There is something about superhero movies that make most people wish to see themselves in the role of such superpowered heroes. This is far from a recent phenomenon. In an interview with Observer, X-Men franchise producer Ralph Winter revealed that all the way back in 2000 when comic book movies were generally looked down upon, there were some very prominent names interested in being a part of the mutant super-team.

"I have lots of warm memories of people that came in wanting to be in the movie. 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."
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"Every day 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."

The thought of well-known musician and diva Mariah Carey patiently waiting for the chance to interview for a role in the film left Winter understandably surprised. As far as O'Neal was concerned, his interest was more expected. The former basketball star had long made his interest in comic books known, from starring in the 1997 superhero flick Steel to lending his likeness to several different comic series over the years.

As far as Michael Jackson is concerned, the late king of pop was a huge fan of Marvel Comics. He had once attempted to secure the rights to the entire roster of Marvel heroes, for the purpose of putting himself in the lead role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in a live-action movie. It seems having those attempts foiled prompted Jackson to instead try out for the role of Professor Xavier.

Ultimately, the potential star power such big names could have added to the X-Men franchise was traded in for lesser-known actors who better fit the narrative from the comics. Another future superstar of the genre was also using the experience of working as an assistant to producer Laura Shuler Donner for X-Men to cut his teeth, MCU showrunner Kevin Feige.

"The studio wanted the widest possible audience, the biggest bang for their buck, as they deserve and require. 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.'"

It seems Winter and his team succeeded in making many right moves when it came to picking the right people to be a part of the first X-Men film. The movie is widely regarded as one of the best comic book movies of all time and ended up playing a huge role in legitimizing the genre as worthy of serious and socially relevant storytelling. This news originated at Observer.com

Neeraj Chand