Sabretooth was one of the first mutants seen in the X-Men movies, introduced in the opening of the first 2000 film. There he was little more than a henchman – a quiet, violent fighter who served as a physical combatant to Wolverine and co. while Magneto enacted his evil plan. When Wolverine got his own spin-off story with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, though, the relationship between him and Sabretooth was finally explored; James/Logan and Victor were revealed as half-brothers and their eventual animosity was explored.
However, things looked a bit different. Sabretooth had originally been played by Tyler Mane in X-Men, but nine years later had been recast as Liev Schreiber, who played an altogether less disheveled version of Wolverine’s greatest enemy and only living family member. In the years since, this version of the character has too been downplayed (although he was at one point going to be in Logan). Now we finally know why there was a recasting.
Tyler Mane has opened up to THR about what it was like playing Sabretooth, and why he never got to reprise the role:
“That was the producers’ decision. The storyline was them rising as brothers, and Liev (Schreiber) and Hugh look a lot closer in that respect, so I understand. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. I’d love to get my claws back into that role. But that’s Hollywood.”
It’s true that Schreiber and Jackman do look much more like siblings than the Australian and Mane. Like Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber has darker features and they are also very close in height, whereas the 6 foot 7 Mane tends to tower over his co-stars. This height makes Mane a closer match to the Sabretooth in the comics, but for most of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, when there’s meant to be a closer, human relationship, that wouldn’t quite fit. That said, since Jackman is nearly a foot taller than Wolverine is in the comics, Mane actually needed to wear lifts to make their height difference more pronounced, so it could have been made to work.
Despite not being asked back, Mane speaks fondly of playing Sabretooth in X-Men; he refers to both the character and the film as his favorites in the franchise. It would have been interesting to see him in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but Schreiber certainly had fun with the character as well.