Long before Marvel’s MCU took over the movie screen and the TV screens, The X-Men burst into our theaters and created their own franchise and movie universe. Whether you love or hate the X-Men movies, they are still proving popular and financially successful, certainly enough to continue making more of them over the years. While not all the movies have been great (X-Men Origin: Wolverine and X-Men: Last Stand immediately spring to mind, plus the crazy and confusing timeline that the movies have in which every movie seems to ignore or even rewrite the previous one) the fact is that the X-Men franchise is still going strong and looks set to be in our lives for more movies to come.
Although some of the X-Men movies have been a bit hit and miss with the fans, a lot of those fans have been very happy with the casting choices, especially for the big characters. However, it all came so close to being very different and we almost got completely different mutants. With that in mind, here are 15 actors that were almost cast in the X-Men universe.
15. Sigourney Weaver – Emma Frost
Our first entry is an actress that is no stranger to the big movie franchises. Being involved in some of the biggest movie franchises of all time, Aliens, Avatar, and Ghostbusters, Sigourney Weaver knows how to take charge of a movie and she’s always a fan favorite whenever she appears in a movie.
However, when the ideas were coming in for X-Men: Last Stand, Bryan Singer wanted Emma Frost to be involved and he wanted Weaver to play her. But then he soon left the X-Men franchise to reboot Superman with Superman Returns and so X3 changed dramatically, and for the worse, so we got no Emma Frost and no Sigourney Weaver. This probably worked out well for Weaver as she’s set to be involved in an even bigger franchise with the MCU as she is set to play the main “big bad” in The Defenders.
14. Neil Patrick Harris – Nightcrawler
Throughout the run of the many X-Men movies, there have been a few misfires that the movies are guilty of and one of those is the handling of some of the characters. Whether it’s the complete misuse and destruction of big characters such as Juggernaut or just not knowing what to do with certain characters. Nightcrawler is one of the latter. Since he was first included in X2, or in the rebooted timeline, it seems that the X-Men franchise just didn’t know what to do with him or how to tell his story and history.
Even though the character of Nightcrawler has been a bit of a miss, we did love Alan Cumming’s portrayal of the character in X2. According to reports, he landed the role because he could speak fluent German. One of the actors he beat was How I Met Your Mother‘s Neil Patrick Harris. Although Harris’ career is more comedy based, it would have actually been interesting to see what he would have done with a character like Nightcrawler.
13. Helen Hunt – Jean Grey
In the original X-Men trilogy, most of the fans out there would agree that Famke Janssen‘s portrayal of Jean Grey was perfect, so much so that it’s difficult to see anyone else playing the role. Even in the rebooted X-Men: Apocalypse, re-casting Jean Grey for a younger actress to fit in with the new timeline left fans feeling a bit miffed.
However, as definitive as Janssen’s Jean Grey was, we came so close to having a completely different take on the character. When the first X-Men movie was starting up, the role of Jean Grey was actually offered to Oscar winning actress Helen Hunt. We’re not sure what the original vision of Grey was but we’re thankful that the star of such lighthearted movies as Twister and As Good As It Gets, turned down the role. We don’t think Hunt could have handled the darker side to Jean Grey as well as Janssen did.
12. Nick Stahl – Angel
We think it’s pretty fair to say that X-Men: Last Stand was a bit of a mess of a movie. With too many characters vying for attention and a lot of subplots all crammed into one movie, there was a lot to take in and most of it didn’t work. However, one storyline that did do well with fans is Angel’s backstory, especially his tortured childhood in which he was persecuted for being a mutant to such an extent that he cut his own wings off. This was one thing that X-Men: Last Stand handled well.
The role of the older Angle went to Ben Foster eventually, but before Foster got the call two actors were in the running. Mike Vogel was actually offered the part but decided against it and Terminator 3 actor Nick Stahl was next in the running but lost out to Foster.
11. Alice Eve – Emma Frost
As we’ve mentioned on this list already, the comic book character of Emma Frost was supposed to appear earlier within the X-Men franchise, in a role that had Sigourney Weaver in mind for. Although that didn’t pan out when the character did finally make an appearance in X-Men: First Class, the hunt for the perfect actress to play her was on.
January Jones would eventually win the role of Emma Frost but before her, Alice Eve was reportedly attached to play the part. If reports are to be believed, Eve secured the part but then had a falling out with the producers as she didn’t like they way they interpreted the character and so she pulled out. This could explain why Emma Frost’s planned first outing on the big screen was a lot more watered down and she ended up being more of a side character.
10. Glenn Danzig – Wolverine
Before Bryan Singer’s vision of the X-Men hit out screens in 2000, there had been several attempts to get an X-Men movie made. The closest it came was in the mid 1990s when an X-Men movie was so close to happening, they even had directors and actors attached but for some reason, the project fell through.
One of the casting choices that this X-Men movie had was snarling punk rocker Glenn Danzig as Wolverine. Danzig was actually offered the role officially and the former Misfits frontman was ready to jump into the movie business. As it turned out, the movie never happened so we’ll never know what Danzig would have done with such an iconic character, but needless to say that Danzig certainly would have looked the part: overly hairy, rude, aggressive, almost animalistic, and definitely has a bad attitude, Danzig may have surprised us all and been the perfect Wolverine. Now we’ll never know.
9. Aaron Taylor Johnson – Cyclops
The next entry on our list is an actor that has played a mutant on the big screen, although not technically a mutant because of copyright and licensing laws. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is no stranger to the comic book movie, as he has wowed fans as Kick-Ass in both Kick-Ass movies and as the mutant Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Although we’re not allowed to say mutant or Quicksilver together, we all know it is.
Before his debut as the superfast Quicksilver, Johnson was actually reported as being contracted to play the young Scott Summers in X-Men: First Class. As it happens Scott Summers, or Cyclops, never made an appearance in the movie and when the younger version of this characters did show up in future X-Men prequels, the role was given to Tye Sheridan. Still, with Quicksilver and Kick-Ass under his belt, we don’t think Johnson feels too bad about it.
8. Angela Bassett – Storm
Before Halle Berry landed the part of X-Men alumni and powerful mutant Storm, several actresses were in the running to play her. First up was Angela Bassett. Back during the 1990s when movie studios came very close to bringing the X-Men to our screens, in the version that would have had Glenn Danzig as Wolverine, Bassett was actually offered the role and was attached to play Storm.
The star who famously played Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It, for which she was nominated for an Oscar, was pretty hot property in the 90s so we’re not surprised that the studios wanted her to bring Storm to life. But the movie never got made and when it did, Berry got the nod. This isn’t the first time Bassett and Berry have gone head to head. Berry auditioned for the role of Tina Tuner and lost to Bassett and later Bassett turned down a part in Monster’s Ball and Berry got it, for which she won an Oscar.
7. Jada Pinkett Smith – Storm
Next we have another actress that supposedly turned down the role of Storm. After the ill-fated 90s X-Men movie crashed and burned out of existence, Bryan Singer took charge and decided to start from scratch in order to make his ideal comic book movie. So when it came to casting, Singer didn’t look back to who almost starred in the 90s movie and wanted a fresh start.
For the part of Storm, a few actresses were in the running. Janet Jackson was allegedly the producers’ first choice for the character, for which we are thankful that it didn’t pan out! Next up was Jada Pinkett-Smith. Pinkett-Smith was actually offered the role, or at least there was enough interest for her to be brought to the attention of Singer. However, Smith turned down the role and the path was clear for Halle Berry.
6. Kate Winslet – Rogue
The first X-Men movie may well have featured some of the biggest comic book characters around, such as Wolverine, Professor X, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Magneto, and Storm but the most important character in that movie was Rogue. Being the central figure for the storyline, and the audience’s view into the world of mutants, the character of Rogue was an important one. Whether you love her or hate her, we feel that Anna Paquin played this perfectly. With a mixture of vulnerability and strength, Paquin stole the movie in our view.
However, before Paquin landed the part there was a struggle with a few actresses to take the lead role. The actresses that came the closest, and the biggest name that the producers went after, was Titanic star Kate Winslet. Although the actress was older than Paquin, the producers asked Winslet outright to play the part. Winslet however declined the part and Paquin snapped it up.
5. Natalie Portman – Jubilee
As we’ve just mentioned in our previous entry, when X-Men first started to come together, they had a different vision for some of the characters. Not only was the role of Rogue due to be older, until Kate Winslet turned it down, but the character of Rogue was not always intended to be the main character as originally the script included Jubilee as well.
Natalie Portman was asked to play Jubilee but she turned down the role, and because of this, Jubilee was cut from the movie altogether and Rogue was given a lot of her characteristics and persona as well as a few other characters such as Kitty Pryde, who was also originally drafted to have a big part in the first X-Men movie.
4. Johnny Depp – Wolverine
Over the last 20 years or so, if there has been a major role in a movie then chances are that Johnny Depp was asked to do it and more often than not, he turned it down. These days it may not seem like it, as Depp pretty much says yes to anything. However, back in the 1990s and early 2000s, Depp wasn’t interested in making mainstream movies and chose to do slightly obscure roles. So it is no surprise to us that when the casting call for Wolverine came up, Depp said no and ran a mile.
Although there is no denying that Depp is a talented actor and does well with any role he gets into, we are all relieved that this casting choice didn’t pan out. We’re not saying he would have been terrible, but given his last few performances and movies, the iconic character of Wolverine could just be another icon for Depp to destroy. Willy Wonka, The Mad Hatter, and even Jack Sparrow are already on his ‘killed’ list.
3. Jim Caviezel – Cyclops
Next we come to a character that had a lot of actors battling it out for the job. Although the part of Cyclops wasn’t the greatest interpretation in the original trilogy, as the movies were more focused on Wolverine, the part of Scott Summers was still sought after and the producers wanted the best actor for the job. The role eventually went to James Marsden but before that a long list of actors were approached.
Edward Norton, Jude Law, Owen Wilson, and Johnny Lee Miller were just a few of the guys considered. For whatever reasons, those actors either turned down the role or weren’t successful. The role of Cyclops was actually offered to Jim Caviezel, however, at the last moment Caviezel was dropped and Marsden came in. Whether he quit because of lack of character depth or because Singer didn’t think he was right for the role in the end, we’ll never know for sure.
2. Dougray Scott – Wolverine
Speaking of actors that secured a role and then let it slip through their fingers. Jim Caviezel isn’t the only one to do this in the X-Men movies. Possibly the most famous casting near miss comes in the form of Dougray Scott. The Scottish actor was actually offered the role of Wolverine, beating the likes of Hugh Jackman. However, due to some advice from Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise, Dougray lost the part.
Scott was actually a sought after actor at this time and Cruise actually asked for him personally to star along side him in Mission Impossible 2. However, while shooting the movie Scott was offered the part of Wolverine but because Mission Impossible 2 overran, Scott had to turn down the role. As it turned out Wolverine became a huge and career defying role for Hugh Jackman and Mission Impossible 2 is considered the worst movie of that franchise.
1. Every Other Male Actor – Wolverine
Over the years there have been several attempts to get an X-Men movie off the ground and to get the character of Wolverine onto the big screen. Hugh Jackman finally made that happen when X-Men burst onto the movie screens in 2000. But before Jackman made Wolverine a movie legend, pretty much every actor in Hollywood had been asked to play the part. As well as Johnny Depp, Dougray Scott, and Glenn Danzig, the part of Wolverine had been offered to: Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Keanu Reeves, Aaron Eckhart, and Viggo Mortensen to name just a few.
An honourable mention must go to the late actor Bob Hoskins. During the 1990s when everyone tried to get an X-Men movie going, and before they turned to Glenn Danzig to play Wolverine, the producers actually wanted Hopkins. The British actor apparently impressed them so much that they were ready to offer him the part out right. This has to be one of the strangest casting choices to happen in Hollywood. But a part of us is sad that we never got to see this version of Wolverine play out.