18 Casting Decisions That Hurt The X-Men Movies (And 17 That Saved Them)

Casting can make or break any movie, but the stakes are even higher when it comes to the superhero genre. Could you imagine, for example, if Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight had starred Jared Leto in place of Heath Ledger?

Now try to picture the X-Men movies with anyone other than Hugh Jackman in the role of Wolverine. It might be difficult to imagine but it very nearly happened. And on more than one occasion too.

Back in 1990, when Stan Lee was in discussions an X-Men movie that would have been directed by Kathryn Bigelow with Carolco Pictures, Bob Hoskins was the frontrunner to land the part of Logan.

Fast-forward a few years to Bryan Singer's X-Men movie, and Russell Crowe was in the frame for the part. He would ultimately turn it down, citing an eagerness to do something less action-orientated after Gladiator but recommended his friend, Jackman, for the role.

However, despite delivering an impressing audition, the studio opted for Dougray Scott over the little-known Australian. What they never accounted for was the fact that Scott was already in production on Mission: Impossible 2.

Handpicked by Tom Cruise to play the movie's villain, mounting delays on the John Woo-directed sequel ultimately forced Fox and Singer to ditch Scott at the last minute and hire Jackman in his place.

It proved to be a masterstroke and an example of perfect, if somewhat fortuitous, casting. There are other examples of this throughout the X-Men movie universe.

It's not always worked out quite so well, however, with plenty of talented and not-so-talented stars appearing out-of-sorts and out-of-place throughout the franchise.

With that said, here are the 18 Casting Decisions That Hurt The X-Men Movies (And 17 That Saved Them).

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35 Hurt: Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut

As far as movie tough guys go, Vinnie Jones certainly looks the part. This isn't by accident, either. Jones had a formidable reputation as a soccer star from his days in the Premier League and was able to parlay some of that same fearsome charm into a movie career.

Starting with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and continuing with films like Swordfish, Jones established a reputation for playing characters whose actions spoke louder than words.

However, casting Jones as Juggernaut and giving him a bunch of lines, including one referencing an internet meme, just didn't look as good on screen.

Hearing the painfully wooden Jones say the words "I'm the juggernaut, b***h" still sends a shudder down the spine of any self-respecting fan.

34 Saved: Ian McKellan as Magneto

Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto in X Men Days of Future Past

Though the likes of Christopher Lee and Terence Stamp were linked with the role during pre-production on 2000's X-Men, Ian McKellen ended up bagging the part having worked with director Bryan Singer on his previous effort, Apt Pupil.

He played a war criminal hiding out in American suburbia in that movie in a role that was good practice for the duality of iconic Marvel villain - charming and courteous one minute, unpleasant and aggressive the next.

Having a Shakespearean actor also gave this Magneto a suitably theatrical feel, while McKellen's on-screen chemistry with Patrick Stewart has been fundamental to the success of the franchise.  

33 Hurt: Rebecca Romijn as Mystique

Rebecca Romijn was already well established as a model and celebrity in her own right prior to her casting in Bryan Singer's first X-Men movie.

It represented her first major movie role, though it was one that proved an unwelcome distraction.

Wearing a "costume" that consisted of little more than some blue makeup and some strategically placed prosthetics, this Mystique may have been an effective silent assassin, but her lack of lines or anything in the way of character development left Romijn serving as little more than eye candy.

This is a shame, as Romijn would later prove herself a capable actress with roles on shows like Ugly Betty. 

32 Saved: Patrick Stewart as Professor X

Patrick Stewart as Professor X

As the yin to Ian McKellen's yang in X-Men, Patrick Stewart's suitability for the role of Professor Xavier wasn't just down to his chemistry with the Magneto actor. It felt like he was born to play the part.

Not only does he bear a striking resemblance to the Professor Xavier of the Marvel comics, but he also conveys the same kind of academic gravitas as the character.

This is something that was no doubt helped by his classical training as an actor.

The fact that he'd already served with distinction as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation also showed his versatility and range with the kind of "imaginative" material that some actors would avoid. 

31 Hurt: Shawn Ashmore as Iceman

Iceman Rogue Cut

The depiction of Iceman in the original trilogy of X-Men movies must surely rank among the most disappointing of the entire franchise, largely because he isn't given a whole lot to do.

Injecting the character with a little attitude or some sense of fun might have helped remedy this, but actor Shawn Ashmore largely played it safe.

Deployed in a secondary role, Ashmore's Iceman is painfully vanilla, with the actor struggling to assert himself on the screen as little more than an occasional love interest.

Ashmore has spoken of a willingness to return to the role following the intriguing comic book storyline that saw Iceman come out as gay. Unfortunately, this looks likely to happen. 

30 Saved: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

It's difficult to imagine anyone other than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. This is how good he's been in the role across a 17-year spell playing the Marvel icon.

As arguably one of the most popular and therefore pressurized comic book roles, Jackman has shone during the good, bad, and ugly parts of the X-Men movie franchise.

Looking and sounding the part is no fluke, either. Jackman's diet and fitness regimen for the role is the stuff of legend and imbues his performance with a physicality befitting of a trained, military "weapon" of a man, equipped with adamantium claws et al.

Jackman's theatrical background also ensures that he nails the emotional intensity of Logan time and time again. 

29 Hurt: Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse post credits scene

When the first images of Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse surfaced online, fans were far from happy.

After years waiting for one of the X-Men universe's most feared villains to arrive on the big screen, it looked like they were getting something more commonly found in your standard episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Some nifty post-production work might have improved his appearance, but it did little to enhance Isaac's surprisingly stilted performance.

Apocalypse was supposed to be the most feared of all the X-Men villains but, physically speaking, Isaac is simply too small. 

28 Saved: Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool

X Men Origins Wolverine Mouthless Deadpool

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is one unholy mess of a movie. Not even the presence of Hugh Jackman opposite the equally excellent Liev Schreiber can salvage proceedings.

This is a shame, because there are moments where the movie is genuinely enjoyable. Some of them involve Ryan Reynolds' Wade Wilson, who packs enough action and wisecracks into one short scene early in the movie to highlight why a Deadpool movie could work.

It may have taken a few more years of negotiations, some stellar scripts, and a leaked screen test, but the reality is there would be no Deadpool movies without this guy and the decision to cast Reynolds in the first place. 

27 Hurt: Nicholas Hoult as Beast

Nicholas Hoult as Beast in X-Men

Nicholas Hoult is a more than capable actor and someone who can turn his hand to a variety of genres with aplomb. He's just not Hank McCoy.

Sure, he's got the geeky, scientist aspects of the character down, but McCoy always had a little more clout to him than the English actor brings, both physically and in terms of on-screen personality.

This is why someone like Kelsey Grammer was arguably better suited to the part.

Finding a young actor that might have fit that criteria might have been a challenge, but Hoult just doesn't have the necessary star quality for what is an important role.

26 Saved: Halle Berry as Storm

Angela Bassett may have been the first choice for the role of Storm, but Halle Berry proved to be an inspired choice as the X-Men heroine. 

Despite a string of critically-acclaimed performances in lesser productions, major mainstream success had eluded Berry until then. 

This changed with X-Men, where Berry pulled off the role of Storm to perfection despite being criminally underused.

With a magnetic onscreen presence and similar looks to Storm, her deliberately subdued delivery and general air of maturity and gravitas added something a little different to the X-Men mix.

Should she have got more screen time and her own plot? Definitely, but she was still effective.

25 Hurt: Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique

Jennifer Lawrence may be one of the standout actresses in Hollywood right now and a worthy Oscar-winner to boot, but her casting as Mystique in X-Men: First Class is problematic.

Mystique, for one thing, was always a supervillain in the comics rather than the conflicted anti-hero she is portrayed as in the prequel movies. 

All too often Lawrence falls into old habits too, with her version of Mystique coming off as little more than a shape-shifting rejig of The Hunger Games' Katniss.

Also, for all the positivity of positioning a female actress at the fore of proceedings, does it really have to be the revealing Mystique again? Are there no other suitable female mutants? 

24 Saved: Michael Fassbender as Magneto

Erik Lensherr Magneto Michael Fassbender

Capable of conveying the same mix of charm and snarling ferocity as his elder counterpart Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender also imbues his Magneto with the raw menace you might expect from a younger version of the X-Men supervillain.

His relationship with on-screen friend-turned-adversary James McAvoy's Charles Xavier is crucial to the success of X-Men: First Class.

While McKellen succeeds in presenting the world-weary finished article that is Magneto, Fassbender's is a Magneto-in-the-making – raw, angry, and more humane but altogether more unpredictable than his older self.

In a somewhat ironic assessment, Fassbender is also a suitably magnetic onscreen presence. 

23 Hurt: Tye Sheridan as Cyclops

Tye Sheridan as Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse

Having made his name as a teen star in dramas like The Tree Of Life, Mud, and Joe, the casting of Tye Sheridan as Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse feels like a bridge too far.

One of the main problems with Bryan Singer's movie is the sheer number of superhero characters crammed into proceedings.

This means that Sheridan has limited time to shine as the young Scott Summers, and he's no James Marsden.

It's by-the-numbers stuff, but Sheridan doesn't feel like a natural fit for the goody-two-shoes Cyclops - he'd have been better off as Spider-Man - and lacks any real chemistry with Sophie Turner's more effective Jean Grey.

22 Saved: Anna Paquin as Rogue

Anna Paquin Rogue

Having won an Oscar at the tender age of 11 for her standout performance in The Piano, Anna Paquin was in danger of becoming just a footnote in Academy Awards history until she landed the role of Rogue in Bryan Singer's X-Men.

She went on to deliver a multi-layered performance that's crucial to the success of the first movie as the film's central female protagonist and the character who viewers root for unreservedly.

Paquin plays it to perfection, coming off as naïve and likeable, while grappling with her dangerous new powers in a script that incorporates themes around puberty and adolescence.

21 Hurt: Olivia Munn as Psylocke

Olivia Munn is many things. Having started out as a television presenter and occasional correspondent, she's been able to build on a whole host of hilarious small screen appearances with a string of sizeable roles in comedy movies.

Movies like Ride Along 2 and Office Christmas Party capture her at her comedic best. None of that comes to the fore in X-Men: Apocalypse, though, with Munn playing it straight and struggling to emote.

As a villain, she's not particularly fearsome, either.

That said, Munn handles the physicality of the Psylocke okay. It's just that she seems to sleepwalk her way through her limited dialogue.  

20 Saved: Kelsey Grammer as Beast

When plans of Bryan Singer's first X-Men movie were first rumored in the late '90s, Kelsey Grammer was undoubtedly the standout pick to play the Beast, aka Hank McCoy.

 Grammer was at the peak of his powers on Frasier at the time.

He brought box office clout to proceedings, as well as the necessary mix of physicality and charisma needed for the role.

Though he did eventually get the part, it was a touch too late, coming in arguably the weakest X-Men-centric movie released to date, X-Men: The Last Stand.

19 Hurt: Tyler Mane as Sabretooth

The decision to cast Tyler Mane as Sabretooth in the first X-Men movie may have been born out of necessity rather than anything else.

With budgets proving limited on what was the first major movie outing for the Marvel superhero troupe, the former wrestler turned actor was apparently the best option available.

Mane floats through the movie as a doe-eyed simpleton of a mutant.

As far as wrestlers-turned-actors go, he's solid enough. As far as straight up actors go, he's got room for improvement.

Sabretooth deserved better and would eventually get better, thanks to Liev Schreiber. 

18 Saved: Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler

Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler in X2 X-Men United

As one of the standout performers in the brilliant X2, Alan Cumming came close to missing out on the part of Nightcrawler due to scheduling conflicts.

At one point, Ethan Embry was close to landing the part before a delay in production paved the way for Cumming to return.

The Scottish-American actor proved a revelation. Already capable of speaking German fluently, Cumming did his research, revisiting previous comic books and illustrations of the character and patiently sitting through nine hours of makeup.

It was all worth it, with Cumming delivering an authentic and engaging portrait of one of the most unique characters in the X-Men universe.

The only shame is that we didn't see more of him.

17 Hurt: Taylor Kitsch as Gambit

Taylor Kitsch as Gambit

Someone somewhere in Hollywood really wanted Taylor Kitsch to be a star. What other reason is there for the string of dud movies featuring Kitsch in a lead role?

Sure, he'd shown himself to be capable of playing a high school football star on the excellent Friday Night Lights, but there was always a suspicion that role wasn't a massive stretch.

Though the Canadian Kitsch played ice hockey in his formative years, he was far from slick as the Cajun card-throwing mutant Gambit.

Having waited patiently for the character to be brought to the big screen, this felt like a disappointment and another nail in the Wolverine: X-Men Origins coffin. 

16 Saved: James McAvoy as Professor Xavier

James McAvoy as Professor Xavier in X-Men: Apocalypse

James McAvoy must rank among the most versatile leading men in Hollywood, so it's hardly a surprise to see him excel as the younger incarnation of Professor Charles Xavier.

He came off as a younger, more idealistic version of the character previously portrayed by Patrick Stewart.

The pair have plenty in common. Both are British, and both are classically trained, giving Professor Xavier the necessary academic smarts and sharpness required for the role.

McAvoy instils his Xavier with a little more edge too - the kind of edge that begins to be worn away over the course of McAvoy's three outings as the character to date.

His on-screen chemistry with Michael Fassbender is predictably impressive too.  

15 Hurt: Ben Foster as Warren Worthington III

Ben Foster as Archangel in the X-men movies.

Having first emerged on the scene as a budding 16-year-old star-in-the-making with movies like Liberty Heights, there was always a sense that Ben Foster was just waiting for the right role to come along.

Alas, the version of Warren Worthington III, aka Archangel, in Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand, wasn't it. 

Given little in the way of a plotline or character to work with, Foster is forced to go through the motions as part of a redemption storyline in which his dad tries to develop a cure for mutants, tries to administer it, fails, is nearly destroyed, and then rescued by his mutant son.

It's a corny role not befitting of Foster's considerable talent. 

14 Saved: Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth

Prior to Ray Donovan, if you were to ask someone what Liev Schreiber was best known for, chances are they would say Scream.

This is a shame, because Schreiber has done so much more. What's an even bigger shame, however, is that few will reference his performance as Sabretooth in Wolverine: X-Men Origins.

However, they really should, because he's awesome in it.

Pitted against Hugh Jackman's Wolverine as warring brothers turned top-secret government destroying machines, he's perfect.

Displaying the necessary ruthless menace, it's a window into what Logan may have turned out like if he'd had all the humanity removed from him.

It's just a pity he didn't get to reprise the role. 

13 Hurt: Dominic Monaghan as Bolt

This is a classic example of the kind of casting that occurs off the back of small-screen success. Dominic Monaghan made his name to US fans with his performance as washed-up, ex-substance addict rocker Charlie Pace on ABC's sprawling mystery flashback/flashforward series Lost.

He may have played one of the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movies but, by the time Wolverine: X-Men Origins rolled around, his stock was high because of Lost.

As an intriguing superhero capable of controlling electricity, Monaghan doesn't deliver much as part of Team X.

Coming off as a major wet blanket rather than a sympathetic presence, Bolt just doesn't seem believable as a government-trained mutant assassin. 

12 Saved: Brian Cox as William Stryker

Marvel movies have, on occasion, had issues when it comes to bringing compelling villains to the big screen. Maybe this is why X2 was so fantastic.

In Brian Cox's William Stryker, Bryan Singer introduced a villain to rival McKellen's more conflicted Magneto.

Stryker is more of a straight-up bad guy, played with suitable relish by Cox.

Having given up the role of Hannibal Lecter to Anthony Hopkins (Cox played him in Manhunter and turned down The Silence of the Lambs), Cox shows us all what we missed.

Mixing a shady military sensibility with an intriguing onscreen relationship with Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, he's consistently watchable. No other Stryker has come close. 

11 Hurt: Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde

Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand

Ellen Page is a fine actress with movies like Juno and Inception showcasing her range and obvious abilities. Clearly, she wasn't comfortable working under Brett Ratner on X-Men: The Last Stand and has said as much since.

Maybe this is why she never felt quite right as Kitty Pryde.

Hampered by the movies' weak script and overstuffed cast, Page failed to make much of an impression as Pryde.

The decision to cast her as Shadowcat also saw Anna Paquin overshadowed with yet another character crammed into the X-Men mix. It all felt like an opportunity missed.

10 Saved: Evan Peters as Quicksilver

Evan Peters as Quicksilver in X-Men: Apocalypse

If you're looking for an example of good and bad casting in superhero movies, look no further than Quicksilver. In this instance, you had two different actors playing the same character in two different movies.

In one corner, you had Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver in Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the other, you had Evan Peters as the same character in X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

One of them delivered a fun, charismatic performance in a role that might have otherwise been lost in the shuffle and impressive display of special effects.

The other took a more serious, restrained route and perished with little to no fanfare. 

9 Hurt: Danny Huston as William Stryker

Danny Huston William Stryker

While Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds were able to rise above the mediocrity in Wolverine: X-Men Origins, others were less fortunate.

With Danny Huston, you have to wonder whether he took one look at the movie's absurd script and decided to take a similarly ridiculous approach to the character of William Stryker.

Where once Cox gave the X-Men villain nuance, Huston went for something far more brash and hammy.

It's an over-the-top performance that comes close to parody at times. Huston is better than this and boasts a CV full of fine performances.

Whatever he was doing here, it didn't work. 

8 Saved: Sophie Turner as Jean Grey

After several seasons of toil and trouble on the sidelines as Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, Sophie Turner got her teeth into something a little meatier in X-Men: Apocalypse.

Casting the actress in the pivotal role of Jean Grey was a shrewd move, with Turner bringing the necessary range to the part of the telekinetic/telepathic mutant.

Capable of portraying Grey's complex combination of strength and vulnerability, it's not a million miles away from what was required to play the part of Sansa.

All of which only serves to highlight how well suited she is to the part. 

7 Hurt: as John Wraith

It was supposed to be the start of a potentially lucrative movie career. However, it ended up being the lowest of low points for the entire franchise. 

As an avid X-Men fan, had always dreamt of playing Nightcrawler. Unfortunately, Alan Cumming had already made that role very much his own.

The compromise was Kestrel, or John Wraith, as he is known in the movie. The Black Eyed Peas frontman certainly looks the part.

It's just a shame that he can't deliver any of his lines properly and moves across the screen with all of the grace of the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz. 

6 Saved: Josh Helman as William Stryker

Josh Helman in X-Men Days of Furture Past

As so much more than just a pretty face, rising Aussie star Josh Helman proved effective as the young William Stryker in X-Men: Days Of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse.

Going against Danny Huston's overly-maniacal turn in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this Stryker may have been younger than Brian Cox's incarnation from X2, but it was a performance full of raw menace and perfect for the character at this point in his fictional life.

Helman can do menacing well too, as movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and My Name Is Lenny showed.

5 Hurt: Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask

Bolivar Trask in Days of Future Past (2014)

As a strange and utterly pointless bit of stunt casting, Dinklage landed the gig as Bolivar Trask off the back of his work on Game of Thrones and thanks to standout turns in movies like The Last Station.

When the news first broke that he would be involved in X-Men: Days of Future Past, fans were understandably excited. However, the result is disappointing.

It's not anything that Dinklage does. Instead, it's more that the role is woefully underwritten, giving the actor little to do.

Even his brief cameo in Avengers: Infinity War was more memorable and better written than this. 

4 Saved: Kevin Durand as Blob

Kevin Durand as the Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Among the madness and mayhem that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one man at least was having a ball.

Having impressed as the world's most effective mercenary in Lost, Martin Keamy, long-time character actor Kevin Durand got his chance to get involved in the world of superheroes in a big way here - literally.

Cast as Fred J. Dukes, aka The Blob, Durand revels in the role, providing a welcome respite from the movie's ridiculous storyline during a set piece that sees Wolverine take on the slovenly man mountain in the boxing ring.

It's just a shame that the rest of his role was left on the cutting room floor. 

3 Hurt: Famke Janssen as Jean Grey

X-Men - Famke Janssen as Jean Grey

The Dutch model-turned-actress first hit the big time as Xenia Onatopp, the painfully innuendo-led villain, in the James Bond outing Goldeneye.

Keen to avoid being typecast, she took on a variety of roles in the years that followed, culminating with the part of Jean Grey in X-Men.

Janssen may not have been the first choice for the role, with rumours suggesting everyone from Lucy Lawless, Maria Bello, and Helen Hunt, but she does a solid job as Grey.

It's only when she transforms in the role of the Phoenix for X-Men: The Last Stand that Janssen's limitations are exposed.  

2 Saved: Olivia Williams as Dr. Moira McTaggart

Olivia Williams as Moira MacTaggert in X-Men The Last Stand

As another classically trained British actress, Olivia Williams was perfectly cast as Dr Moira McTaggart, the love interest of sorts for Dr. Charles Xavier.

It's more of an implied connection of course, given Williams' limited screen time and the fact she shares none of it with Stewart.

Williams still does a fine job of helping set up the movie's final post-credits sting and the potential resurrection of Xavier.

It may not have amounted to another appearance in the franchise, but it's an authentic and important performance.

Or at least it should have been had the franchise continued on that particular direction.

1 Hurt: Daniel Cudmore as Colossus

As another actor recruited to fill out the cast, Daniel Cudmore is an absolute beast of a man.

It's fair to say that Cudmore ended up landing the part of the super steely and super strong mutant Colossus because of his physical appearance. After all, they didn't give him many lines in X2 or X-Men: The Last Stand.

When he was invited back to appear in Deadpool, he was told that it would be for CGI and stunt work only - no lines.

This criminal lack of character progression suggests that Cudmore never had the full backing of those behind the scenes.


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