Even though Blade came out a few years beforehand, most movie-goers applaud X-Men for launching Hollywood into the age of the modern superhero blockbuster. The movie included a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, and more — and according to one producer behind the feature, several A-list celebrities lined up for their shot at appearing in the comic book tentpole.
In a recent interview celebrating the 20th anniversary of the movie, X-Men producer Ralph Winter said the production ended up passing on the likes of Michael Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Mariah Carey, each of who expressed interest in landing roles. Furthermore, Winter says, offers went out to both Russell Crowe and Viggo Mortensen to play Wolverine, though both ended up passing on the opportunity.
"I have lots of warm memories of people that came in wanting to be in the movie," Winter told the Observer. "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."
He added, "Everyday I was surprised by the faces coming in. Like, I'd find Mariah Carey sitting in my office wanting to go talk to Bryan about being Storm or something. So that's always shocking."
First hitting theaters 20 years this summer, X-Men also featured a little-known production assistant named Kevin Feige. As Winter revealed, Feige — then serving as an assistant to producer Laura Shuler Donner — continued to remind those behind to movie to try staying comic-accurate as possible, even though the studio pushed the production in a different direction.
"The studio wanted the widest possible audience, the biggest bang for their buck, as they deserve and require," the producer said. "There was pushback to being faithful to the comic. Kevin Feige was right there in the midst of all of that. He didn't have as big of a voice back then, but he was careful and faithful about the characters and reminding us, 'Hey, you can do that, but here's where the character came from. Here's where their powers started. So keep that in mind as you go do that.'"
Feige now oversees Marvel Studios, a production outfit that has churned-out nearly two dozen blockbusters in the span of 12 years, which have grossed nearly a combined $25 billion at the global box office.
Some X-Men movies, like Days of Future Past and Apocalypse, are now streaming on Disney+.