Olivia Munn has been taking criticism lately for turning down the role of Vanessa in the recent box-office smash hit, "Deadpool."
The role was apparently offered to Munn, but she passed on the opportunity because she didn't want to play the girlfriend, which led to the casting of Morena Baccarin.
When considering the role, a big part of Munn's decision came down to how active a participant Vanessa would be in the fight scenes. "I said, ‘Is there a fight scene?’ ” Munn tells American Airlines' American Way magazine. Despite assurances, the answer was ultimately no. “The fight scene,” she says with a wry smile, “could be her monologue.”
"Deadpool" fans can criticize her all they want, but when it comes right down to it, Munn was right.
Vanessa, for all her sass and no-nonsense bravado, is just the girlfriend. She claims she doesn't do damsel in distress ... while being the definition of a damsel in distress. The main drive of her storyline is the romantic subplot of the film and "Deadpool" unsurprisingly does not pass the Bechdel test. Besides a passing word to another stripper, Vanessa does not even speak to another female during the course of the movie, let alone about something unrelated to a man.
Obviously Vanessa's character evolves into a more integral player in the comic books, but without knowing the plot of the sequel, there is no guarantee the character will ever get to achieve that evolution.
For an actress looking for a strong, feminist role, this one would be an easy pass in spite of the witty writing and passionate fans.
Taking a look at Munn's new character in "X-Men: Apocalypse," it's easy to see why she would have turned down Vanessa for Psylocke, a telepathic mutant who is never far from her sword.
Though she's not the leading lady, she's a powerful villain with more than a few kick-butt action scenes from what we've seen in the trailer. As one of Apocalypse's (Oscar Isaac) four horsemen, Psylocke will apparently have more fight scenes than actual dialogue, which is disappointing but ultimately a better choice for Munn in the end -- because that's what she wants. She told "X-Men" producers that she didn't want Psylocke to simply "be the eye candy" and instead needs to use her "powerful abilities." And the producers assured her that yes, that was an "important part" of the film.
Consequently, Munn went through sword training to learn to handle the katana she can be seen with in the trailer, and she describes Psylocke to Entertainment Weekly as "very lethal, very powerful and very strong."
Not much else is known about Psylocke and her role in the X-Men's next battle yet, but if Munn was looking for a fight, she certainly made the right choice.
These days, a woman doesn't have to be a master fighter to be considered strong, but they do deserve a higher rank in the narrative than "love interest," which was most likely the mentality Munn used when turning down the role of Vanessa. Let's just hope Psylocke lives up to the hype.
"X-Men: Apocalypse" premieres May 27, 2016.