X-Men: Dark Phoenix — Sophie Turner's portrayal of Jean Grey may benefit from her Game of Thrones stint
'I think maybe one of the reasons that they chose me for (Jean in X-Men) is because they saw the dark side of Sansa,' Sophie Turner had said back in 2015.
Game of Thrones provided many an actor with their first major break. Becoming a sensational fantasy series garnering top television ratings, the HBO show guaranteed a perfect launching pad for any budding actor.
Arguably the most malleable associates (owing solely to their premature ages) of the show — Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and Isaac Hempstead Wright (Brandon Stark) — have faced the complete impact of the phenomenon that is Game of Thrones. The three child actors have come a long way from being naive, cared-for pups to mature individuals in their own rights.
While Isaac has been particularly positive regarding the impact of the series on his life, both Maisie and Sophie have spoken out about the ill-effects of constant social media trolling and vigilance on them — and the insecurities that it birthed, as a result of their newfound fame.
That celebrity brings with it mental health issues, is a well-known fact (Kit Harington recently checked into a wellness centre reportedly due to stress and alcohol issues post-Thrones). But that does not take away from these actors' tremendous mass appeal that the HBO fantasy series presented them with. Having hundreds of fan accounts on digital media and millions of followers on her official social media accounts, Sophie Turner's digital worth is nowhere near moderate. (Turner enjoys a whopping 13.3 million followers on Instagram and 2.53 million on Twitter).
On 23 January, 2015, it was confirmed by director Bryan Singer that Sophie would appear in X-Men: Apocalypse (set in the 1980s) as a young Jean Grey. Many, including the actress herself, would believe that Sansa went a long way in establishing this casting.
The actress began Game of Thrones at an impressionable age of 13 years, when she was first cast as Sansa Stark in 2009. Ned and Catelyn Stark's eldest daughter, Sansa, was a spoilt, arrogant teenager, heady with her marriage prospects to Joffrey Baratheon aka Prince Joffrey — Robert Baratheon's successor to the Iron Throne.
It may have been possible to ignore Sansa's superficial ways for the initial few episodes in the series, to the extent that audiences daresay she lacked any substantial storyline. But it became impossible to overlook Sophie's onscreen presence ever since Sansa's father's beheading in season 1 episode 9. Through the showrunners' deft treatment, Sansa's character developed layers, continuously rising above the expected to show yet another surprising virtue.
Throughout seasons 2 to 7, Sophie managed to portray the slow but steady growth of a character snatched from the innocence of a hedonic royal life to face betrayal, death, murder and even rape. Grimmer and shrewder by each episode, Sophie shouldered Sansa's grief and descent into darkness with elegance and maturity. While Sansa suffered, Sophie flourished with critical acclaim and rave reviews of her performance. After Sansa was raped on her wedding night in Season 5, Turner found herself at the center of a national outcry over the show’s use of sexual violence, as pointed out by her X-Men: Dark Phoenix co-star Jessica Chastain.
The actress was consistently nominated (with the exception of 2012) at the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an ensemble in a drama series. She won the Huading and Glamour Awards for Best Actress as well.
In February 2015, Sophie confessed to IGN that her "Dark Sansa" avatar could well have been a prerequisite for her casting as Jean Grey. "I think maybe one of the reasons that they chose me for (Jean) is because they saw the dark side of Sansa," she said. "Maybe they're thinking, 'Oh, Phoenix, Jean Grey.' I definitely see a lot of parallels in there," chirped the then-19-year-old actress.
Through her own deductions, Sophie found parallels between Sansa and Jean. Jean had to always struggle with her superhuman, mutant abilities and was never truly accepted in the human world, much like Sansa's dreams of having a loving husband and a normal, royal life as opposed to an ultimate reality that systematically crushed her desires.
The Dark Phoenix saga chronicles Jean Grey's corruption and eventual redemption as Phoenix in X-Men's cinematic universe. Jean is seen struggling with her identity and telekinetic-cum-telepathic powers in the film. Sansa, though more self-assured than Jean, would tend to fit this bill quite well.
Hopping from one of the world’s biggest pop-culture franchises into another, would then, not be completely alien to Sophie.
Self-admittedly, leaving the shadow of Sansa was not easy for Turner. Once released, Dark Phoenix will show how able Sophie is of carrying a superhero film with such predecessors as Famke Janssen, Haley Ramm, Catherine Disher, Jennifer Hale and the like.
Often considered a "terrible actress" in season 1 of Game of Thrones, Sophie managed to move director Simon Kinberg to tears with her audition of the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse, in which Jean Grey was much more of a supporting character. This evolution was courtesy Game of Thrones, a fact which Turner openly admits. Peter Dinklage (who played Tyrion Lannister) and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) were the main inspirations in Sophie's journey of developing her acting prowess.
Whether she is the most trolled Game of Thrones actress or not, her television debut made Turner an icon. Sansa's appeal via Game of Thrones is sure to bolster the already-popular Marvel franchise, especially with the probability that Dark Phoenix may be Marvel's goodbye to yet another beloved franchise (X-Men) after Avengers: Endgame.
Turner now says that she admires Sansa and her entire character arc in Game of Thrones, especially the fact that the "little bird" got to become the Queen of the independent North. Whether Dark Phoenix resonates the same way with audiences is yet to be determined, but Sansa's legacy is sure to loom large over Sophie's persona for quite some time now.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is slated to hit theatres in Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu in India this Eid on 5 June.
(All images from Twitter)
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