When Marvel fans think of Professor Charles Xavier, they typically envision the bald telepath sitting in a wheelchair, though it was this requirement of remaining seated that nearly saw Sir Patrick Stewart passing on the role for the original X-Men movie, according to the film's writer David Hayter. Luckily, Stewart ultimately accepted the role, going on to reprise the iconic hero in multiple sequels in subsequent decades, though it's easier to understand that, at the time the film was made, the success of a superhero film of that capacity wasn't a guarantee, so reluctance to get involved in such a project is to have been expected.
“Patrick Stewart didn’t want to [play Charles Xavier]. It took a long time to convince him,” Hayter revealed to the Observer. “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.’"
Looking back at the film 20 years later, nearly every cast member is intrinsically linked with their on-screen personas, but Stewart nearly passing on the role is only one of many casting decisions that almost didn't happen.
Hayter 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 [director] Bryan [Singer] about being Storm or something. So that’s always shocking.”
The screenwriter went on to note a number of performers who either expressed interest in roles or were approached about opportunities, including Michael Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal, Charlize Theron, Russell Crowe, and Viggo Mortensen.
Much like Stewart seems like the perfect choice to play Xavier, the film also marked Hugh Jackman's first embrace of Wolverine, which would go on to be not only a breakthrough for his career, but one of the seminal interpretations of a comic book character in all of cinema. Despite his power in the role, Dougray Scott was initially cast before he was replaced by Jackman.
“That one was out of my control," Scott explained to Telegraph earlier this year. "Tom Cruise didn’t let me do it. We were doing Mission: Impossible  and he was like, ‘You’ve got to stay and finish the film,’ and I said I will, but I'll go and do that as well. For whatever reason he said I couldn’t. He was a very powerful guy. Other people were doing everything to make it work.”
With no X-Men films on the horizon, Stewart's seemingly last performance as the character came in 2017's Logan.
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