Director returns to mutant franchise for Fox

Twentieth Century Fox has set Bryan Singer to direct “X-Men: First Class,” returning him to the franchise that began with the first two installments of the mutant series. Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg are producers.

Singer had been flirting with the project since last summer (Daily Variety, Aug. 13). Deal was made after the studio sparked to a detailed treatment he wrote for the film. Jamie Moss was hired to write the script, and the studio will move aggressively.

Singer told Daily Variety that he thought long and hard about returning to the franchise he launched until he found a storyline that would stand on its own.

“This is the formative years of Xavier and Magneto, and the formation of the school and where there relationship took a wrong turn,” Singer said. “There is a romantic element, and some of the mutants from ‘X-Men’ will figure into the plot, though I don’t want to say which ones. There will be a lot of new mutants and a great villain.”

In the film, Xavier and Magneto will be twentysomething, and the film sounds similar in construct to the J.J. Abrams-directed “Star Trek.”

“Whether it’s ‘Batman,’ ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Star Trek,’ if the characters are good, you want to see them on their journey even if you know their destiny,” Singer said. “I put myself in the fan’s position, and I think this story is something I would want to see, and so will they.”

Fox has launched the “Origins” project by hiring Josh Schwartz to write the script. Singer went back to the drawing board but feels so in synch with the concept and the writer that he feels the project can come together quickly. The studio is separately developing an origin film on Magneto, another about Deadpool and a sequel to last summer’s hit “Wolverine,” which Singer said he liked.

Singer hasn’t fixed on his next movie, but he is in a holding deal with New Line for “Jack the Giant Killer,” which is still working out its conceptual visual development of the giants.

Singer is also attached to direct “Battlestar Galactica” and, after a rights issue was cleared up, he’s beginning to develop a remake of “Excalibur.”

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