beast spin-off

As 20th Century Fox’s X-Men film saga comes to an end with the sputtering Dark Phoenix and the long-delayed New Mutants still waiting in the wings, one of the creative forces behind the franchise has revealed a potential Beast spin-off that never happened.

John Ottman, who edited and composed X2: X-Men United, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse, developed a spin-off film that would have starred Nicholas Hoult reprising his role as Beast, aka Hank McCoy, and the story would have tied in to the main film franchise with the appearance of a menacing villain. The entire script is online now, and you can read it – or just a quick recap – below.

Ottman, who won an Oscar last year for editing Bohemian Rhapsody, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his would-be Beast spin-off, which was called Fear the Beast. While Ottman was editing Apocalypse, his assistant, Byron Burton, came to him with the idea of writing a movie about Beast, and Ottman encouraged him to go for it – while also making it clear that the film would likely never happen. But after reading Burton’s first draft (which was written in two weeks), Ottman was impressed and began to think the project could actually work with a budget of about $90 million.

In a shout-out to John Carpenter’s The Thing, the story begins in the late 1980s in an Inuit village, where a creature is terrorizing the residents. THR has a rundown of the rest of the story:

The script then cuts to Hank McCoy, who is living in the X-Mansion and is keeping his mutation in check with a special serum introduced in 2014’s Days of Future Past. During a Danger Room sequence, it becomes apparent Hank is having trouble controlling his beastly nature as he nearly loses control. Early in the first act, we also learn Hank has been helping a scientist who has a similar mutation.

Hank has provided the man with a sample of his serum, but things have taken a vicious turn. Hank goes in search of the man, who he discovers has been terrorizing the Inuit village. The journey all leads to a showdown in which Hank teams up with Wolverine, whom Prof. X has located using Cerebro. The very end of the film ends with a tag revealing the villain Mr. Sinister has been watching the proceedings.

Mister Sinister, a longtime X-Men villain who had never appeared in the films before, was teased in the post-credits scene of X-Men: Apocalypse, and it sounds like there were big plans for him before the Disney acquisition put an end to Fox’s two-decade run on X-films. As Burton explained, “The idea was we would have Sinister as this multi-film villain orchestrating things. We wrote a late-’80s outline of an Omega Red film where the idea is Sinister is testing the X-Men.”

So what happened? Why didn’t the Beast spin-off ever materialize? Ottman was told that because the script featured Professor X and Wolverine, he’d have to get approval from Simon Kinberg, the writer/producer of several X-films who was then hard at work on Dark Phoenix. Kinberg “politely declined to read the script to avoid becoming unduly influenced by it,” citing the idea that he was considering reintroducing Wolverine back into the saga after Hugh Jackman’s departure in Logan, and any other project involving Wolverine may have complicated that plan.

Yes, you’re reading that correctly – it sounds as if Kinberg was seriously considering dropping a new version of Wolverine into Dark Phoenix, a decision that would have set the comic book movie fandom ablaze. (Can you imagine being the person who could have been cast as a new Wolverine in that movie, only for the entire franchise to instantly crumble?)

So in addition to an X-Men vs Fantastic Four movie, we can now add a Beast spin-off, a possible Omega Red movie, and Wolverine showing up in Dark Phoenix to the “what if?” pile of X-Men films as the franchise fades into oblivion. You can read an early draft of Fear the Beast right here.

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