I've been getting pretty excited about Matthew Vaughn's upcoming X-Men: First Class prequel all summer, which is why it's so distressing to hear how 20th Century Fox appears to be manhandling the movie's production of late, forcing last-second recasting and rushing the pre-production process.
After a string of box office disappointments - Knight and Day, The A-Team, Marmaduke - Fox realized they couldn't afford to fail yet again. Studio exec Tom Rothman reportedly became "adamant" that the 28-year-old Benjamin Walker, who was originally cast as Beast (a choice we thoroughly approved of) be dropped from the project, in order to search out a younger, sexier actor. In other words, Rothman wanted to give X-Men the Twilight treatment.
It's not a confusing decision: the studio cares first and foremost about their bottom line, and if they think they can squeeze more money out of the X-Men franchise by hiring the next Taylor Lautner, that's exactly what they'll do. In fact, there have been rumors that Fox is currently looking at Lautner's schedule before offering him the role, though the Twilight phenom's shooting schedule for Abduction will likely preclude his involvement. Still, it's a damn shame that Rothman and Fox feel they have to meddle with the creative process of First Class in order to manufacture a hit; isn't that precisely the kind of attitude that has undermined so many films of late?
Meanwhile, Fox execs screen-tested a number of actors after canning Walker, only to shrug their shoulders and offer him the role right back! Unfortunately, it's too late: Walker has now declined the re-offer and will reprise his starring gig in the off-Broadway hit musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson", which is coming to Broadway. So assuming Lautner can't change up his schedule, that means the Beast casting is back to square one. Thanks for nothing, Fox.