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Why They Couldn’t Cut Anna Paquin From X-Men: Days of Future Past

Because X-Men: Days of Future Past uses time travel to unite two expansive ensemble casts — including the actors who starred in the original X-Men trilogy and the actors cast as their younger counterparts for X-Men: First Class — a few returning stars would inevitably be given short shrift, simply so the movie wouldn't buckle under all that allocated screen time. Even so, when reports broke a few months back that Anna Paquin's Rogue would be snipped from the film entirely, fans were upset to hear that one of the primary protagonists from the first X-Men film had gone missing.

Still, Paquin's name popped up in the new Days of Future Past trailer that went live last night, and when BuzzFeed asked 20th Century Fox to clarify her inclusion, the studio confirmed that Paquin would indeed remain in the film, if only as a cameo. In fact, Vulture can add that Paquin was never really gone: Rogue is pivotal in a certain scene and would have been impossible to cut out of the movie completely.

Mild spoilers follow for the film, out May 23.

Days of Future Past begins in a dystopian future where the few remaining mutants are being hunted by fearsome robotic Sentinels, and both Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide they can change their present by sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past, where he can alter the course of history that will eventually lead to those Sentinels being created. To do this, they employ mutant Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), who is able to project Wolverine's consciousness back in time and into his younger body.

While Wolverine is gallivanting around in the past with the X-Men: First Class cast, though, Kitty Pryde is injured, and her future hold on Wolverine becomes tenuous. In order to preserve the time travel bond, then, the X-Men must find Rogue, who has the ability to absorb any mutant power.

Unfortunately, Rogue is being held prisoner at Xavier Mansion, which has been transformed into a Sentinel-guarded military base, and the mission to find and rescue her — an expensive, lengthy sequence that involves Professor X, Magneto, and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) — was sliced from the film in postproduction after Fox executives worried it would pad the running time to over two and a half hours. Rogue is still brought in briefly to absorb Kitty's power and tend to Wolverine, but the machinations to get her there will now happen offscreen.

(Still, while Paquin has been reduced to a mere cameo, she's not the only returnee from the original trilogy who will make a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in Days of Future Past: In addition to top-billed stars like Stewart, McKellen, and Halle Berry, Vulture has learned that three more mutants filmed secret cameos in the film. To even hint at their identities, though, would reveal a major spoiler.)

Ultimately, the decision to cut a major set piece set in the future means that the final film devotes more of its running time to the First Class characters, which may be a wise move on Fox's part: These are the actors, after all, who will star in X-Men: Apocalypse, which is already scheduled for May 27, 2016. That film, like Days of Future Past, will be helmed by original X-Men director Bryan Singer.

Photo: Marvel