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X-Men film editor reveals existence of abandoned Beast spin-off script

By Don Kaye
Nicholas Hoult as Beast

With Dark Phoenix facing a quick fade at the box office and Fox's long-running X-Men franchise finally shutting down, more info about paths that the series never took is coming to light.

We've already heard about the X-Men-vs.-Fantastic-Four script that never got in front of the cameras, as well as alternate versions of Dark Phoenix itself. Now longtime series editor John Ottman -- who cut and composed the scores for X2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse -- has revealed that not long ago he and his assistant penned and pitched a spin-off script starring Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). He's even posted the screenplay, called X-Men: Fear the Beast, online for fans to read.

Ottman told the Hollywood Reporter that the script was hatched in 2016, just as he was finishing up his work on X-Men: Apocalypse. His assistant at the time, Byron Burton, was an aspiring screenwriter and pitched the idea of a movie starring Beast to Ottman. Although the editor wasn't sure if a movie centered around the blue-furred yet erudite scientist could connect with a wide audience, he told Burton to go ahead and write it.

Burton apparently cranked out his script in two weeks, and when Ottman read it he was so taken with the idea that he decided to work with Burton on further drafts of the screenplay and potentially show it to Fox for development.

The story, which Ottman estimated would cost around $90 million to film, was set in the 1980s and revolved around Beast trying to help another scientist with a similar mutation to his. While McCoy was using a serum to keep his beastly nature under control, the other mutant had embarked on a reign of terror through an Inuit village.

Said Ottman, "We wanted to have the tenor of John Carpenter's The Thing where you are in this inhospitable environment."

The script involved Professor X, Wolverine, the anti-mutant hate group Friends of Humanity, and, in one twist, the presence of Mister Sinister, who was shown at the end to be orchestrating events from behind the scenes (the X-villain's arrival was in fact teased at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse but went nowhere).

Ottman spoke with Fox execs about the script, but was told that he would have to run it past Simon Kinberg, who was writing Dark Phoenix at the time and was the main gatekeeper of the X-Men franchise for the studio. Kinberg passed on reading the script himself, saying he did not want to be influenced by it while creating his own film. He also did not want to re-introduce Wolverine so soon after Hugh Jackman had retired with Logan, hoping to eventually bring back the clawed mutant himself at some point.

Ottman would have tried to direct X-Men: Fear the Beast himself had it gone forward, but the idea quietly died at that point. Nevertheless, he and Burton have decided to share the script with fans, cautioning that it is an early draft and would have gone through many changes had it moved into active development.

Would fans have gone to see a Beast movie? The question will likely remain unanswered, but in the meantime, this is just another fascinating look at the many unexplored roads the X-Men franchise could have taken -- and may one day take again.

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