To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first instalment of the X-Men cinematic franchise, the creatives behind the monumental film spoke the Observer about some of the obstacles they faced in trying to get the film off the ground, which included issues in the casting department. In the lengthy interview, screenwriter David Hayter and executive producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter recalled the many high profile yet seemingly random comic book lovers who begged for a role in the movie, one of which was the King of Pop himself.
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“I have lots of warm memories of people that came in wanting to be in the movie,” Winter remembered. “Michael Jackson was a big comic fan and wanted to play Charles Xavier. Shaquille O’Neal showed up at the offices and wanted to play Forge, who wasn’t in the movie.”
However, the role of Professor X eventually went to Sir Patrick Stewart, who, up until that point, was best known for playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek as well as a variety of Shakespearean characters. Despite how perfectly the British actor was cast, he was initially reluctant to star in the X-Men film, as he was not interested in spending the entire shoot in a wheelchair. “Patrick Stewart didn’t want to [play Charles Xavier],” said Hayter. “It took a long time to convince him. Terence Stamp told me, ‘You know why Patrick doesn’t want to do it? Because of the chair. He doesn’t want to be stuck in the chair. But I don’t mind. In fact, I also look excellent bald.’”
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Hayter went on to name another star who was itching to be cast in the film. “Everyday I was surprised by the faces coming in,” he noted. “Like, I’d find Mariah Carey sitting in my office wanting to go talk to Bryan [Singer] about being Storm or something. So that’s always shocking.” While it’s fun to imagine what X-Men would have been like with MJ as Professor X, ultimately, we’re glad Patrick Stewart finally caved.