In celebration of The New Mutants premiere on HBO Max, The Koalition looks back at their virtual press conference with Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Alice Braga, Charlie Heaton, Blu Hunt, and Henry Zaga joined writer/director Josh Boone as they discussed their characters, the movie, and more.
Twentieth Century Studios in association with Marvel Entertainment presents The New Mutants, an original horror thriller directed by Josh Boone and written by Boone and Knate Lee. The film stars Emmy nominee Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Henry Zaga and Blu Hunt.
Rahne Sinclair (Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Heaton) and Roberto da Costa (Zaga) are four young mutants being held in an isolated hospital for psychiatric monitoring. Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Braga), believing the teenagers are a danger both to themselves and to society as a whole, keeps a close eye on them as she struggles to teach them how to rein in their mutant abilities. When newcomer Danielle “Dani” Moonstar (Hunt) joins the other patients in the facility, strange occurrences begin to take place. The hospital’s patients are plagued by hallucinations and flashbacks, and their new mutant abilities—and their friendships—will be tested they battle to try to make it out alive.
“It’s so wonderful, I think. There was a lot of uncertainty with this film and when it was going to get released. And, to know there was an audience still willing to wait as long as it took, and even through this pandemic have been so supportive, it’s just been really exciting. I can’t wait for people to finally see it,” Maisie proclaimed.
“They’re my favorite fans because they actually don’t complain. They just do really cool artwork of the characters. There’s probably 100 plus pieces of artwork fans have done I’d still like to figure out a way to get permission from everybody and do a book,” said Boone.
Boone and Lee were both fans of the X-Men comics and were especially drawn to the New Mutants storyline, which debuted in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 in 1982. Written by Chris Claremont with illustrations by Bob McLeod, the series introduced a whole new cast of characters who had little affiliation with the students from Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
The characters’ powers and backgrounds were more unconventional and very psychological compared to the rest of the mainline X-Men characters. “It was the first X-Men spinoff comic ever, and it was done at a time when the X-Men were thought to be dead, so Xavier had to bring new students together,” explains Boone.
“I wrote this with my very best friend in the world. We’ve known each other since we were little babies. Our moms are best friends. And we grew up in the 1980’s reading Marvel Comics, and I still vividly remember to this day seeing the covers of the New Mutants comics because they did not look like any comic book covers I’d ever seen before. They were painted, they were impressionistic, they were, had a more slippery surreal look than typical comic books do. So, they really captured my, imagination, and I thought about them really for years. I remember being in L.A. when I first moved out 10 years before I even made a movie. I had a stack of New Mutants comics, and I was like one day,” said Boone.
“I was lucky enough to have made a movie for Fox that was successful, and begged them to let us take a crack at these comics. So, it all goes back back to my childhood or goes back to things I feel real passion and love for, because that’s really all that can sustain you through how long it takes to make something, get it made, shoot it, write it, edit it. We try to pick things we have deep, passionate feelings for to hopefully connected to our childhood,” Boone continued.
The New Mutants was filmed on location in and around Boston from July 10th to September 15, 2017, almost entirely in Milbury Hospital, where there is a certain amount of claustrophobia written into the story. The team was looking to effectively capture that trapped feeling with the filming location.
Luckily, they found an abandoned medical facility in New England comprised numerous buildings, of which they were able to gut and clean five buildings and make them safe for filming. The hospital is its own character in the film, and the atmosphere of being in a place that is real adds to the overall creepiness of the location.
“Filming there really helped to get the feel of [the movie]. Having actual walls and actual energy felt like we were doing an independent film sometimes. It wasn’t only blue screens and creating. Filming at night was kind of scary. I wouldn’t walk by myself. There was no way,” said Ana-Taylor Joy.
“The setting really helped because it did feel like we were kind of in a high school slash college experience. But we were all going to the same place every single day, and then going back to dorms. It was like a college experience, but where the set you were on somebody had hung themselves there maybe 40 years before,” Anya-Taylor Joy continued.
The new mutants in Milbury Hospital become haunted by their pasts in the form of manifested visions, and it is only through these flashbacks or hauntings the audience sees the characters outside of the hospital.
“Several crew members who had weird experiences there had to be walked to their car at night because they were scared to walk there by themselves after they’d be in the buildings all day. People definitely had weird encounters,” said Boone.
When the story begins, the five protagonists are fragile and confused kids, and by the end of the film they have all become the New Mutants, and it is a story told in an interesting way. The New Mutants is very much a coming-of-age story about young adults accepting what’s happened in their pasts so they can move forward into the future. We all have a history and past we have to move beyond, and within this story we wanted to embrace a narrative which provides a strong emotional spine.
“It is still a horror film,” adds Boone, “it’s just one that is more in the vein of a horror novel, so it’s more character driven but with that added horror aspect as well.”
The characters at the heart of this story are grappling with their burgeoning mutant abilities as well as real issues all teenagers face, and they are all able to deal with their issues and problems together. The cast grew quite close as a result.
“During production for us kids, we actually lived in a situation that mirrored what the characters were experiencing on screen,” says Anya Taylor-Joy, “because we were five strangers who came together and basically had to use each other as family, building blocks every single day, and that’s exactly what these kids went through in that hospital.”
When it came to casting the five young mutants around whom the story evolves, Josh Boone wanted to ensure the characters were grounded and credible. Each of the five main characters has suffered some sort of trauma that involved someone dying or damaging someone else’s life, and Josh Boone wanted to be sure the young characters were different from those personified on screen in previous X-Men films.
Fortunately, it was a fairly simple process due to Boone’s past experience with young actors. “These characters are teenagers,” said Boone. “They are dealing with things like being horny at the same time they’re having these terrible things happen to them, so our intent was to have those things happen in that reality.”
“Horror movies are a great escape,” says Boone, “because you can go to the movie theaters and deal with all the anxiety you don’t want to think about when you are lying in bed at night staring up at the ceiling. It’s like a healthy way to go through all that.”
“Any opportunity to go back to teenagedom is not necessarily the most fun experience, but you definitely learn a lot about yourself afterwards. It’s interesting because I think we all came into this knowing that whilst we were making a superhero movie, we weren’t really making a superhero movie. We were making a film about people who were having a tough time understanding themselves and figuring out their place in the world,” said Anya-Taylor Joy.
“And so, to make it a bit more cinematic, we added powers. But, I do think any teenager that’s going through the growing pains [and] trying to understand where you fit in, you’re no longer a child, but like, what is this weird adult world. I think they’ll definitely connect with it,” Anya-Taylor Joy continued.
“The New Mutants was really made for teenagers who are outsiders, people who feel out of place and who are going through a tough time in general. I sort of always say, I make couch movies, which are like, when I was a teenager and I was really depressed, I’d have like a certain movie I’d pop on and go lay on the couch. It made me feel better. So, it’s like these kind of movies are those kind of movies where, hopefully, they’ll be your friend,” Josh Boone concluded.
The New Mutants is available now on HBO Max.