Academy Award-nominated actress Jessica Chastain is joining the ensemble for this year’s newest (and possibly last) X-Men film, DARK PHOENIX. The trailer has set up her character as the villain who encourages Jean Grey to embrace her dark side. The latest trailer for DARK PHOENIX has her boast that Jean can attain the powers of a god. That’s all well and good, but there’s one problem: we do not even know who Jessica Chastain is playing! The identity of this bad guy is likely going to be one of the five choices detailed below. Some are clues that the filmmakers and actors give out. Others are just good ol’ speculation.

The Phoenix Force is a Visual Being

Jessica Chastain's character speaks to Jean
Courtesy of Fox

Jessica Chastain can play the manifestation of a godlike being in DARK PHOENIX. In the comics, the “Phoenix” Force is a gigantic fiery bird in space, inspired by the mythical phoenix of folklore. However, writer Simon Kinberg may decide to go with an A-list actress to fill the role of the being. It makes sense visually if one wants to show the connection between Jean and the Phoenix on a more down-to-earth level. In the front half of the 2nd trailer, Jean Grey cries out, “Why would you make me do that?” That question fits well in the context of the “Phoenix” Force taking over her consciousness from the inside.

Jessica Chastain is an Alternate Jean Grey from DARK PHOENIX

Jessica Chastain's character looks ahead
Courtesy of Fox

The X-Men universe of late does not shy away from time travel or alternate universes. A really strange twist for DARK PHOENIX can be that Jessica Chastain is playing Jean Grey herself! To be more specific, she is a different Jean from a different universe or future. The new Jean is one that completely gives over to the “Phoenix” Force. In a grab for power, Chastain Jean travels back to the 90’s timeline to take over that universe. This has precedence in Marvel Comics, as that is often the goal of Kang the Conqueror. Additionally, I think Jessica Chastain is perfect casting for an adult Jean Grey.

Ultimate Lilandra is Ultimately a Logical Choice

Jessica Chastain's character stands by dressed in black
Courtesy of Fox

Many fans speculate that Jessica Chastain is playing Lilandra, the alien queen of the Shi’ar Empire. This is due to the character’s role in the Phoenix Saga storyline involving the M’Kraan Crystal. Chastain has great casting for that kind of part, evidenced by her experience with Shakespearean drama and her tendency to play rich people. However, this seems too zany, even for the X-Men franchise. The title DARK PHOENIX indicates that the film will skip the entire Phoenix Saga. After all, the Dark Phoenix saga is the second half of that storyline.

The now-defunct Ultimate Universe of Marvel has a grounded, less extravagant Lilandra (first seen in ULTIMATE X-MEN #66) that can be used as the basis for Jessica Chastain’s character. This Lilandra is the leader of the Shi’ar Church of Enlightenment. She believes the “Phoenix” Force is a benevolent god and wishes to experiment with Jean Grey. It is a solid, grounded basis for her introduction as a villain.

A Female Mastermind is Within Possibility

a character uses psychic powers to alter the space around her
Courtesy of Fox

If Simon Kinberg plans on staying accurate to the original source material, he is going to include Mastermind, the evil manipulator who helps to turn Jean Grey into Dark Phoenix. Through a long period of well-made lies and deception, he convinces an increasingly unstable Jean that she is the queen of the Hellfire Club. Jean turns on the X-Men for a time. But when she watches Mastermind kill Cyclops, she loses control and attacks him. The “Phoenix” forcefully takes over her mind and body, hence the moniker Dark Phoenix. To subvert audience expectations, Jessica Chastain could possibly be a female version of this mastermind character.

Jean Can Be Suffering From a Split Personality

A character walks through an empty town
Courtesy of Fox

Kinberg is not only a writer for DARK PHOENIX but also one of the X-Men franchise’s worst films, THE LAST STAND. The 2006 movie attempts to recreate the Dark Phoenix storyline. Instead of using fire gods, secret societies or space queens, THE LAST STAND defines the “Phoenix” Force as a split personality of Jean Grey that Xavier has blocked from her conscious mind. When it unlocks, she becomes inexplicably violent and murderous. DARK PHOENIX can really just be a repeat of the story beats of the 2006 movie. This time, however, they visualize this for the audience as a separate entity that Jessica Chastain plays.

The Verdict for Jessica Chastain in DARK PHOENIX

Of all these possible options, I suspect that Jessica Chastain plays a split personality to Jean Grey. In the first teaser trailer for DARK PHOENIX in September, Xavier mentions doing something to Jean Grey’s mind. He ‘protected her’ and ‘kept her stable.’ This follows shots of a young Jean possibly killing her parents with telekinesis. Chastain’s role is so central to the movie’s plot that its status as a secret dates back years. It lets the audience know that she’s not even really ruining the surprise reveal when watching it for the first time. While it is not my favorite way to depict the Dark Phoenix story, that is the way I suspect Simon Kinberg will go this June.


  1. Michael Edward

    Michael Edward

    May 11, 2019 at 12:20 am

    I’m guessing a version of Lady Mastermind.


    • John Keene

      May 13, 2019 at 10:02 pm

      I agree, has to be Lady Mastermind. Plus, shows some illusionary powers Chastain has. Could be at the end, she is revealed to be the REAL Mastermind, in disguise all along.


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