‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’: Ellen Page ready to reprise Kitty Pryde

May 27, 2014 | 8:00 a.m.
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Sunspot (Adan Canto), left, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) prepare for an epic battle to save their kind in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

la ca 0326 x men days of future 086 X Men: Days of Future Past: Ellen Page ready to reprise Kitty Pryde

Young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets his older self (Patrick Stewart) in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

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Ellen Page, left, as Kitty Pryde and Shawn Ashmore as Iceman in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Fox)

Ellen Page was 18 when she first assumed a superhero pose as Kitty Pryde in “X-Men: The Last Stand.” The 2006 mutant sequel enjoyed a prosperous debut, taking in upward of $100 million at the box office, even if some fans were ultimately disappointed by the way the film adapted the classic Dark Phoenix saga for the screen.

Now, Page is back as Kitty Pryde in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which rocketed to the top of the box office over Memorial Day weekend with roughly $111 million in receipts since opening May 23 and seems to be connecting with fans who are hailing the movie as a return to form for director Bryan Singer.

“I was just stoked to be back and thrilled to play Kitty again,” Page said in a telephone interview with Hero Complex. “She’s grown herself so much and she’s experienced so much horror. Basically they’re just sort of surviving and running for their lives every day. She’s definitely older and seen a bit more, and so have I.”

Directed by Singer from a script by Simon Kinberg, “Days of Future Past” adapts another of the most popular story lines from “X-Men” history, a two-part saga from Chris Claremont and John Byrne that originally ran in 1980. The sci-fi-inflected narrative takes place in two time periods: a dystopian future in which mutants are hunted by deadly robots known as Sentinels, and in the early 1970s, after the events of Matthew Vaughn’s recent prequel “X-Men: First Class.”

Tapping into Kitty Pryde’s abilities, the mutants send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time in order to put a stop to certain events that will set in motion this particular future.

“Days of Future Past” unites the casts of both the original “X-Men” trilogy — including Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as professor Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen as his friend-turned-foe Erik Lehnsherr, better known as Magneto — and Vaughn’s 2011 prequel, which featured James McAvoy as a younger Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto and “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique, a role played in the original films by Rebecca Romijn.

Also featured are Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Halle Berry as Storm, Omar Sy as Bishop and Evan Peters as Quicksilver, with Peter Dinklage joining the ensemble as Bolivar Trask, the mastermind who develops the Sentinels to help humanity defend itself against mutant powers.

For Page, the new film represented an opportunity to revisit her own acting past — she landed the role in director Brett Ratner’s “X” sequel prior to her career-making turn in the Oscar-nominated indie film, “Juno,” about a wise-cracking teenager who is forced to deal with an unexpected pregnancy.

“The first one, I had just graduated high school and I had never been on a set like that ever,” Page recalled. “I had grown up shooting independent projects in Canada and had done one movie in the States that was also very tiny. That was such a new experience, I couldn’t have been more welcomed into that family that had been together in a while…[On 'Future Past'] It was great to work with Bryan because he’d done such an extraordinary job with those first two films and it’s just so clear that he has such an assured vision. This was such an ambitious undertaking of a movie and epic in its proportions. You trusted in knowing that he was going to pull it off.”

Critics seem to agree that the movie is a creative victory for Singer, who most recently directed 2013′s “Jack the Giant Slayer.”

“Days of Future Past” has a 91% fresh rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes; in her review for The Times, critic Betsy Sharkey said, “The massive top-drawer cast — basically anyone who’s ever had a walk-on in an X-Men movie shows up — has never been better employed either. It is amusing and at times moving to see the older and younger versions of key characters as they rewrite a bit of X-Men history.”

While spectacle and an impressive comics history certainly play a key role in the appeal of the movies, Page said she attributes the franchise’s larger themes of alienation and a longing for understanding and acceptance to its continued longevity.

“I love going to the theater and sitting in a room with a bunch of people and watching something that is an absolute spectacle that has you on the edge of your seat, but I also want to be moved,” she said. “I want to have some sort of emotional connection with the material and I think that’s what this franchise has done and probably what has allowed it to have such success. Despite the massiveness of it and all the extraordinary sequences, I find it deeply relatable and deeply grounded and was very moved in particular by this movie. It’s great to be a part of something that explores the idea of otherness and difference and how the fear of that has led to such inequality and violence and suffering in the world.”

Although she’s preparing to shoot a real-world drama called “Freeheld,” about a woman fighting to retain her partner’s benefits in the face of terminal illness, the diminutive actress isn’t ready to leave the world of comic book movies behind. She’s set to play a spy in an adaptation of writer Greg Rucka’s Oni Press title “Queen & Country,” which centers on an English Special Operations Section operative named Tara Chace. The project is set up at Fox and is still in early stages.

“I’m extremely excited and grateful to have the opportunity to play that character,” Page said. “She is very successful at what she does in a world that is dominated by men but has her own vulnerabilities and difficulties and struggles. It’s just a very multilayered interesting young woman who I look forward to getting to play.”

And she’s certainly open to channeling her mutant persona should the occasion arise.

“It is great to be part of a cast that is so diverse and to be able to play Kitty and she’s in leather pants and a leather jacket and looks like a bad-ass,” Page said. “It’s pretty fun. I would love to do it again. I would love to explore her more in a deeper way, but we’ll see what the future holds.”

– Gina McIntyre

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