New Mutants has received its latest, FIFTH release date, which is Aug. 28, 2020. Only time will tell if it somehow manages to get theatrically released this time.
Some films simply have it rough. They’re troubled through production, through release, and through reception, with seemingly every bit of luck landing against them. To be the director or producer of such a film, one would have to question at some point whether a curse has been leveled against you.
And then there’s the likes of The New Mutants, which takes idle phrases like “bad luck” and “development hell” to the next level. Even in the annals of “troubled” studio films, this Marvel superhero entry stands out for just how many times it has been either delayed or entirely derailed. Most recently? The New Mutants made it within three weeks of a wide studio release before being taken off Disney’s release schedule (along with Mulan and others) once again, due to the ongoing novel coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak that has thrown worldwide film culture into an era of uncertainty.
For some of the other films, it was an undeniably bad break. But for The New Mutants, it was just one more entry in a seemingly unending series of misfortunes, which has to make one wonder if we’re destined to never see a proper release at all. This film has now been given no fewer than four release dates, from April 13, 2018 to April 3, 2020, and missed them all, having been in active development since 2015.
Here then, from the beginning, is a brief history of everything that has gone wrong with Fox’s—and then Disney’s—The New Mutants.
— Josh Boone is an up-and-coming director known for his two films to date: 2012’s Stuck in Love and 2014’s teenage box office smash The Fault in Our Stars. Riding high on that success, he turns toward a passion project: an adaptation of Marvel’s The New Mutants, a seminal 1980s X-Men spin-off that greatly expanded the Marvel mutant-verse from the original X-Men team. Boone, a fan of the comics from childhood, is fittingly joined by his childhood friend Knate Lee as co-writer, and the pair pitch their idea for a dark, horror-tinged, teen-driven New Mutants to producer Simon Kinberg, who had served as a writer and producer on 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise ever since 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Kinberg likes what he hears, and the ball gets rolling on The New Mutants. In the almost six years that have followed, Boone has yet to release another project he directed—and The New Mutants is once again without a release date.
How fans presumably feel every time an update arrives on New Mutants.
— In May of 2015, Fox announces its deal with Boone to direct The New Mutants, from the script by Boone and Lee, with Kinberg and Lauren Shuler Donner producing. The film is announced as a single, stand-alone feature, but Boone reportedly hopes to create an entire trilogy of New Mutants features.
— The rest of the year is seemingly spent with Boone and Lee working on a first full draft of the script. They consult with comics artist Bill Sienkiewicz, one of the artists of the original New Mutants series, and he reportedly approves of Boone’s vision. Boone describes that vision as the following:
These are all going to be horror movies, and they’re all be their own distinct kind of horror movies. This is certainly the “rubber-reality” supernatural horror movie. The next one will be a completely different kind of horror movie. Our take was just go examine the horror genre through comic book movies and make each one its own distinct sort of horror film. Drawing from the big events that we love in the comics.
— Kinberg states that Boone and Lee are still working on the script, and notably throws out the words “young adult” in describing the tone. This will prove significant, as the question of whether the film is oriented more toward “serious” horror or “YA” will become a major sticking point at both 20th Century Fox and eventually Disney.
— The casting of Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams and The Witch/Split’s Anya Taylor-Joy is first rumored, and then confirmed. They’ll eventually be followed by Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton and relative newcomers Blu Hunt and Henry Zaga.
— Many casting notes from this period, however, never come to pass. At various times, Kinberg stated that James McAvoy’s Professor X would appear or be significantly involved in the film, while the same is also said of the young mutant Storm, as played by actress Alexandra Shipp in X-Men: Apocalypse. Kinberg also says the film will feature mechanical alien Warlock. All are eventually written out of The New Mutants, establishing another trend.
— The script undergoes the first of its extensive re-writes, from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who had written The Fault in Our Stars and The Spectacular Now.
— The character Demon Bear is cited as the main antagonist of The New Mutants, but is later removed from that position, although it still appears in the film as it exists today. The film’s principal villain is still unclear, even in the most recently released trailer from January of 2020. There’s still much speculation on who (or what) ultimately serves as the film’s antagonist, or whether it was intended to be explored more fully in sequels that will likely never happen. Several possibilities can be glimpsed in the most recent 2020 trailer, below.
— The New Mutants officially enters pre-production in April of 2017, more castings are announced, and it receives the first of its prospective release dates: April 13, 2018. Boone still seemed optimistic about the prospect of having the film be genuinely horror focused, saying at the time that it would be “a full-fledged horror movie set within the X-Men universe. There are no costumes. There are no supervillains. We’re trying to do something very, very different.”
— Simultaneously, however, more writers—including Josh Zetumer, Chad and Carey Hayes, and Seth Grahame-Smith— were being invited to “tear apart the script and put it back together” in an effort to move away from the “full-fledged horror” that Boone was talking about. It seems a compromise was reached, intended to move the film in a more YA direction and keep the PG-13 rating in mind, avoiding what was termed “excessive blood and scares.” Also affecting this was the relative disappointment, both critically and commercially, of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, following which the timeline of New Mutants was moved to the present day instead of the 1980s.
— Principal photography runs from June 10 to Sept. 16, 2017. It’s a difficult shoot for Boone, as those close to the director report him feeling “neutered” to some level, “as he was forced to tone down the violence in order to avoid a dreaded R-rating,” and was “contractually obligated to shoot what was in the script.” Despite that, Boone reportedly turns in a first cut of the film that satisfies him. The film also has its first test screening, with fairly strong results.
— But along comes a factor that changes everything: The immense box office success of New Line’s It, which would eventually go on to tally more than $700 million worldwide and become the highest-grossing horror film of all time. Only weeks later, the first teaser trailer for The New Mutants is cut together, and a decision is seemingly made to exploit the surging market for horror by focusing on those elements of New Mutants. Perhaps surprisingly, the reaction to that first teaser is quite positive, leaving 20th Century Fox with a potential problem: They’ve promised a horror film via the teaser, but have more of a YA drama in the can. The original teaser is below.
— In order to end up with a “scarier” finished product that more accurately resembles the tone of the successful trailer, 20th Century Fox schedules reshoots for The New Mutants, and pushes back its release date to Feb. 22, 2019. However, the scale of those proposed reshoots grows larger and larger, with eventual plans to reshoot 50% of the film and add several new characters. This results in another change to the release date, which is moved to Aug. 2, 2019, with the eventually unsuccessful X-Men: Dark Phoenix (also written/directed by Kinberg) instead stepping into the February slot. Ironically, the desire has now become for the extensive reshoots to bring the film much closer to Boone’s original “full-fledged horror” vision.
— The timeline for reshoots, however, is complicated by another massive factor in the entertainment world: The steadily progressing bidding war and eventual legal entrapments of the proposed 20th Century Fox/Disney merger. With a large degree of uncertainty in the air, the film sits in limbo, and the proposed reshoots are continuously postponed.
— Despite Kinberg stating that reshoots would begin in late 2018, because “audiences really embraced the notion of a superhero movie or a comic book movie that was, in its core, a horror film,” no progress is made on scheduling those reshoots, owing both to the chaos of the merger and the fact that no one can agree on the breadth of what should be in the additional shooting. As the merger finally comes to a close in March of 2019, the reshoots still hadn’t been scheduled, or even planned. At this point, rumors begin to seriously circulate that the film will never receive a theatrical release, and could end up being released via a Disney-owned streaming service such as Hulu or Disney+.
— Disney announces yet another delay to the New Mutants release date, to its most recent April 3, 2020 release, and Kinberg says that reshoots will still happen in late 2019. They do not happen.
— In August, word comes out that Disney is reportedly “unimpressed” with the existing cut of the film. As Variety reports at the time: “Disney is optimistic that handing Fox superhero properties such as “Fantastic Four” and “X-Men” to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige will improve the quality of these movies, but bumps must be smoothed over in that transition. The studio is unimpressed with New Mutants, an “X-Men” spinoff with a haunted-house vibe, and believes it has limited box office potential.”
The New Mutants cast, still hanging in limbo.
— Despite this, Disney reaches out to Boone and invites him to return to assist with finalizing editing on New Mutants while visual effects work continues.
— Boone clarifies that reshoots on the film never ended up happening—not even standard pickups—saying that the advancing age of the cast eventually made it an especially unrealistic proposition. Talking to Entertainment Weekly, he says the following: “Everybody said we did reshoots! We’ve never done reshoots. And I’ll tell you this: if there hadn’t been a merger, I’m sure we would’ve done reshoots the same way every movie does pickups. We didn’t even do that because by the time the merger was done and everything was settled, everybody’s older.”
— The New Mutants finally approaches its long-awaited fourth release date, only to find itself postponed once again last week, as studios pull films from release and theaters shutter their doors in response to the ongoing COVID-19 virus outbreak. After everything, The New Mutants once again has no release date.
And that’s where we find ourselves today—with an X-Men spin-off movie that was shot in 2017, still with no release in sight. Since the beginning of The New Mutant’s writing period, we’ve seen the release of Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix, but the last vestige of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men era is still out there, waiting for its moment in the sun. Hopefully, Boone will at least have the satisfaction of having this film released in theaters some day, but if the fates are truly turned against New Mutants, one hopes we’ll at least see it on a streaming service eventually.
Although with this particular film’s luck, even that might be asking a lot.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident genre geek. You can follow him on Twitter for much more film writing.