SECRET IDENTITY: Casting Matthew Vaughn's 'X-Men: First Class'

With "Kick-Ass" director Matthew Vaughn officially locked and loaded for "X-Men: First Class" with a release date scheduled for June 3, 2011, it's time to start thinking about the next major piece of the puzzle: casting.

One of the concerns with "First Class" is its status as a prequel to the original "X-Men" trilogy. How faithful does it have to be to the established continuity of producer Bryan Singer's "X-Men" films? Do we need actors that look like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and the rest? Are Bobby Drake and Warren Worthington off the roster since they were new to the team in the first three films?

For my tastes, I think original continuity isn't as important as coming up with the best movie possible, though it's nice to honor Singer's efforts wherever possible. With that in mind, here are a few casting suggestions I would make for some of the possible "First Class" players.

Mark Strong as Magneto: If "Sherlock Holmes" and "Kick-Ass" proved only one thing, it's this — Mark Strong is a great bad guy. He's strapping on the villainous tights as Sinestro in "Green Lantern," but I also think he would be perfect for Magneto in "X-Men: First Class." There's plenty of scenery to chew on in that delightfully antagonistic way, but Strong would also have to make his plight somewhat understandable for viewers. It's an interesting challenge that I feel the actor is more than capable of rising to.

Tom Hardy as Professor X: If you can't get Patrick Stewart, why not get the next closest thing? Tom Hardy already played a younger version of Stewart in "Star Trek: Nemesis," so the physical resemblance is there. Like Strong, Hardy is a Matthew Vaughn veteran, so he's in familiar hands with the new "X-Men" director. While Hardy is a bit young for the role, it's a lot easier to make an actor look older than it is to make him look younger. With some enhanced effects, Hardy could be a spitting image of the Charles Xavier we know and love.

Tim Pocock as Cyclops: I'm not convinced that "First Class" needs to live up to the "X-Men Origins" continuity — in fairness, many people weren't wild about "Wolverine" — but hiring Tim Pocock would be a nice nod to his turn as Scott Summers in the most recent "X-Men" flick. Beyond that, I see some potential in this actor. He's a physical match for Summers but brings little to nothing in terms of reputation to the role. Pocock is an unknown quantity, but I'm very curious to see what he could bring to Cyclops if given more screen time.

Deborah Ann Woll as Jean Grey: As the vicious vampire Jessica on "True Blood," Deborah Ann Woll is no stranger to superpowers. Stepping into Jean Grey's shoes would require Woll to tap into the softer side we occasionally get a glimpse of in Jessica, but that edginess could be put to good use here, too. And yes, Woll is rather tall, but she still isn't as tall as the last Jean Grey, Famke Janssen.

Thomas Dekker as Iceman: Even though Shawn Ashmore played a young Bobby Drake in the first "X-Men" films, I feel that Iceman should be included on the "First Class" roster, continuity be damned. My pick for the role is Thomas Dekker, a guy with experience on the geek circuit thanks to "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" and the recent "Nightmare on Elm Street" remake. Dekker would have little trouble pulling off the confidence, swagger and humor I'd want to see out of Bobby Drake in the "First Class" reinterpretation.

Tell us who you would cast in the comments and on Twitter!

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