To anyone who stayed to watch the post-credit scene in X-Men: Apocalypse, you would have seen some mysterious men putting samples of Wolverine’s blood in a briefcase saying Essex Corp. Comic-book fans will know this is a reference to Nathaniel Essex, AKA Mister Sinister. This makes it very likely that Mister Sinister will appear as a villain in the X-Men movies sooner or later.
Mister Sinister is a scientist from Victorian England and a contemporary of Charles Darwin – becoming obsessed with his Theory of Evolution. He is an amoral scientist who experimented on mutants to bring on the next stage of their evolution. Mister Sinister himself is genetically altered, giving him a healing factor, prolonged longevity, super strength and in the animated series the ability to blast energy beams. He manipulated Scott Summers/Cyclops since childhood, and he has a particular obsession with the field leader of the X-Men and his partner Jean Grey.
There is a lot the creative forces of the series could work with: they could make Mister Sinister a man contracted to make super-soldiers (a plot thread that was used in Deadpool) for himself or the government, work with Magneto who sees Sinister as a means to an end or maybe force Xavier and Magneto to fight together to stop a greater, remorseless threat to the world.
Considering his English background and being in the social circles of elites (he even attended Charles Dawkins’ funeral) the actor require should play him as a refined Englishman. So let’s look at some actors who would be the best fit to play this villain.
Since starring in the hit sci-fi movie District 9, South African actor Sharlto Copley has had a meteoric rise to fame. His work has been with Neill Blomkamp and he was a scene stealer as Kruger in Elysium – a relentless, sadistic killing machine and Jodie Foster’s personal attack dog. He was a terrific villain and should have had more villainous roles.
Besides from his work with Blomkamp, Copley was the best actor in The A-Team movie – being a funny and manic presence as Howling Mad Murdock and he has had a mix of roles in Hollywood and independent movies since District 9.
Copley’s attempts at an English accent is hit-and-miss: he was awful as the villain in the 2013 remake of Oldboy, playing a fey and non-threatening English businessman. But he had a lot more fun playing a range of British stereotypes in Hardcore Henry –playing a World War II army officer, a punk and doing his best Jason Statham impression.
Copley would have a blast playing a supervillain.
From Pride and Prejudice to Bridget Jones’s Diary, Colin Firth has been a heartthrob in the UK – who in recent years changed from romance lead to the critically acclaimed actor. He has won an Academy Award for his role in The King’s Speech and has starred in a number of dramatic roles since. He gave dark turns in the bio-pic The Railway Man and British thriller Before I Go to Sleep and stole the show in Kingsman: The Secret Service – the action scene in the church was bloody awesome.
Firth has all the virtues needed to play Mister Sinister – the experience in costume dramas and romance movies shows that he can be a prim and proper Englishman, do the cruel and remorseless villain and handle the action scenes. It would be a big coup for the X-Men movies to have an actor like Firth became a part of the series. Maybe Matthew Vaughn could have a word with him?
Like Colin Firth, Hugh Grant has gone through an acting metamorphose – from being the stable performer in rom-coms to be now being a more adventurous actors. Grant broke the mould when he join the ambitious Cloud Atlas where he played a variety of various roles including a corrupt industrialist and the leader of a tribe of cannibals. He also played the head of U.N.C.L.E. in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and was able to go toe-to-toe with Meryl Streep in the dramedy Florence Foster Jenkins.
Even when Grant was a rom-com lead he did a sleazy side – in Love Actually he was the Prime Minister of Britain trying to get with his tea lady, a self-centred man of leisure in About a Boy and was a Simon Cowell parody in American Dreamz. Combined with his performance in Cloud Atlas and Florence Foster Jenkins – where he was underhanded – Grant could play a Machiavellian supervillain, and a role like Mister Sinister would be the ultimate sign of his acting redemption.
Hugh Laurie has come a long way from playing a loveable dimwit in Blackadder to being a highly versatile performer on film and television. Born in Oxford and educated at Cambridge University, Laurie comes from an elite background, perfect for playing Mister Sinister.
American audiences know Laurie best for his lead role in House where he became the highest paid actor for a TV drama and won two Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Award. As Dr. House Laurie was an arrogant, intelligent doctor with a superiority complex – again perfect for the supervillain role.
Laurie also earned a lot of praise for his role as an arms dealer in the BBC miniseries The Night Manager – starring opposite Tom Hiddleston. Plus he has played a posh and pompous MI6 officer in two episodes of the British spy show Spooks.
Laurie has been linked to superhero movie roles before – he was cast to play Perry White in Superman Returns before having to withdraw for his House role and the villainous CEO of OmniCorp in the 2014 RoboCop reboot. Singer should put in a call to his old House star.
If Fox wants to go for a big name star to play Mister Sinister, then an actor like Jude Law would be a good one to go to. At 43, Law is at the right age to play a supervillain like Sinister and he has a long and varied career, starring in sci-fi, crime, historical dramas and comedies.
Law was considered to play a supervillain once before – Bryan Singer wanted him to play General Zod in Superman Returns, but Law was not interested. Law had for a long time shied away from starring in action movies but that has changed in recent years. He has starred alongside Robert Downey Jr. in Warner Brothers’ Sherlock Holmes, being the straight man to Downey’s eccentric Sherlock. Law played one of the most competent versions of Watson, having strong deduction and fighting skills of his own and being a part of a great double act. Law also played a Bond spoof in last year’s Spy and is set to reunite with Guy Ritchie for Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur.
Law has played villainous roles before – he was a charismatic conspiracy theory blogger in Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Contagion and was a truly monstrous and sadistic hired killer in Road to Perdition – a man who gleeful enjoyed taking pictures of people he killed. Law could easily transfer these traits to play the evil scientist.
If Fox and the filmmakers behind the X-Men prefer a more understated version of Mister Sinister then Matthew Macfadyen may be the actor for the role. Macfadyen is a successful TV actor in the UK. He has starred in the first two seasons of Spooks (MI-5 in the USA) – the only two seasons worth watching – the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorritt, the Victorian police drama Ripper Street and Dark Age epic The Last Kingdom. Film fans will properly know him best for his roles in the 2005 version Pride and Prejudice and Paul W. S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers.
Macfadyen can certainly pull off the Victorian gentleman look for a prologue scene or flashbacks; he’s already done it on TV. He has plenty of experience playing characters in high-powered positions and from upper-class backgrounds, so can give Sinister a level of menace. Macfadyen could easily make Sinister be a man from another time who has high-end interests while he plays to dominate humanity.
Clive Owen is one of the nearly men in Hollywood, an actor who was expected to be a big action star – he was the fans’ favorite to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond before Daniel Craig was cast.
Owen is a talented actor who has starred in many great movies like Children of Men, Inside Man and Gosford Park. He won a BAFTA and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Closer and was nominated for the Academy Award.
Owen has shown an intense darkness in some of his roles – in the aforementioned Closer he showed a bitterness when he found out his partner played by Julia Roberts had cheated him, tried to kill Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity – was a thug with a heart of gold in Sin City and went on a personal crusade in the drama Trust.
Owen currently leads the historical drama The Knick as surgeon John W. Thackery, so has experience getting his hands dirty and prefer medical experience.
Becoming a supervillain might be a good way for Owen to reinvent himself.
Irishman Andrew Scott is an actor already well-versed with playing villainous roles – he is Moriarty in the BBC’s Sherlock and being a Bond villain ally in Spectre. He has already played one of the most famous villains in literature, so could easily set in the shoes of a supervillain. Scott has a distinctive look that would be a strong fit for Mister Sinister – he just needs to bulk up and have his skin painted white.
Scott has had a successful career on stage; he has even won the Laurence Olivier Award and he can Sinister that grandiose theatrical style that a supervillain should have. He could also play Sinister as a very charismatic, persuasive figure who can convince mutants to join his cause and give them stronger powers.
Welshman Michael Sheen is known as an actor for having a chameleon-like ability to become his characters – he has played Tony Blair three times, soccer manager Brian Clough and the journalist/TV host David Frost. He has also been able to play his roles as deadly sinister with an underlying menace to being overly theatrical: as he was in the Twilight Saga and Tron: Legacy – so can give the filmmakers options on what type of villain they want.
Sheen would able to make Mister Sinister a physical being – he has got into sharp focus when he played Lucien in the Underworld series. He would easily match the board frame Minster Sinister has in the comics and be an imposing presence.
To most audiences David Tennant is best known for playing the Tenth Doctor, but he is also a prolific actor on TV and the stage. Tennant earned a lot of praise and fandom for his role as The Doctor, getting the right balance between humorous and dramatic – he is my personal favorite out of all the New Doctors. He oozed a darkness of the pain and guilt The Doctor suffered for being overly grandeur – find features for any villain.
Since leaving Doctor Who Tennant’s film career has been lackluster – the only roles have been in the remake of Fright Night and a few small British movies. He has been more successful in Broadchurch, a TV adaptation of Macbeth for the BBC and plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tennant is a talented actor; his English accent is faultless, and he deserves to be given an opportunity in a big role in a Hollywood movie.
However, Tennant is already The Purple Man in Marvel’s JessicaJones TV series which leads to two issues – first that he is already playing a comic book villain, the second that is already linked to the MCU.