The Big Picture
- Matthew Vaughn has a long history with the X-Men franchise, having been initially tapped to direct two different installments beyond “X-Men: First Class”.
- Vaughn left “X-Men: The Last Stand” due to creative differences and feeling rushed, leading to its final version deemed as cramped and lacking emotion.
- Vaughn walked away from the X-Men franchise to direct the Kingsman movies because he wanted to work on projects he could put a more personal spin on and disliked how Fox decided to make “Days of Future Past” as the direct follow-up to “First Class”.
Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn has only really inhabited two different universes in the wake of his 2007 feature Stardust. The first was his 2010 motion picture Kick-Ass, while the other is his Kingsman universe, which has spawned a trio of motion pictures taking place over an entire century of European history. The 2024 title Argylle sees Vaughn stepping outside of those two confines for almost the first time in nearly 20 years — emphasis on almost. Between Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service, Vaughn did step into the X-Men universe with X-Men: First Class.
On the surface, Vaughn’s time helming First Class may just look like a quick detour into commercial PG-13 territory before returning to the Mark Millar comic book adaptations that really excite him. In reality, though, First Class was the middle chapter of Vaughn’s very strange relationship with the X-Men movies. For nearly a decade of his life, Vaughn was always on the fringes of this franchise by way of being tapped to direct two different installments of this saga beyond First Class. Those additional X-Men features never got made, but the outspoken Vaughn has never been shy about explaining to the public what his version of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days of Future Past would’ve looked like and what led to him walking away from those blockbusters.
X-Men: First Class
In the 1960s, superpowered humans Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr work together to find others like them, but Erik’s vengeful pursuit of an ambitious mutant who ruined his life causes a schism to divide them.
- Release Date
- June 1, 2011
- Matthew Vaughn
Matthew Vaughn Has a Long History With the X-Men Franchise
In the final days of March 2005, Kobe Bryant, playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, managed to score 32 points for his team even while being constantly swarmed by rival players. Taking down the Knicks that day was a challenge for Bryant and his teammates — almost as much of a challenge as taking the reins of the X-Men saga in the mid-2000s. In that same month of March 2005, 20th Century Fox announced who would be taking over for director Bryan Singer in helming the third X-Men feature. After the popularity of X2 in 2003, the pressure was on to keep the quality train rolling without any bumps for whoever took over this franchise. The choice to take over was Matthew Vaughn, who had only helmed one movie (Layer Cake) before tackling such a massive property. While women filmmakers and directors of other marginalized identities often need years of experience directing before they can helm blockbusters, Vaughn got the keys to the X-Men franchise after just one movie.
Just three months later, though, Vaughn departed the film, with Brett Ratner taking over the proceedings. Before Vaughn left the blockbuster, he’d already cast Vinnie Jones as The Juggernaut, a role that united Jones with Vaughn after the latter produced Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, a Guy Ritchie film featuring Jones in a prominent capacity. Also firmly cast before Vaughn left was Hank McCoy/The Beast, who would be inhabited by Kelsey Grammer. Vaughn’s casting of this character turned out to be so on point that Marvel Studios would have Grammer reprise the character 17 years after The Last Stand in an end-credits scene on The Marvels. Despite getting all these actors assembled, 20th Century Fox spokespeople said at the time that Vaughn had left simply to spend more time with his family.
Years later, though, Vaughn would reveal that a key reason for him leaving the project was that Fox executives had planned to dupe Storm performer Halle Berry with a fake script full of scenes focusing on Storm saving people. After learning that this was Fox’s attitude towards Berry, Vaughn wanted out of the proceedings. Vaughn has also previously said that scheduling was a key reason for why he left The Last Stand. Hired to helm The Last Stand just 14 months before its domestic debut, the filmmaker felt like he was rushing to meet a release date rather than making something that could live up to X2.
Vaughn would later elucidate that the final version of The Last Stand by Ratner felt like a cramped, rushed affair with no emotion. Per this filmmaker, his incarnation of The Last Stand stretched on for at least 40 additional moments and actually let major character developments like Jean Grey’s (Famke Janssen) turn to the dark side have weight. Vaughn was clearly unhappy with how The Last Stand turned out, but he would get a chance to wrap up his unfinished business with the X-Men by helming X-Men: First Class. That title turned out to be just big enough to inspire 20th Century Fox to green-light a sequel, which Vaughn was confirmed to direct at the start of 2012.
Matthew Vaughn Knows How ‘Kingsman 3’ Begins and Ends [Exclusive]
The director offered an update to Collider about the trilogy capper.
Vaughn Left X-Men to Direct the Kingsman Movies
Back when he was first promoting X-Men: First Class, Vaughn opened up about his idea for how a First Class sequel should begin. “I thought it would be fun to open with the Kennedy Assassination, and we reveal that the magic bullet was controlled by Magneto,” Vaughn explained, an idea that seemingly solidified that any future First Class continuations would be set in the 1960s. This concept was confirmed in earlier comments by Vaughn about a potential First Class sequel, which he felt should be set in the latter half of the 1960s and exploit key parts of the culture of that era like The Beatles. Vaughn had very concrete ideas about where this sequel should go, but by the summer of 2012, rumors began swirling that this feature would instead be focused on the Days of Future Past comic book storyline, not necessarily more late ’60s adventures.
Just a few months after it was confirmed that the X-Men: First Class sequel was transforming into a Days of Future Past adaptation, Vaughn stepped down from directing the sequel. Bryan Singer would take over the proceedings and Vaughn would shift focus over to the first Kingsman movie. In February 2014, Vaughn said that the reason for his departure simply came down to him wanting to tackle projects that he could put a more personal spin on, rather than working within a franchise built on Singer’s earlier films. He would later clarify that Fox’s decision to make a Days of Future Past movie as the direct follow-up to First Class caused him to walk away from the franchise. The director instead wanted to do another solo outing with the younger X-Men (featuring Tom Hardy as a new incarnation of Wolverine) before concluding with a Days of Future Past feature.
Vaughn’s wishes didn’t come true, though, and he decided to bolt to greener pastures. Working within the confines of a pre-existing franchise and big studio mandates just doesn’t seem to be something Vaughn feels comfortable with, especially when studio executives want to rush titles like The Last Stand and Days of Future Past to the big screen. It’s no wonder, then, that Vaughn has been more interested in developing his own properties and bringing them to the silver screen. Even with that interest, though, Vaughn has repeatedly tried to get further X-Men movies beyond First Class off the ground — they’ve just never been able to mutate into finished features for a variety of reasons.
X-Men: First Class is available to stream on Hulu in the U.S.
Watch on Hulu