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‘X’ marks McKellen’s spot

Thesp to play supervillain Magneto

Classically trained actor Ian McKellen is set to don supervillain garb to star as Magneto in 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men.”

Pic, to be directed by Bryan Singer, is based on the Marvel Comics series.

Pic marks a reteaming of McKellen with Singer, who directed “Apt Pupil,” in which the Brit thesp portrayed a former Nazi living in an American suburb.

In “X-Men,” McKellen once again plays a baddie, Magneto, the Master of Magneticism (whose weapons include force fields) and leader of a band of evil mutants who battle the X-Men, a team of genetic mutants with superhero powers. Magneto’s wicked pathology can be traced to his mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis during WWII.

Though they are often feared and hated by the very humans they protect, the X-Men are bonded by a dream to one day live peacefully with humans. Magneto and his clan, on the other hand, feel that the only way to achieve that same goal is to conquer the humans and rule the world.

Magneto’s counterpart among the X-Men, Professor Xavier, has not yet been cast, although Fox is in talks with thesps for that role as well as the remaining villains and X-Men. In addition to Professor Xavier, the X-Men include Storm, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine and Rogue. Pic is slated to go before the cameras in August in Toronto.

Lauren Shuler-Donner is producing, and Ralph Winter is taking exec-producing chores on the pic, for which Edward Solomon and Christopher McQuarrie will get screenwriting credit.

In addition to his critically lauded roles in the films “Apt Pupil” and “Gods and Monsters,” McKellen has recently appeared in Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” in L.A. and Chekhov’s “The Seagull” and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in England. Contrary to previous reports, McKellen will not appear in Par’s sequel to “Mission: Impossible.”

McKellen is repped by ICM’s Chris Andrews.