Does the X-Men franchise have its next big villain? It very well might. X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which looks to atone for the crimes of X-Men: The Last Stand, is going into production later this year and, as such, the casting process is underway. Thanks to a new report, it looks like Fox has their sights set on Jessica Chastain (The Martian, Crimson Peak) to play the main villain in the movie.

The report comes courtesy of Deadline, who were also able to confirm that longtime X-Men franchise writer and producer Simon Kinberg has officially been tapped to direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which is slated to hit theaters on November 2, 2018. This will mark his directorial debut. No pressure. As far as Jessica Chastain goes, she hasn't signed on the dotted line yet, but is currently in talks to play Shi'ar Empress Lilandra, who will reportedly serve as the main villain for X-Men 7.

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For those who may not be up to date on their relatively obscure Marvel characters, here's a bit of her character history and how she ties into the Phoenix Saga. Lilandra Neramani is part of the Shi'ar empire and has some serious family issues. D'Ken, her brother, currently occupies the throne and her sister, Deathbird, wants it for herself. So, she kills her parents and her older sister, which leads to her exile and denial of the throne. Unfortunately, D'Ken is a power mad, pretty awful dictator. So, Lilandra turns against her brother and is branded a traitor. She then makes her way to Earth to seek out Charles Xavier and the X-Men. She actually has a serious bond with Charles and that is a big thread that is pulled over the years in the comics.

As far as her specific involvement with the Phoenix Saga, she is pretty key. During the Phoenix Saga, the X-Men, specifically Phoenix, manage to stop D'Ken's plan, who is banished after being driven mad. But not all is roses. Lilandra ends up being one of the people who wants to imprison Phoenix, a very powerful entity that takes over Jean Grey, and winds up holding a trial by combat to determine her fate. So yeah, there are a lot of threads to pull on there.

There is a pretty rich character history with her, and one that ties in heavily with Professor X. But, as far as villains go, she isn't necessarily like Apocalypse, who is straight-up bad. So it looks like we could be getting some shades of grey with this version of Lilandra Neramani. Or a pretty big rewrite of the character. Could D'Ken wind up actually being the bad guy with Jessica Chastain as, pardon the pun, a bit of a red herring? In any case, it opens the door for a lot of possibilities, and a possibly much more faithful cinematic version of the Dark Phoenix story, one of the most cherished and beloved X-Men storylines of all time.

In addition to the news of Jessica Chastain's possible casting, Deadline also confirmed that Michael Fassbender (Magneto), James McAvoy (Professor X), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Nicholas Hoult (Beast), Alexandra Shipp (Storm), Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler) are all going to return for X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which is a big deal. It should also be noted that Angelina Jolie is rumored to be in the running for a role in the movie, probably the villain as well. But it has also been said that she isn't likely to wind up with the part, so there's that. One way or the other, that is a whole lot of star power.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott