Keen’s screen test shows just how utterly suited she was for the intense role of X-23 in the latest Wolverine film, Logan.
Casting kids in a movie gets producers and directors rightfully nervous. After all, you’ve already got to comb through hundreds, if not thousands, of young actors to find the one that’s perfectly suited for the job. When you’ve got to put them in an intense, R-rated Wolverine movie where Hugh Jackman loudly curses at them and stabs bad guys in their presence, you’re under even more pressure.
But when they cast Dafne Keen for the role of X-23 in 2017’s Logan, everyone, including director James Mangold, must have breathed a sigh of relief. The Spanish-British actor, who is only eleven years old, was so magnetic in the role that she earned high praise from Sir Patrick Stewart himself.
“James [Mangold] showed me a clip of her audition,” Stewart said in an exclusive clip posted to Entertainment Weekly. “And she was playing a scene, and it was very, very good… It was one of the most extraordinary bits of audition tape I’ve ever seen in my life.”
When Professor X gives someone that kind of praise, you’d better pay attention. Keen, who debuted in the 2015 series The Refugees, with her father Will Keen, can clearly hold her own. In the audition clip, she’s got to stand up to some pretty intense line reads from Hugh Jackman, too.
Jackman played an aging Wolverine who has also lost his all-important healing factor. In the audtion, he had to deliver some serious, NSFW cursing to the young Keen.
Imagine being eleven years old, sitting across from Hugh Jackman as he reads a series of increasingly loud, intense lines. Even I, a full-grown adult, would likely have a hard time keeping it together. Just imagine Hugh Jackman as Wolverine angrily waving his finger in your face.
Keen, however was more than able to throw that same intensity back into his face. Producer Hutch Parker praised her maturity and nuanced understanding of the role, saying “There are qualities you can’t ask of somebody to deliver: a level of strength, a sort of stage presence and a maturity that still doesn’t really make sense to me…. [Keen] was really a remarkable discovery”.
He’s completely right. Even at a very young age, it’s clear that Keen has bona fide acting chops. Logan is a deeply affecting movie that’s full of gore and heartbreak.
For Logan to receive the nearly universal acclaim that it did relies in part on the strength of actors’ performances. Between Keen, Jackman, and Stewart, it was more than prepared.
Jackman related a moment during the audition where Keen had to punch him in the arm.
“I went home and I had bruises all over my arm. No offense to all of those guys I fought, but I’ve never gone home with bruises,” he said while laughing.