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Why the cast of Dark Phoenix looks so familiar

Somehow, the world is not yet sick of superheroes. We've been through over a decade of Marvel mania, three reboots of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and a movie in which Harley Quinn and Killer Croc team up to take down DC D-Lister Enchantress — and still, the public clamors for more. And so comes Dark Phoenix, the fourth in the current slate of X-Men films, adapting Chris Claremont's iconic "Dark Phoenix Saga" for the screen for the second time. Trailers feature Jean Grey, psychic powerhouse, embracing the true, galaxy-spanning potential of her powers — and the world around her cowering in fear of it.

But before we watch her unleash madness, let's catch up with the stars of this movie. It is, frankly, a cast absolutely jam-packed with talent, with experience in everything from the most obscure arthouse work to the biggest theatrical success stories of the past decade. We've got people who've played vampires, soldiers, hardcore nerds, and old-school hip hop figures in this movie, to say nothing of the fact that some of them double as stuntmen, models, and stage performers. Take a moment to enjoy them, before Jean Grey reduces them to cosmic ash.

Tye Sheridan

Cyclops is a hard character to get right. The conflicts that define him are internal ones that can, given the wrong acting choices, easily slide from "interesting" to "whiny." His mutant ability means that the audience never gets to look him in the eyes. He's got enormous potential, but in the timeline of the current X-Men movies, it's still mostly just that: potential. Playing Cyclops means playing a moody teenager without making him seem self-obsessed, a superhero whose power can only really be used one way, and a kid who's on his way to being cool… but very much isn't there yet.

Happily, Tye Sheridan has proven to be more than up to the task. And it's no surprise why — in a relatively short period of time, he's crammed everything from pop-culture wastelands to meditations upon the nature of human civilization into his career. Prior to portraying Cyclops, Sheridan was most well known for his role in The Stanford Prison Experiment, a dark look at the historical event in question, and his part in Terrence Malick's dreamy, existential Tree of Life. Since his debut as Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse, he's also wowed audiences as Wade, the hero of Steven Spielberg's dizzying pop-culture adventure, Ready Player One. Though the movie's reviews were mixed, Sheridan's performance lent its kaleidoscopic excess some gravity and meaning through sheer force of talent. Cyclops, it seems, is only the beginning for this star in the making.

Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender is a true performer, as comfortable in an anti-psychic supervillain helmet as he is in a searing psychodrama. With his expressive face and quietly powerful presence, he can command attention as hero and villain alike — which is lucky, because Magneto loves to play jump rope with the line between the two. Will he be okay with Jean Grey accessing the most frightening parts of her godlike psyche in Dark Phoenix? Will he and Mystique end up in the midst of another fling? Will he just get fed up with the whole thing and move back to that forest in Poland we saw in X-Men: Apocalypse? Fassbender's versatility makes it all seem possible.

His work shows off this level of skill massively, sustained through years of acting. Many viewers were first introduced to him through Band of Brothers, where he played a minor role as Burton P. Christenson, or his star turn as the stormy, secret-keeping Rochester in 2011's Jane Eyre. Since he began playing Magneto in X-Men: First Class, he has portrayed everything from a chilly artificial intelligence in Prometheus, Macbeth in the 2015 film adaptation, and Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave. There's a chance you might also recognize him from a very different medium as well — he played Aguilar in Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed.

Sophie Turner

It's been quite a busy few years for Sophie Turner. As the complex, good-hearted Jean Grey, she wrestles with powers even her mentors barely comprehend the scope of — and she's set to lose control entirely in Dark Phoenix. But she's been juggling a similar part in Game of Thrones' Sansa Stark, a starry-eyed maiden who descends, over the course of eight seasons, into darkness. In portraying Sansa, Turner has faced down evil of every kind, from murderous, wine-swilling royalty to snot-nosed brats with an entire mountainside's worth of armies at their beck and call. Through it all, she has maintained an inner strength that has led her back home to her ancestral seat. Sansa, in contrast to Jean, went through the worst and came out stronger. In Jean, we'll get to see her do the opposite — she's been barely keeping it together, and is set to explode.

Nicholas Hoult

Playing a role like Beast is no easy thing. You have to emote effectively enough that the audience sees past the blue fur and prosthetics, but not so broadly that you end up cartoonish. You have to generate pathos from an origin story originally aimed at midcentury children. You have to make people take an overgrown Muppet seriously as both a threat and a dramatic presence. It's a lot to ask of anyone, even the most veteran actor around. It is a positively huge amount to ask of a guy like Nicholas Hoult, who isn't yet 30 years old.

Luckily, he's up to the job. Hoult distinguished himself early as antihero Tony Stonem on British TV drama Skins, establishing both the character's charisma and his adolescent cruelty with finesse. Since then, Hoult's gone on to everything from absurdist costume pieces in The Favourite (in which he played Robert Harley) to bleak, animated rabbit psychodrama in Watership Down. But if there's one thing you probably know him best for, it's his role as Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road. Nux is a chrome-huffing maniac who names his tumors, but because he's played by Hoult, he's also a soft-hearted dreamer who goes out in a blaze of optimistic glory. From the wasteland to Xavier's School, Hoult will make you believe in his characters.

Evan Peters

Comic book movies spawn those most pernicious of online arguments, wherein no one agrees on anything, the stakes range from the dramatically huge to the entirely petty, and everyone ends up angrier and more frustrated than they started. The X-Men series is absolutely no exception in any regard, except for one — pretty much everyone loves the recent sequences of Quicksilver, moving at hyperspeed, messing with the slow-motion world around him. Set to jaunty soundtracks and elegantly choreographed, these scenes end up as beautiful as they are hilarious, all while genuinely advancing the plot. They are a rare, nearly unanimously agreed-upon delight.

The actor portraying Quicksilver, Evan Peters, has a lot to do with that. But it's no surprise to anyone who's been following his career, as he's been playing comic roles for years now. Millenials and their Gen-Z siblings might remember him from Disney Channel's Phil of the Future, in which he played Seth Wosmer, a nerdy friend of the titular time-traveling protagonist. In Kick-Ass he played Todd, better known as Ass-Kicker and an enormous fan of Kick-Ass himself, who he does not realize is his friend Dave. There's a chance you might also know him as Luke Cooper from modern classic The Office as well, but you likely remember him better as "Michael's bratty nephew who screwed up everyone's coffee orders and got spanked." 

But even among all these memorable performances, Peters has never had a better showcase for his talents than American Horror Story. He's played over a dozen different characters across eight seasons of the FX anthology series.

James McAvoy

James McAvoy is a true star and an actor's actor — two things that often do not coexist… but in him, they do. The British performer is as game to appear in Oscar-winning period pieces as he is in Professor X's wheelchair. If you're like many, your introduction to him was as Mr. Tumnus in Disney's adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia, in which he managed to pull off the hitherto undreamt-of shirtless-with-a-scarf look. He then distinguished himself as Robbie Turner, the tragic male lead in 2007's Atonement, who loves a highborn girl despite his lowly station, family politics, and the advent of World War II. 

Recently, when he's not busy molding young mutant minds, McAvoy has been exploring everything from animation — Gnomeo & Juliet and its sequel, Sherlock Gnomes — to playing a villain with 23 personalities in Split. The next year will add two huge new roles to his already bursting filmography, when he will play Bill in It: Chapter Two and Lord Asriel in HBO's adaptation of the celebrated His Dark Materials series.

Alexandra Shipp

Alexandra Shipp might be young at just 27 years old, but she's been busy making quite a splash. As Storm in the X-Men series, she intertwines the character's nobility (and impressive weather-centric powerset) with a striking vulnerability that lights up every scene she's in. She's hanging with the bad guys for now, but there's a certain something in Shipp's performance that lets you know that's only temporary. 

It is this good-heartedness and warmth of performance that distinguished her in Love, Simon as well. As Abby, one of Simon's best friends, Shipp brought a sunny kindness to scenes as intense as the moment Simon came out as gay to her, and to ones as silly as being a teen among teens at the local Waffle House. In Straight Outta Compton, however, she was surrounded by quite a bit more drama — and rose to the challenge splendidly as Ice Cube's wife, Kimberly Woodruff. One thing is clear from Shipp's filmography so far: she's going places fast.

Jennifer Lawrence

Why does Jennifer Lawrence look so familiar? Take your pick. It'd be more surprising, really, if you didn't recognize this superstar's famous face. Lawrence has been all over the silver screen in a variety of roles, ultimately establishing herself as one of the premiere stars of the 2010s and likely for years to come. Most prominently, she played Katniss Everdeen in the blockbuster Hunger Games series. As Katniss, Lawrence brought a taciturn, hardship-honed heroine to life — and still managed to find the tenderness at the heart of her. 

Beyond that juggernaut of a franchise, she brought wickedly black humor to Silver Linings Playbook as Tiffany, a young widow trying to handle her grief in all the wrong ways, and a zestful unpredictability to American Hustle's Rosalyn. Most recently, apart from her role as Mystique, audiences watched her play a Russian ballet dancer-turned-spy in the thriller Red Sparrow. With headlining roles in two of the modern era's most successful action franchises, Lawrence didn't just hit the ground of her career running — she started, and has continued, in an all-out sprint.

Kodi Smit-McPhee

Nightcrawler is a truly weird character. He looks demonic — what with the forked tail, yellow eyes, and inky blue skin — and yet throughout most of his incarnations, he is a devout Catholic. His powers allow him to sneak up on anyone in a "BAMF!" of dark smoke, and yet he is scrupulously kind. He's shy, but his looks impede invisibility. All of this adds up to a beloved X-Man many comic aficionados consider a favorite — and one heck of a role to take on. 

Kodi Smit-McPhee, as it turns out, is exactly the guy for the job. It's no surprise, as he's a celebrated performer with experience in a wide variety of genres despite the fact that he was born in 1996. He burst onto the scene as "The Boy" in 2009's The Road, a bleak apocalyptic tale about a father and son traveling across a devastated landscape. He followed this up with 2010's Let Me In, a stirring horror story in which Smit-McPhee plays Owen, a young and guileless boy who does not realize that Abby, his new best friend, is an immortal vampire. Two intense parts for any actor to take on, let alone one so young — but Smit-McPhee rose to the occasion. More recently, he starred as an Ice Age hunter who befriends and tames a dire wolf in 2018's Alpha. What's next for this dynamo? We feel comfortable saying "big things."

Jessica Chastain

No one's quite sure who Jessica Chastain will be playing in Dark Phoenix, beyond the facts made obvious by the promotional material. She'll be an alien shapeshifter of some sort, an agent of someone or something that wants Jean Grey to embrace her enormous powers, and she'll sport dazzlingly white hair. Only one thing is ironclad: the character will be played well, because Chastain knows what she's doing.

Though an enormous portion of Chastain's filmography has become critically and commercially acclaimed, there are a few films in particular that you're likely to know her from. Many were introduced to her work by 2011's The Help, in which she played the kindhearted Celia Foote. She followed this up in 2012 with Zero Dark Thirty, which saw her become Maya, a CIA operative tasked with tracking down Osama bin Laden. The hits go on, from Molly's Game to Crimson Peak (no one has ever looked better in a bloodstained 19th-century nightgown), but she's likely to have one of her biggest hits ever in 2019 as she takes the role of Beverly Marsh in It: Chapter Two, the sequel to the 2017 box office smash. Between then and now, we'll learn who she's playing in Dark Phoenix — but we already know she'll do a great job.

Andrew Stehlin

Compared to many of the names on this list, Andrew Stehlin's career flies a bit more under the radar. But actually, that's just because he's so incredibly good at what he does. Stehlin is, for the most part, a stuntman whose job is to blend seamlessly into the movie. You've seen him do his thing in The Lord of the Rings series, 2005's King Kong, and Starz's Spartacus series, rolling, jumping, and flipping as everything from an elf to an ancient. But recently, he's been dipping his toes into the world of acting itself — and he's racking up praise. He distinguished himself in vicious fashion as Arvin, a monstrous vampire terrorizing a small Alaskan town in 30 Days of Night, and did similarly impressive work as No Pupils in 2017's Ghost in the Shell. Now that he's set to portray superhuman martial artist Red Lotus in Dark Phoenix, he'll have one more impressive appearance to add to the list.