In addition to hiring a new, younger Wolverine to take Hugh Jackman's place, X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn said in a just-released interview that he would have made fundamental changes to the structure of the current era of X-Men movies had he continued on in the director's chair. Chief among them: X-Men: Days of Future Past would have been the third movie in a trilogy, rather than the second. This likely means it would have felt more like the heartfelt closing chapter to a generation of films (a la Avengers: Endgame) rather than what it was: a middle chapter so epic it was essentially impossible to top in the next installment.
Vaughn's assessment was right, of course: X-Men: Days of Future Past went on to be a monster hit, with over $700 million earned at the global box office. That finally surpassed longtime franchise "champ" X3: X-Men United as the highest-grossing installment of the franchise. It also earned the highest (at the time) rating an X-Men movie had ever scored on Rotten Tomatoes, at 90% fresh. X-Men: Apocalypse, which came next, was a disappointment critically and commercially in comparison.
"That's one of the reasons I didn't continue, because they didn't listen to me," Vaughn told Coming Soon. "My plan was First Class, then second film was new young Wolverine in the 70's to continue those characters, my version of the X-Men. So you'd really get to know all of them, and my finale was gonna be Days of Future Past. That was gonna be my number three where you bring them all…because what's bigger than bringing in McKellen and Michael and Stewart and James and bringing them all together? When I finished the Days of Future Past script with it ready to go I looked at it and said, 'I really think it would be fun to cast Tom Hardy or someone as the young Wolverine and then bring it all together at the end.' Fox read Days of Future Past and went 'Oh, this is too good! We're doing it now!' And I said, 'Well what do you do next? Trust me you've got nowhere to go.' Then they did Apocalypse and it's like…if you flip that 'round even, it would have been better. Hollywood doesn't understand pacing. Their executives are driving 100 miles-per-hour looking in the rear-view mirror and not understanding why they crash."
The X-Men franchise as it currently exists will end in June with X-Men: Dark Phoenix, a film that will bring together Vaughn's X-Men one last time to face their most powerful foe yet: Jean Grey, one of their own members. In a spacefaring epic, the team will have to reckon with the Phoenix Force, the same powerful and volatile energy that Jean tapped into in order to defeat Apocalypse in the previous installment. Once the movie is finished, it is likely that none of these actors will return to the roles, since Marvel Studios, who now control the film rights to the X-Men again, have suggested that fans will not see them again soon.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be in theaters on June 7.