Exclusive: The New Mutants confirmed to feature 'beautiful' same-sex love story
Director Josh Boone and his cast have waited years for the release of The New Mutants, their YA supernatural horror twist on the superhero genre. But for all the scares and phantom apparitions that plague the teen mutants in this X-Men spin-off, there's also "a beautiful love story" at the heart of it. "Which I know is a weird thing to hear," he says.
Word may have leaked early, but Boone confirms that the story he penned with screenwriter Knate Lee features a same-sex "love story" between Rahne Sinclair (Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams) and Danielle Moonstar (Another Life‘s Blu Hunt). "It’s sort of the spine and focus of some of the character-driven stuff in the film," the movie-maker says.
The New Mutants, inspired by the '80s "Demon Bear" comic book arc from writer Chris Claremont and artist Bill Sienkiewicz, sees a group of mutants held at a secret facility against their will because, as the mysterious Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) says, young mutants without full control of their powers can be quite dangerous. It's here that Dani, Rahne, and fellow inmates Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton), and Bobby (Henry Zaga) face terrifying visions that force them to confront the demons of their past (and one ferocious Demon Bear). It's also where Dani and Rahne form a bond, which Williams notes is "a real extension of what is touched on in the comics."
"Rahne and Dani have a telepathic connection in the comics, and so we just wanted to extend that in the film and put that within reality," she explains. "If they really could understand each other on that level, then you’d probably end up falling in love with that person."
While news about this kind of representation feels like a big moment for blockbuster movies, even as Marvel's The Eternals readies to feature a gay couple, LGBTQ audiences are more skeptical. Previous mainstream films, like the live-action Beauty and the Beast, Star Trek Beyond, and even the more recent Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, were praised for LGBTQ representation that never quite amounted to much of anything. For The New Mutants, Williams clarifies the relationship is "not something that is spoken about too much in the film." But that's also why she loved it. It didn't feel like a "gimmick."
"It's not really a story about these two characters understanding their sexuality," she says. "It’s not centered around that and they don’t really necessarily label it. No one else does either and no one really questions it." While the specifics of how this will all play out on screen remain to be seen until the film comes out this April 3, what feels significant is Boone's connection to the backstory of Rahne.
In the comics, Rahne, known more commonly as Wolfsbane for her lychanthrope shape-shifting abilities, was raised by a reverend who tried performing an exorcism on her when the girl's powers manifested, believing her to be possessed by the Devil. Boone and Lee, meanwhile, grew up in Virgina Beach, Va. "We were best friends since we were little babies," the director recalls. "Our moms were best friends, so our families went to the same church. We went three times a week for a decade. We were in the Bible Belt. It was as red as it could get back then." Movies, he mentions, were his "window" into the reality of his Evangelist surroundings. "I remember watching My Own Private Island  when I was 11 or 12 and being like, 'Maybe the people at church are wrong about gay people.' I always felt a bit like an outsider. I’ve certainly had my head put in the toilet when I was a kid at school, had bullies chase us around, had oppressive things that I guess just made me more sensitive to things like that. So, we like to try to push anything [like Rahne and Dani] forward as much as possible."
Hearing Boone talk about his experience made Williams want to sign up for the role. "My upbringing was very similar to the way I live my life now and I hadn’t had to go through any shedding of any things from my past," she says. "So, the fact that he felt so strongly about that and spoke about it so passionately made me want to do a good job for him, really, and I trusted a lot in him and the stories he spoke about."
Boone also calls himself a massive Joss Whedon fan, specifically for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "I just feel like Buffy was so long ago and they did it so spectacularly and they did it in a way that was on TV at the time," he says of the queer representation that came with the character Willow (Alyson Hannigan). "It’s funny movies never quite caught up in a mainstream way." With a hope and prayer — and with more efforts like this — maybe they will.