Miss Sinister Marvel Comics

Rumor of the Day: Jessica Chastain will play a gender-swapped Mr. Sinister in X-Men: Dark Phoenix

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Feb 4, 2019, 3:00 PM EST (Updated)

Has a new rumor finally brought Jessica Chastain's X-Men: Dark Phoenix role to light? We've known for a very long time now that the sequel to 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse would tackle the iconic "Dark Phoenix Saga" of X-Men comic book fame, and that writer/director Simon Kinberg intends to present a much more faithful adaptation of the saga than what we ended up getting in X-Men: The Last Stand.

So, when the Oscar-nominated Chastain was cast in a mysterious role in the film, fans immediately began speculating over where she might fit in the saga. Is she a new character created for the big screen version, a classic character like Shi'ar Empress Lilandra (something Chastain herself denied), or someone else?

Whoever she is, Fox still hasn't revealed it, and that reveal might have to wait for some time now that Dark Phoenix's release date has been pushed back from November of this year to February of next year. We might not have to wait for official news, though, if the rumor that surfaced late last week is correct.

On last Friday's episode of Meet The Movie Press, The Tracking Board's Jeff Sneider (who just dropped a massive behind-the-scenes report about the retooling of The New Mutants), revealed that he heard something about Chastain's Dark Phoenix role which could finally bring a classic X-Men supervillain to the big screen.

"We still don't know who Jessica Chastina is playing, do we? I heard a rumor this week," Sneider said. "What if — and forget the pronouns here — what if Jessica Chastain was playing Mr. Sinister? That's the rumor. I don't know what that means. I don't know who Mr. Sinister really is. But yeah, I think that's a possibility. It's a possibility."

Note that Sneider very clearly said "a rumor" and "a possibility" when discussing this idea, so take this with a grain of salt. That said, Sinister is a villain Fox's X-Men cinematic universe has already teased. A post-credits scene from Apocalypse mentioned the Essex Corporation (Sinister was born Nathaniel Essex), leading many fans to believe a physical appearance by the character couldn't be far behind. According to Sneider's New Mutants report, that appearance was originally set to happen in that film, with Mad Men star Jon Hamm playing the character in a scene at the end of the film. That appearance was ultimately scrapped, and now Antonio Banderas is apparently set to appear as another, still-unnamed villain, leaving Sinister up for grabs. 

If that's true, Dark Phoenix could be a logical fit for the character in some form. Sinister doesn't have direct involvement in the original saga (he didn't make his first on-panel appearance until 1987, several years after the story concluded), but his overall comic book history charts a path of manipulation that stretches throughout the lives of various characters, including Cyclops and Jean Grey (he created the Jean Grey clone Madelyne Pryor, for example, who ended up being the mother of Cable). A gender-swapped version of the character is also not without precedent. In 2008, after Mr. Sinister's apparent death, a fail-safe to ensure the survival of his consciousness was activated in the form of Claudine Renko, an Essex test subject injected with his DNA who grew to possess his powers and his villainous tendencies and eventually became his host body before he transferred on to yet another clone. This character, who took the supervillain name Miss Sinister, has a relatively brief history in X-Men comics so far, but her villainous tenure remains intriguing (not to mention a major source of cosplay inspiration).

So, is it possible that Chastain is playing Miss Sinister, a host body for the supervillain, or just playing a full-on gender-swapped version of the character (Natalie Essex, perhaps)? Well, here's how she described her Dark Phoenix character, in the vaguest possible terms, to Entertainment Weekly back in December:

“Her character is way way smarter than we are," Chastain said. "What she realizes is she can use [Jean Grey] to manipulate this world, to turn it against itself.”

Well, she certainly sounds sinister... Plus, we've heard reports that most of Dark Phoenix's reshoots revolve around the film's third act, so even if Chastain wasn't initially playing Sinister, she could be revealed as such by the end, perhaps even in a post-credits teaser for the eventual sequel.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix arrives in theaters February 14, 2019. What do you think? Is Miss Sinister arriving with it?

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