For the cast of The New Mutants, August 28, 2020 is the fulfillment of a journey they began together three or four years ago. For director Josh Boone, however, that journey began when he was a kid.
“I got to write [the movie] with my best friend who I’ve known almost since the day I was born,” Boone explained in a recent interview with iHorror. “Our moms were best friends. And we read Marvel comics religiously together all through the 1980s when we were kids. It’s been a dream our whole life to do something like this, but we wanted to do something different than your typical superhero movie.”
For the writer/director that meant writing a character-driven story, less focused on adult superheroes who have come into their own as people who also have powers. What they created was a movie with a John Hughes cast–if Hughes had been a little more diverse in his casting–set within the world of a 90s horror film.
To create that kind of film, they returned to their childhoods and dug into the Demon Bear saga of The New Mutants. It was during these issues that Bill Sienkiewicz’s artwork came to the foreground and brought a new kind of hero with it.
“We were so inspired by Bill’s work,” Boone said. “It’s like that comic for me wasn’t much before he came onto it. I liked it but it wasn’t special for me or groundbreaking until he became involved.”
With the story locked in place, it was just a matter of finding the right cast to take on these roles.
Early on, they had discussions with Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch) and throughout the writing process, they kept the two actresses informed with new drafts so they could stay in the loop on how their characters were evolving.
Other actors were not so easy to find at least in part because Boone was dedicated to finding talent who were correct, ethnically, for the roles.
“We spent a lot longer looking for Henry Zaga because we wanted a Brazilian actor for that role,” the director explained. “With Blu Hunt, we wanted a real Native American who had real ties to a reservation. We wanted to hopefully bring authenticity by doing that. So that was more like looking at 300 people and trying to find the person that, to you personally, exemplified the character you wrote. Somebody else might have chosen somebody else but they, for me, exemplified most what I needed from the cast. ”
That streak of authenticity runs throughout The New Mutants, and some of it drew direct parallels to the director’s own life.
Boone was raised in an oppressive Christian home which led him to a whole host of mini-rebellions as he grew up, and he says, he can entirely relate to the Rahne Wolfsbane, played by Williams in the film, with her strict upbringing by priests who go so far as to brand her for her “sins.”
Thankfully, Boone’s own childhood didn’t go that far. Instead, he held his own rebellion which manifested in his love of comic books and bands like Pantera and Nine Inch Nails.
“One of the cool things I got to do through this is that I got to meet Marilyn Manson,” he said. “He did the voice of the Smiling Men. So anytime during the movie that you hear the Smiling Men going crazy, that’s Manson in a microphone going nuts. He did a cover of ‘Cry Little Sister’ from Lost Boys, which is one of the greatest movies ever, and we used that in all the ads for the movie. I had some of my rock and roll dreams come true making the movie.”
The director was also proud to be able to bring the love story between Williams and Hunt’s characters to the screen in a way that, he says, might be the first time that a Disney or a comic book actually passes the Vito Russo test for LGBTQ inclusion.
“Their love story is sort of the spine that the whole thing hangs on,” he pointed out. “When I was young I loved My Own Private Idaho; it was one of my favorite movies. I was raised in a household where like, Christians really did believe in preaching in church that gay people went to hell. I mean, it’s no joke. That’s what they said. That’s what I was told is that they were sinners and everything. Movies gave me a real window into the real world to kind of understand what reality was.”
Boone is hoping his own film will do that for young LGBTQ people, as well, as their release date for the film is finally here. It’s a date that has been a long time coming.
The film was in full post-production when Disney and Fox merged which put everything on hold for a full year. Despite rumors of massive reshoots , it was this delay that held the film back for the longest time. They were set to release earlier this year. Then, of course, there were delays due to Covid-19.
As far as Boone is concerned, however, now is the time, and honestly, we can hardly blame him.
“People need to start going back to movies,” he said. “I think it is an essential part of life, especially when it’s done safely with masks and everything. There is a safe way to do this. It’s safer than restaurants. It’s safer than an airplane. I still just feel like I’m ready to go back to the movies. I’m also excited for kids to get to see it. I don’t think there’s many movies nowadays that represent them very much.”
The New Mutants opens this Friday, August 28, 2020. Check your local theaters for listings, and let us know if you’ll be watching on opening day!