've admired him for many years but never before had an opportunity to work with him until he shot that one scene.”
X-Men: Days of Future Past is the biggest X-Men film to date, a validation of the success of the franchise, but more importantly a culmination of tremendous creative energies from its cast and filmmakers. It is a story that reaches across all boundaries to all audiences.