‘X-Men’ prequel to open June 3, 2011

Matthew Vaughn to direct 'First Class' for Fox

Twentieth Century Fox’s prequel “X-Men: First Class” is set for June 3, 2011, with Matthew Vaughn on board to direct.

Moving aggressively, Fox says production will begin this summer, although a cast hasn’t yet been announced.

Bryan Singer, who conceived the story for “First Class” and directed the first two “X-Men” pics, is producing with Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg.

“I’ve been a fan of Matthew’s since ‘Layer Cake,’ ” said Singer. “He has a deft hand with multiple characters and storylines, and a great love of the X-Men universe. I feel the combination of this story and his vision will make for an exciting and original X-Men film.”

The first four films in the franchise, based on the Marvel Comics series, grossed a combined $1.53 billion at the worldwide box office.

“First Class” chronicles the beginning of the X-Men saga, before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto and when they were discovering their powers for the first time. The two men worked with other mutants (some familiar, some new) to stop a global threat. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.

Scribes Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz did a recent rewrite of the script.

” ‘X-Men: First Class’ presents an exciting opportunity to further explore the history and relationships of these beloved characters. Matthew’s combination of talent, verve and vision is perfectly suited to the task,” Emma Watts, Fox’s prexy of production, said.

DreamWorks Animation and Paramount have 3D toon sequel “Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom” set to open on the same date.

Vaughn is currently in theaters with “Kick-Ass,” about a rag-tag group of kids who become real-life superheroes. Vaughn’s ability to blend action with complex characters is what attracted Fox.

The director was on board to direct 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” but left the project before it went into production. Late last week, talks between Vaughn and Fox for “First Class” broke down, but resumed in earnest on Monday.

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