Casting has begun on Matthew Vaughn’s next film, X-Men: First Class. I know this because Fox announced today that James McAvoy has signed on to play a young Charles Xavier, a character made famous in previous X-Men films by a wheelchair-bound Patrick Stewart.

According to the studio’s release, First Class will “chart the epic beginning of the X-Men saga. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were the closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.”

There is no word yet as to whether or not McAvoy will go bald for the role, though to my knowledge even a young Charles Xavier was afflicted with a lack of locks. Of course, this announcement only raises questions about the tone that Fox and Matthew Vaughn are trying to strike with the upcoming prequel. McAvoy, 31, is not exactly a young face. His Charles Xavier will not be a teenager, nor will he be fresh out of college. Then again, the story does seem to revolve around Xavier and Magneto’s relationship prior to the forming of the X-Men, which may have occurred in Xavier’s early 30s. This would mean that the other characters in the story — all of the mutants who join either side of the fight — will be in their early 20s or so.

We’ll know more when someone is cast as Erik Lensherr. An announcement should be coming soon, as Fox is planning for the film to shoot this summer in London and be ready for a June 3, 2011 release. I would expect casting to be fast and furious over the next few weeks.

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