In 2000, director Bryan Singer helped to usher in the new era of comic book movies that we all know and love today with X-Men. The film, starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellan, grossed nearly $300 million and launched a $900 million franchise. But a decade before the film was released, an earlier plan to bring the X-Men to the screen was in the development stages. Would you believe that couple (at the time) James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow (director of Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker) were attached as producer and director, respectively? It's true, as Chris Claremont, long-time comics writer for the X-Men, revealed at a recent Columbia University Q&A panel.
Claremont said his choices for the roles of Wolverine and Storm were Bob Hoskins and Angela Bassett. In the comics, Wolverine is meant to be a dimunitive tough guy. Claremont felt Hoskins was the right guy for the job when he saw the 1984 film Lassiter where he is seen threatening Tom Selleck. Claremont and Stan Lee went to Lightstorm Entertainment to pitch the X-Men film to Cameron in 1990. Things seemed to be going well during the meeting until Lee turned to Cameron and asked him what he thought about a Spider-Man film. As Cameron and Lee talked excitedly, Claremont's hopes were dashed. "About 20 minutes later all the Lightstorm guys and I are looking at each other, and we all know the X-Men deal has just evaporated. Kathryn goes off and writes a screen treatment for X-Men that was eaten alive by all the idiots who have a piece of Spider-Man because Marvel during its evolution has sold off the rights time and time and time again." And we all know what happened with that Spider-Man script that James Cameron was writing. I'm pretty sure Cameron needs to stay away from superheroes in general.
I'm not quite sure if casting Hoskins would have been a good idea to comic book fans. Don't get me wrong, I think Hoskins is a great actor. But at the time (and still today), Hoskins was well-remembered from Robert Zemeckis' 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit who played the gruff yet likable boozy detective Eddie Valient. Hugh Jackman came out of nowhere and really brought the character to life even though he didn't quite match the character from the comics in look. Through his performance, he captured the attitude that the character is most well-known for. It says a lot too that with his hysterical cameo in X-Men: First Class, Jackman has now passed Christopher Reeve as an actor who has reprised his superhero role the most times in a film (five times). Would you have liked to have seen a Cameron/Bigelow X-Men movie?