Sophie Turner is due for some apocalyptic developments.
At the tender age of 13, Turner booked her first big gig in HBO’s Game Of Thrones. She was cast as Sansa Stark, the oldest daughter of the noble Stark household, a red-headed beauty with wide-eyed plans for the future.
Sadly, her wide-eyed optimism wouldn’t last. By the end of the first season her father was decapitated. As Game Of Thrones played out, Sansa would be shackled to not one, but two of the biggest sadists in all of Westeros. The character would be raped, slashed and humiliated. The abuse would get so bad that in 2015 a great wave of think pieces rose up, demanding the return of some sort of agency for the fictional teenager.
But now, seven years and six seasons later, the power dynamic has shifted for Turner in more ways than one.
She may have started on Game Of Thrones as the little dove but today she’s transformed into a wolf, on both the small and the big screen. Now the actress will continue to (in her own words) “prove the haters wrong” on HBO while simultaneously starring in her first sizeable movie role in X-Men: Apocalypse.
And this isn’t just any old spandex and cape part, Turner plays what many consider to be the most powerful mutant in all of Marvel, the telepathic, telekinetic Jean Grey, whose gifts surpass those of even her mentor, Charles Xavier. In the Marvel comics, Jean’s powers eventually consume her, turning her into the formidable Dark Phoenix.
This mutant has been portrayed previously several times in the X-Men franchise by actress Famke Janssen, but despite her long legacy in this mutant world, Turner reveals a side of Grey in X-Men: Apocalypse audiences haven’t seen before.
“In the first three movies, Jean is a full-fledged human being,” Turner explained in an interview. “She has her (stuff) together. She has her life planned out. She can kind of control her powers until it gets too ‘Dark Phoenix’ and weird. But this Jean is different. She’s very vulnerable. She has no idea how to control her powers. She’s too strong for her own good.”
The English actress was first made aware of 1980s mutant period piece thanks to a very modern convenience, social media. Once word broke that Fox Studios was looking for a younger version of Grey to fit in with the prequel timeline set up in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, Turner’s inbox was flooded with “you’d-be-perfect-for-this-role” type email and Twitter shout outs.
Turner humbly blames her auburn hair for the attention, but nevertheless the push from Game Of Thrones fans and friends encouraged her to reach out for an audition that would land her a coveted spot on Xavier’s class roster.
The bulk of X-Men: Apocalypse is centred on the title dilemma, the end of the world. And Turner’s character plays an integral role in saving the planet from an ancient, villainous mutant hell bent on the kinds of things villains are hell bent on. It’s an easy parallel to make with what Turner is currently grappling with in the entirely different fantasy world of Game Of Thrones.
“They’re both kind of coming into their own,” Turner said. “I think Jean’s is less of a progression, she’s not working towards it. When Phoenix happens it’s her letting loose – she’s not building up to it. It just kind of happens. Whereas Sansa’s (evolution is) because of her circumstances. It’s been building her and building her and building her and each time someone chips away at her, she builds herself up again differently. She is very consciously changing and adapting, (with) Jean it’s less of a conscious thing.”
Despite playing characters with an unwieldy amount of mutant mojo or an army of Wildlings at her disposal, it’s not actually the power that attracts Turner to parts like Jean Grey or Sansa Stark, it’s the struggle.
“I prefer playing someone who’s flawed,” Turner admitted. “I can’t relate to Phoenix in the slightest. I wish I could, that would be nice.”
Just recently on Game Of Thrones Sansa was finally able to speak her truth about all the wretched moments she’s had to live through. To Turner that scene was more about the emotional impact than the character comeuppance.
“It was kind of a moment where she’s voicing what everyone else is wanting her to say. (It’s) finally happening for her. It was a big thing for me because it was the first time that she’s really stood on her own and been true to herself and been unafraid to say what she wants and say what she means.
“She’s sick of being a pawn in everyone else’s game,” Turner continued. “And finally she’s playing the game.” – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service/Meredith