It wasn’t until 2000 that the first live-action X-Men movie hit theaters worldwide. Despite not being solely responsible for the explosion of comic book movies in the 21st century, this film redefined what Marvel adaptations could achieve at the box office. In an instant, a whole new world of comic book movies opened up…though it was once possible to see this explosion even earlier.
It was once planned that the X-Men would make their live-action debut roughly a decade before their movie debut. In spite of the lengthy series of X-Men movies that did get made, this unmade mutant movie still has a lot to unearth.
This initial X-Men film dates back to 1989. It is not surprising that there were rumblings about a film adaptation of these characters this particular year. In fact, this was the year that Tim Burton debuted his Batman movie.
In addition to breaking box office records, Batman spawned a wealth of lucrative merchandise. There was a sudden rush of superhero films and comic book adaptations in Hollywood in an effort to make the next Batman. It seemed a good idea to capture the lightning in a bottle with the X-Men.
This potential film was exacerbated by the fact that its director was associated with blockbusters of the 1980s. James Cameron, fresh off directing The Terminator and Aliens, was producing this X-Men film.
In addition to his production company, Lightstorm Entertainment, Kathryn Bigelow was attached to direct the film. Gary Goldman, the screenwriter of Big Trouble in Little China, is attached to pen the script. Behind-the-scenes talent associated with this film included a number of fan-favorite 1980s genre filmmakers.
Claremont, whose contributions to the history of X-Men comics are immeasurably valuable, revealed in 2012 why this assemblage of talent never united. However, he did note that this prospective movie that he still looks back on fondly, seemed to be moving in the right direction before the project went awry.
Cameron was also launching Lightstorm Entertainment as a studio in 1990, so the timing seemed right. Hollywood would need to see big projects in the pipeline for this company to gain credibility. X-Men seemed like the perfect fit.
Furthermore, the film was starting to assemble a potentially interesting cast. While nobody was ever officially signed on for Storm, Angela Bassett was considered. One of the most interesting possibilities in its potential cast was Bob Hoskins as Wolverine.
Any Hugh Jackman fan who felt the character would be too tall would’ve loved Hoskins’ gruff demeanor. As a matter of fact, the idea of such actors starring in an X-Men movie under the direction of Bigelow sounded too good to be true.
Claremont, Cameron, Bigelow, and Stan Lee discussed the X-Men movie, and it immediately fell apart. The idea came from Lee asking Cameron if he was interested in making a Spider-Man movie, according to Claremont.
The future Avatar filmmaker immediately jumped at the chance to make a live-action Spidey movie, and Bigelow developed the screenplay. X-Men was cast aside by this creative team because Spider-Man was now on the table, much to Claremont’s dismay.
X-Men film rights now belong to Carolco Pictures, which has been teamed with Lightstorm Entertainment on Terminator 2: Judgement Day. A version of this story in which Carolco simply moved on and hired another filmmaker is easy to imagine.
Through the early 1990s, Carolco Pictures faced numerous financial hardships, which limited its ability to produce big-budget movies, like X-Men. Carolco lost the film rights to the X-Men sometime during these financial issues, according to comments on the DVD audio commentary. It was now clear that the project was over.
X-Men would languish for a few years as Marvel tried to get movie studios interested in making a film about these mutants. It didn’t help that Hollywood was focusing on other 1940s comics, rather than DC comics properties in order to capitalize on Batman at this moment.
There was a lot of attention paid to Shadow and Dick Tracy, while the X-Men weren’t introduced until the 1960s. Producer Lauren Shuler Donner didn’t get the film rights to the X-Men set up at 20th Century Fox until X-Men: The Animated Series took off.
This was where the original story of 2000 X-Men began, ironically at the same time James Cameron’s Spider-Man was petering out. As early as the mid-1990s, Cameron’s superhero movie choice had been stymied by competing studios claiming rights to the character.
Following Sony/Columbia Pictures’ victory, a new vision emerged that ditched Cameron’s proposal. The X-Men ball would’ve been Cameron’s focus if he had kept his eye on it. The film might’ve gotten made, especially since Cameron wouldn’t have had to direct it as well.
Things turned out okay for the X-Men characters on the big screen. While the original X-Men movies came to a less-than-prestigious end with Dark Phoenix in 2019, they brought to life a number of the most beloved mutants from the comics. Nevertheless, die-hard X-Men fans cannot help but wistfully wonder if Bigelow’s vision of the heroes from 1990 had succeeded in getting off the ground.
Robert Poirrer is a contributing author who covers Hollywood latest movie releases and web series for the MovieThop website. He has a decade of experience in writing movies based articles for numerous renowned media outlets. He is excellent at creating unique content based on emerging trends in a variety of categories especially entertainment, movies and lifestyle. When not writing articles you could find Robert enjoying mountain biking trips with his friends. He graduated in English Literature from North Carolina State University.