It may seem hard to believe now, but when Bryan Singer’s X-Men first appeared in cinemas back in 2000, the prospect of superhero films was still a risky bet. Sure, some made money and they’d been around here and there for decades, but there were very few that met with acclaim from both critics, general audiences, and diehard fans. The first two X-Men and Spider-Man films helped to change that, paving the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
Since the first film, the franchise has featured 8 sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, with a handful of others on the way. Logan, for example, will mark Hugh Jackman’s 8th turn as Wolverine, making it equally hard to remember the actor was a virtual unknown when he first popped his claws in 2000. In the nearly two decades since then, the cast of the series has grown exponentially, comprising a number of actors boasting long careers. In anticipation of Logan’s upcoming adventure, we decided to take at look at where the various X-Men performers started off in the industry. Here’s What 15 X-Men Actors Looked Like Before They Were Famous.
15. Ian McKellan
Beginning his acting career in 1964 at the age of 25, the future Sir Ian McKellen spent his first few years acting in various television series and movies, including a turn as David Copperfield in an eponymous series in 1966. From there, he continued on TV and began working in movies, playing historic characters like King Edward, Hamlet, and Richard II, one after the other. He even portrayed Hitler in the 1989 TV movie Countdown to War, and Death itself in the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger flop Last Action Hero. He rounded out his years of work by playing a fascist Richard III, a Hitler analogue, in Apt Pupil, and had a supporting role in a new version of David Copperfield (with Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, in the title role).
The dawn of the new millennium saw the 60 year old actor finally hit the big time, however, thanks to his roles as Magneto and Gandalf in the X-Men and Lord of the Rings franchises, respectively. He’d spend the next 6 years reprising both roles across various films and video games before slowing things down a bit. He’d continue to act in small roles, mostly on TV, but popped up in a few other fantasy adaptations like The Golden Compass and Stardust. 2013 saw him return as Gandalf in the Hobbit trilogy, and the next year he once again donned Magneto’s cape for Days of Future Past. While he won’t be appearing in Logan, here’s hoping McKellan isn’t done playing the Master of Magnetism.
14. Anna Paquin
Being virtually removed from Days of Future Past has oddly coincided with Anna Paquin scaling her acting back considerably. Though she’s popped up in a few TV shows since the film released, she hasn’t been around much. Hopefully, Fox will correct their mistake and feature her in an upcoming film, but it’s a shame she won’t have a role in Logan, considering Rogue’s relationship with Wolverine is what helped kick off the whole franchise.
Paquin landed her first role as a voice actress in the English adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky in 1986, when she was only 4 years old. It’d be another 7 years before she finally appeared onscreen, playing the precocious Flora in 1993’s The Piano. She’d spend the rest of the decade gathering acclaim and notoriety with parts in Fly Away Home, She’s All That, and Amistad. It wasn’t until 2000, however, that she got her two biggest roles to date in Almost Famous and as Rogue in X-Men. Her chemistry and scenes with Jackman proved to be the heart of the film, and helped ground the fantastical proceedings.
From there, she’d continue work in the X-Men universe while balancing it out with appearances in a number of indie films. 2008 saw her next big role as the lead in HBO’s True Blood, which would run on the network for 6 years. With the show’s end, she’s now wide open to return as Rogue, so it’s your move, Fox.