Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine on screen almost longer than new Spider-Man actor Tom Holland has been alive (the difference between Jackman’s Wolverine tenure and Holland’s age is a mere 3 years). That all comes to an end this weekend with the release of Logan, Jackman (as well as Patrick Stewart’s) swan song in the X-Men franchise.
To commemorate this historic moment in comic book movie history, The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the first X-Men movie’s screenwriter David Hayter (better known as the voice of Snake in the Metal Gear Solid games) for some insight into the making of the movie. After 17 years, it would seem unlikely that there’s anything we haven’t already learned about the first X-Men’s production history. “Did you know that Hugh Jackman was a last-second replacement for Dougray Scott?” Yeah. Everyone knows that. However, Hayter, who started work on X-Men as a production assistant answering phones before landing the screenwriting gig due to his passion for the comics, actually laid out several interesting bits of trivia which are completely new to me:
1. Angela Bassett and Rachael Leigh Cook could have been Storm and Rogue if their agents hadn’t asked for too much money
The pertinent quote from the interview:
Angela Bassett was our first choice for Storm, but her agents wanted more money than we had at the time. Same with Rachael Leigh Cook for Rogue.
Asking for too much money. Where do they get off? Celebrities, man. Celebrities. Their loss was Halle Berry and Anna Paquin’s gain.
Remember, though, this is 1999 we’re talking about with the auditions (e.g., Ian McKellen’s casting as Magneto was announced May 14, 1999 in Daily Variety). Bassett and Cook’s representatives probably felt they had plenty of leverage, especially considering the low opinion of comic book movies post-Batman and Robin (1997).
Bassett was a mere 6 years removed from an Oscar nomination (for What’s Love Got to Do With It?) and was fresh off of starring roles in Waiting to Exhale (a box office hit in 1995) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (a slight flop in 1998).
Cook was an emerging star whose career-making role in She’s All That (which grossed over $100m worldwide on a $10m budget) had just come out earlier that year (1/29/99 release date).
Halle Berry, on the other hand, hadn’t starred in a hit movie since 1994’s The Flintstones (admit it – you didn’t even remember she was in that movie) and was still two years away from her eventual Oscar nomination (and win) for Monster’s Ball. Anna Paquin, of course, already had an Oscar, but she won that (for The Piano) when she was 11. In the years since, she’d fallen somewhat off the radar, starring in the occasional movie while mostly attending to the little business of, I dunno, growing up because did I not already mention the part about her being 11 when got that Oscar! Ironically, the biggest hit she’d been in since The Piano was – wait for it – She’s All That.
That’s right. When the star of She’s All That asked for too much money they turned to that film’s overqualified co-star who played Freddie Prinze, Jr.’s sister, a role chiefly entailing taking off a girl’s glasses and calling it a makeover. Good call, actually. Paquin’s Rogue is still my favorite part of X-Men.
2. Now playing Wolverine: Mel Gibson. Wait. What?
Other actors considered before him include Russell Crowe, Viggo Mortenson and Mel Gibson. Hayter doesn’t know why a deal with Mortensen never came together, and about Gibson he had this to say: “It was originally supposed to be Mel Gibson. Back when I got hired all of our concept art was Mel Gibson.” Now that man might direct Suicide Squad 2. It’s the circle of comic book movie life. The reason the Gibson-Wolverine deal never came together is the same reason Angela Bassett and Rachael Leigh Cook didn’t play Storm and Rogue: money. Fox was very gun shy about committing too much to X-Men, and kept fighting Singer on the budget. That forced him into making less commercially-driven casting choices, but the idea of a Mel Gibson Wolverine seems so deliciously absurd now considering how much his later controversies and narrow worldview contrast with the inclusive world of X-Men.
3. Tom Cruise kept lying to them about the holdup with Dougray Scott
Poor Dougray Scott, the once-promising co-star of Deep Impact and Ever After.
Actually, scratch that. He’s been a steadily working actor for the past 20 years, with an IMDB page which lists two different TV shows just this year, first Crackle’s adaptation of Snatch (they made that into a show? News to me too!) and the British mini-series The Replacement. He’s not exactly back to waiting tables. Losing out on Wolverine didn’t destroy his career. Besides, who really wants to go on to star in Christopher Nolan movies or host the Oscars? No thank you. Have fun with…your wonderful, wonderful career, Mr. Jackman.
It’s all Tom Cruise’s fault, really. Here’s how it all went down:
[Then-Fox executive] Tom Rothman really wanted Dougray Scott to play Wolverine and he was shooting Mission: Impossible 2 and Tom Cruise kept calling Byran and saying, “We just need him a little while longer, a little while longer.” We were starting to shoot and Wolverine was the lead and we didn’t have him. Bryan suspected something was hinky, and so he sent the costume designer down to Australia, ostensibly to get wardrobe shots, but really it was to find out what was going on. What we found out was Dougray had been in a motorcycle accident filming the climax of MI2. He was pretty messed up. It was a real shame he couldn’t do it. And Hugh had been somebody who had been in the mix earlier and it was [executive producer] Lauren Shuler Donner who said, “Why don’t we bring him?”
Cruise’s delay tactics actually prevented the X-Men people from being able to re-cast the role sooner, which would have likely allowed Jackman time to actually beef up for the part, something he didn’t get to do properly until X2.
4. Bryan Singer was so desperate for Jackman’s performance to be edgier that he told him to go home and pick a fight with his wife
Hugh Jackman is a nice guy. Maybe a little too nice for some people’s taste since his version of Wolverine at his edgiest is about a 10th of the comic book version of Wolverine. This was not lost on Singer and crew, as Hayter recalls:
I wrote [Wolverine] with elements of my personality, which there are certainly elements that are a lot nastier than Hugh’s, and there are elements of Bryan’s personality, which can be rough around the edge’s as well. And actually I said to Bryan one day, “We’re going to have the nicest Wolverine in film history.” And it was a bit of a concern. Hugh is just a love. He is so sweet. Bryan, he yelled at Hugh one day and was like, “You need to be edgier. You need to be meaner, you need to be tougher. You need to go home and get into a fight with your wife. Have a screaming match with your wife!” And Hugh said, “Bryan, if I went home and got in a fight like that with Deb, I’d come in crying!” We were like, “Oh no, we’re all dead.”
The dude just really loves his wife. Good for him:
We wrote [Wolverine] very tough. Very edgy, and then Hugh brought his humanity to it. In the end, there’s a core of steel there he brought to it that made it into a full person. Wolverine could be a caricature. He could be a growling asshole, really. I think it was the balance.
5. Michael Jackson and Shaq lobbied for roles
Jackson, who once attempted to purchase Marvel, wanted to play Xavier, and Shaq thought he might be perfect for Bishop, a character which only finally showed up (and sparingly so) in Days of Future Past.
6. Hayter’s version of X-Men 3 would have involved Dark Phoenix taking the fight to Capitol Hill…literally
X-Men was Hayter’s screenwriting debut, and Fox was sufficiently pleased to bring him back for the sequel but not so pleased that they would again let him go it alone. Instead, he was forced into a simultaneous script development process wherein both he and Zack Penn wrote X2 scripts independent of one another, with the studio’s goal being to later merge the two scripts, i.e., take the bests from each. Hayter’s initial impulse was to fully turn Jean into Dark Phoenix, but the decision to simply use X2 to set up the Dark Phoenix arc for X-Men 3 came from above him. Instead, the meat of X2 was adapted from “God Loves, Man Kills,” and when Hayter completed his script, which Fox liked more than Penn’s, he left to produce a TV pilot called Gone to Oz (which never made it on the air). Newbies Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris finished off the X2 script, but later bolted for Superman Returns with Singer. That left Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn to script X-Men 3. Hayter had some ideas, though:
The image that I wanted for X-Men 3 trailer was essentially, you see Xavier and Logan facing off against Jean and her eyes are on fire and she’s become the Dark Phoenix and they are talking about the war between humans ad mutants and she says something along the lines of, “Don’t worry, I’ll put an end to it.” And then we cut to this statue of Iwo Jima in Washington, as the sun is coming up, but it’s still twilight and purple, and you see a flare of orange and it melts away. She fires through, on fire and blasts right through it. You see the Capitol Building and she flies up to the White House and lands into the middle of the street. We cut opposite and we see the entire army arrayed against her. She’s like “Come on!” and we cut to black.
Also, in his version Jean’s death would have been by Cyclop’s eyes, not Wolverine’s claws:
But that would have meant Cyclops still being around at the end of the The Last Stand. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Logan is out now. Were any of these facts new to you? Or did you know them all and my own ignorance of them has now caused you to judge and question me? “For shame!” you say. “For shame!” Hey, screw you, pal. I can’t know everything about everything. Just trying to share some bits of trivia to hype up Logan. Get off my back. You want to go? I will meet you in the comments section.