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Josh Boone On What Inspired His Take On The New Mutants - Exclusive Interview

Josh Boone made his directorial debut in 2012 with the movie Stuck in Love, but it was 2014's The Fault in Our Stars that really put him on the radar of the moviegoing community. That popular film, based on the bestselling YA novel of the same name, follows two teenage cancer patients who meet in group therapy and subsequently fall in love.

2020 has been an enormous year for Boone. The New Mutants, which he co-wrote and directed, was finally unleashed upon the world during the summer, after wrapping production several years ago and enduring multiple scheduling delays. Helming a spinoff from the X-Men film franchise obviously a career opportunity not many directors would pass up, but New Mutants had personal appeal to Boone as well: In this exclusive interview, he explains to Looper that movies with teenagers as the main characters were important to him when he was growing up.

In the story of a group of teens who are grappling with having superpowers they don't quite understand or know how to utilize, Boone saw the characters' angst as something universal to the human experience, whether you're a superhero or just a regular kid. Read on to learn more about Boone's efforts to shine a light on the complexities that parallel the teenage years while still creating a movie that resonates with viewers of all ages — and offer some thrilling action in the bargain.

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After some delays, how does it feel to have this movie finally in theaters?

I'm really excited, truly, because I did get a happy ending out of this, as bumpy as the ride was during the merger [of Fox and Disney]. I got to release the movie that we made, the way we wanted. I'm excited for people to see it. And it's weird that it's coming out now because it's about kids quarantined in a hospital, they can't leave, and we're sort of all quarantined at our places, you know?

The New Mutants is in an exciting genre — superhero horror. What was it like bringing this particular kind of terror to the X-Men universe?

It's got some scares. I'd say the best sort of merging would be Breakfast Club meets A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It's got a lot of emotional stuff, and character stuff like my previous movies do, but with a new level to it, weird supernatural stuff and superhero stuff. We tried to make something a little different from the average costume movie because most of them star adults; we wanted a teen cast to represent a market for films that weren't being made for teenagers. And to represent the kind of people who feel like outsiders and different demographics that aren't represented usually.

Is there a scene in particular that you think will truly terrify?

Yeah. There are these characters called the Smiley Men, which are from Annie's character's past, which I think are pretty scary and creepy. There are a lot of other elements that don't typically surface in movies like this; I don't feel like.

Is there one thing, overall, that you hope that the X-Men fans will take away from seeing The New Mutants?

I think they should be satisfied with the characters. They represent the comic very well. We (Boone and co-writer Knate Lee) loved them since we were young, and I think fans will too. They seem to be happy with all the scenes they've seen in the footage that's come out over time.

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At The New Mutants' official press junket, you mentioned wanting these characters to reflect their roots in the X-Men universe and have a standalone feel. How do you think you achieved that?

We were inspired by movies that weren't superhero movies. We looked at horror movies and institutional dramas like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Girl, Interrupted. So it was less that we were trying to separate ourselves and more that the kind of movie we were making was based on this very specific comic. This artist in this comic book series changed the way comics were drawn at the time, and they were so evocative and moody and scary and kind of different. We just wanted to capture some of that flavor in a comic book movie, which we didn't feel like had been done yet.

Why was it so important to you that the movie be potent for the teenage crowd?

They made a lot of movies for people when I was young — teen comedies and teen horror movies. They were a driving force, if not the driving force of the box office. It's interesting how now that there are just superhero movies, which I love all those as well, but there's not a real market for teen movies in theaters. So it's like, smuggling one in under the guise of a superhero movie seemed like a fun way to get away with it and do kind of a throwback to the movies that I loved when I was young.

What teen movies helped you shape this particular writing experience?

The Breakfast Club, even teen horror movies back then, a lot of those had teens as the main characters. The high point for me is Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. I thought it was pretty inventive. Those movies specifically and especially, like I said, Cuckoo's Nest with Alice Braga sort of being the Nurse Ratched of the group.

The New Mutants creepy movie set and if there's a future for these super teens

You all had fun shooting on location at an old psychiatric hospital.

Often when people want to make a movie, they'll go make one in Hawaii. We were like, "Let's find the creepiest place we can find to go shoot," and that was our vacation.

Tell us a bit about what the place was like.

It was 150 years old — somewhere in that ballpark. It had been closed for 40 or 50 years. So when they took the doors down and we opened up these buildings, they had teams who had to go inside for weeks and fumigate and get all the asbestos out to make it safe for us to shoot there. There were still scribblings on the walls by patients who had been there. There were rooms where people had committed suicide. There were killers who had been there and done time there. It kind of added to the atmosphere in a real way.

Some of the cast mentioned having weird experiences. Did you?

Personally, I was bolder. I had the flashlight and I was going to investigate as soon as it happened. I'd be like, "Where did this occur?" and then run there and ask, "Is it still here?" Whatever it was, it was never there. We did have some crew members who had some sort of some strange experiences while there. Some felt ghostly presences, heard voices in their ear when they were alone. Some of them insisted on being escorted to their cars at night. There was a weird and creepy vibe there and a history there for sure.

Would you ever consider making New Mutants into a regular television series?

We'd consider anything anybody asked us. I'd always consider it. I'm going to go make some other stuff first and then I'll probably be ready to do it again.

Have you thought about how the New Mutants' story might continue?

Originally, the idea was that it would be a trilogy of films, but we have no plans yet. I sort of just focused on getting the movie done. We would certainly, the cast and I, go make another one in a second. But I think that sort of depends on fandom and on what happens at the box office and all those other things that every movie deals with.