Hawley Talks X-Men & Aesthetics In “Legion”

With “Fargo” showrunner Noah Hawley on board, there’s a lot of excitement over FX’s X-Men universe set “Legion” starring Dan Stevens as David Haller. In the comics, Haller is Professor X’s son but it’s not clear if that connection will be made in the series.

The project, the first true co-production between Marvel TV and Fox, is also being run by Marvel’s Jeph Loeb and Jim Chory along with “X-Men” film series producers Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner and Bryan Singer who all have executive producer titles on the series.

Has all that control and influence from people who have their own way of representing the X-Men universe had an impact on how Hawley is approaching things? Not really Hawley suggested to IGN this week, in fact he seems to welcome the help:

“Everyone has gotten along so well that I’m not really familiar with what the underlying issues were. But I think that what’s been very rewarding for me is that because everyone has come together because they are passionate about the material and so if there is a prior conflict, I don’t know about them.

I just find that everyone is together and they’re very excited about what we’re doing. And Simon and I have spent a lot of time together. Very early on when I first was flirting with the idea of doing this, I just called Simon because when you can talk to another writer that’s usually the better way to go. And he and I had a few phone calls early on where I said, ‘For the fun of it, let’s just start brainstorming.’

I had a sense of what I wanted to do, and I wanted to get his input because obviously he’s on many levels the creative brain that’s defining what the movies are and what this world is. So, in an abstract way, it began to be clear to me what the show wanted to be, and it’s great to have that sounding board and then to have Marvel as well as a resource. There’s obviously a rich history to this world and these characters, and they have a business model that works very well for them.”

A big part of the appeal was that, much like “Fargo” and “Hannibal,” the aim is to do a whole new spin on a familiar property – being both respectful and yet exploring new avenues:

“You know what was important to me was to treat the material with the utmost respect, and yet at a certain point as a writer, you have to tell your own story. So my approach to the Legion material is similar, which is it’s about a respect for the world, but it’s not about telling stories in that world that the reader is familiar with.

It’s about taking that character and really exploring, almost on an existential level, what it’s like… What a television show can do that a movie can’t do is it’s not just a plot delivery device. It’s not about action, it’s about character and theme and as we see in Fargo, you can really play with structure and you can deconstruct the story in a big way. Whereas in a two-hour movie, it’s ‘What’s the problem? Where’s the bad guy? Let’s go get him!’

So, I would be remiss, I feel like, if I didn’t deconstruct this, if I didn’t really try to do something for the genre that feels personal and interesting to me and to really explore if you have a character who for his whole life has believed that he’s schizophrenic, and is now starting to think that he may have these powers, but he doesn’t know and he doesn’t know what’s real – well, that’s the experience the audience should have.

To be put into his world is to enter something that’s by definition surreal, because he’s hearing things, he’s seeing things… Are these things real or not real? What can you trust that you’re seeing? And he’s stuck in this moment until he meets a girl (Rachel Keller) and he falls in love and now he’s got something to hope for and that’s the catalyst that pushes everything forward.”

Hawley says the show has its own visual aesthetic, one that’s deliberately telling a story “that’s kind of out of time and out of place”. He adds: “Once we started going down a path of a sort of, for whatever reason, mid-60s British design aesthetic, you have to follow that down the rabbit hole. But those visuals are really powerful.”

“Legion” is slated to premiere on FX next year.