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Actors, directors tackle what Disney/Fox deal could mean (update)

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‘I would love to see Iron Man and Hulk and Wolverine together’

Ben Rothstein

Update (Dec. 14): Disney has announced that it will acquire a majority of 21st Century Fox assets, including the rights to X-Men, Avatar, FX Networks, and The Simpsons.

Original story: Disney and 21st Century Fox are expected to close a deal this week giving Disney ownership over Fox’s TV and film properties.

This means Disney will own the rights to certain Marvel franchises, such as The X-Men, Deadpool and The Fantastic Four. The film rights to Marvel Comics characters have been divided for quite some time; Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, for example, which meant that up until very recently, Marvel Studios couldn’t use Spider-Man in its movies. It was only when a deal was struck between Disney and Sony Pictures in 2015 that the former company could license the character for its Marvel Cinematic Universe films. This upcoming acquisition is a little different.

Unlike the Spider-Man situation, in which Sony still owns the rights to the character, Disney would fully own the rights to every Marvel superhero currently under Fox’s banner. The company won’t have to rely on licensing to feature Wolverine in an Avengers movie.

For some actors and directors, the move to create a unified cinematic universe in which every Marvel superhero can play in is a step in the right direction. For others, including Logan director James Mangold, there is some concern about what this could mean for their future.

“If they’re actually changing their mandate, if what they’re supposed to do alters, that would be sad to me because it just means less movies,” Mangold told Deadline. “The real thing that happens when you make a movie rated R, behind the scenes, is that the studio has to adjust to the reality that there will be no Happy Meals. There will be no action figures.”

20th Century Fox found a lucrative business model in R-rated movies. Both Deadpool and Logan benefited from the creative freedom to explore adult topics and use vulgar language, which many Marvel movies by definition can not. Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive, told investors in a recent call that Disney, including subsidiaries like Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios, would never make a hard R-movie.

A Bloomberg report says otherwise. Acquiring 21st Century Fox would give Iger the opportunity to release more mature movies under a different umbrella. There’s no reason that Iger would get involved with character cross-pollination if he saw the deal as a means to an end for cashing in on the release of movies he can’t produce at Disney. Bloomberg notes:

At Disney, Iger scaled back film releases, focusing on a handful of key brands. His strategy with the Fox assets could be very similar, using the 20th Century Fox label for some of the more edgy movies, for example.

That’s not to suggest that Disney and Marvel Studios couldn’t incorporate some of Fox’s more popular characters for their own movies. This acquisition will give Disney a chance to explore what the Avengers and the X-Men or Spider-Man and Deadpool look like on screen together. Could the Fantastic Four team up with a new Avengers team in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

No one’s quite sure, but that hasn’t stopped actors like Hugh Jackman, who played Wolverine for 17 years and came to define the character, from feeling the slightest bit of resentment over what the future cinematic superhero landscape looks like. Jackman told Collider:

It’s interesting because for the whole 17 years I kept thinking that would be so great, like I would love to see, particularly, Iron Man and the Hulk and Wolverine together. And every time I saw an Avengers movie I could just see Wolverine in the middle of all of them like punching them all on the head. But it was like, “Oh well, that’s not gonna happen,” and it was interesting just when I first saw that headline — it was just the possibility of it and who knows what’s gonna happen, obviously — I was like, “Hang on!” But I think, unfortunately, the ship has sailed for me, but for someone else I would like to see Wolverine in there.

It’s an uncertain time and that means people are concerned about what happens next with some of the most beloved franchises in film right now. Fans are worried, directors are on edge and actors are reminiscing over could have been. There are a few actors, however, who are more than happy to see if the deal can reunite friends once and for all.

If the deal goes through, it will be one of the biggest ever in the film industry. A Disney-Fox deal is estimated at more than $60 billion; Iger’s last major acquisition — the $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 — pales in comparison.