When Bryan Singer’s X-Men hit screens in 2000, no one had any idea it would help kick-start Hollywood’s current obsession with comic book movies.
With a perfect cast of Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart (maybe not Halle Berry), the series spawned into the likes of Logan, Deadpool, and even got its own reboot thanks to X-Men: First Class.
Now, as Disney prepares to swallow Fox and finally bring the X-Men into the MCU, it could be all change yet again. While everyone tries out their own fan castings for who they want to join the X-Men, here’s 10 stars who already got X-tremely close to suiting up as one of Charles Xavier’s gifted youngsters.
1. Michael Jackson — Charles Xavier
In a world of bad ideas, there is no doubt that Michael Jackson swapping Moonwalking for a wheelchair would’ve been a disastrous move for the X-Men. Before Singer started work on X-Men, Michael Jackson campaigned for himself to play Charles Xavier.
There were rumours that Jackson even tried to buy the rights to Marvel in the 90s, just so he could play his favourite comic book heroes. While Stan Lee claims that Jackson lobbied to play Spider-Man, The Hollywood Reporter confirms he was circling the role of Professor X.
2. Summer Glau — Kitty Pryde
Buffy creator Joss Whedon has never shied away from telling fans that Kitty Pryde is his favourite X-Men character. Lost alumni Maggie Grace was originally meant to play Kitty in the third movie, but before Ellen Page nabbed the part, Firefly actress and Whedon regular Summer Glau read for the phasing Pryde.
Posting on the Serenity message board, Whedon confirmed that Glau auditioned to play Kitty in X3. It turns out that Glau actually read a scene Whedon had written for Astonishing X-Men #5.
3. Sigourney Weaver — Emma Frost
Imagine a world where Sigourney Weaver shouts, “get away from her you b*tch” alongside the X-Men. When Bryan Singer was working his vision for a third X-Men movie, early drafts included Hellfire Club staple, Emma Frost. Weaver was linked to the part, but when Singer left to work on Superman Returns, plans for Frost changed.
Frost never made it into X-Men: The Last Stand and eventually turned up in X-Men: First Class with a ‘frosty’ reception thanks to January Jones’ performance. Weaver may have shied away from superhero movies, but let’s remember that she did play the villainous Alexandra Reid in The Defenders.
4. Angela Bassett — Storm
Largely remembered for the toad/lightning line and demanding an extortionate amount of money to return for the sequels, Halle Berry isn’t exactly the favourite X-Men actress of many. In another life, can anyone imagine American Horror Story legend Angela Bassett as Ororo Munroe?
In the same THR interview where the Michael Jackson revelation was made, screenwriter David Hayter confessed that Bassett was first choice to play the wily weather girl. Unfortunately, her agents wanted too much money and Fox chose a pre-Bond Berry instead.
5. Neil Patrick Harris — Nightcrawler
One of the biggest X-Men movie travesties is that Alan Cumming only got to play Nightcrawler in X2. Even though Cumming was a highlight of the sequel, he wasn’t first choice to play the bright blue wall-crawler.
Fox apparently wanted Neil Patrick Harris for the part, but Cumming nudged ahead thanks to his ability to speak fluent German. Sorry Neil, at least you got How I Met Your Mother.
6. Jim Caviezel — Cyclops
Another character who failed to light up the series was Cyclops. Scott Summers may be a driving force behind the comic book X-Men, but James Marsden’s three-movie arc left us all snoozing.
Things could’ve been a little different if the studio got its way and The Passion of the Christ’s Jim Caviezel portrayed the laser-eyed hero. Caviezel told IGN back in 2004 that he had signed up to play Cyclops but had to drop out due to prior commitments to Frequency.
7. Natalie Portman — Jubilee
Sadly, the X-Men movies can’t seem to get Jubilee right. While the livewire was a highlight of X-Men: The Animated Series, she has faded into the background of the live-action world. Although Jubilee has appeared in most of the movies, she is only vaguely remembered for Lana Condor’s (abridged) role in X-Men: Apocalypse. An alternate reality could’ve seen Black Swan’s Natalie Portman put on a yellow PVC coat.
Jubilee featured prominently in an early draft of Singer’s movie until the character was eventually nixed in favour of Rogue’s storyline. Portman reportedly turned down the role, which considering the character is usually depicted as Asian American, probably saved everyone some serious Ghost in the Shell whitewashing controversy.
8. Helen Hunt — Jean Grey
Although Rogue became the de facto leading lady of X-Men, there’s no escaping Famke Janssen's mesmerising -- and sometimes terrifying -- turn as Jean Grey. As a golden girl of the ‘90s, Fox offered the role of Jean to Helen Hunt. Fresh off roles in the likes of Twister and As Good as It Gets, Hunt turned down the chance to spread her wings as the Phoenix.
These days Jean is played by a much younger Sophie Turner and set to have a major role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix...if it ever makes it into cinemas.
9. Sarah Michelle Gellar — Rogue
Talking of everyone’s favourite Malham streak heroine, it wasn’t always Anna Paquin set to play Rogue. Alongside being a hardened heroine in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and starring in slashers like Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, Sarah Michelle Gellar might’ve been even more of a household name.
Opinions remain divided on Paquin’s dodgy accent and naive Rogue compared to her much stronger comic book counterpart, so just imagine an ass-kicking SMG in the role. Fox tried to work around Gellar’s Buffy schedule but the two sides failed to make it work.
10. Glenn Danzig — Wolverine
As the only character to hold up his own trilogy of spin-off movies (two if you try to ignore X-Men Origins) it is hard to imagine anyone other than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Everyone from Mel Gibson to Viggo Mortensen was touted for the role of Logan, and while Dougray Scott was originally cast, he had to drop out after an accident on the set of Mission: Impossible II.
Thanks to his uncanny resemblance to Wolverine’s comic book look, rockstar Glenn Danzig was also in the mix. Jackman took over after Scott and it appears to have left Danzig more than a little bitter. The 63-year-old told LA Weekly that he would’ve played the part “less gay” than Jackman. Continuing his rant, the aged rocker said, "I'm glad I didn't do it. It was terrible”. Don’t worry Glenn, no one lost any sleep over it.