After the merger between Disney and 21st Century, the film and television rights to live-action X-Men projects reverted back to Marvel. This has led to the announcement of Jon Watts directing a reboot of The Fantastic Four, another group of characters that came home to Marvel in the wake of the merger. Marvel Studios doesn’t seem to be in any rush to introduce mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the biggest task they’ll have is recasting the Wolverine role.
Getting the X-Men and Wolverine on the big screen took a bit longer than you might imagine. Apparently, development goes back to 1984 as Wolverine co-creator Roy Thomas (Conan The Barbarian, Conan The Destroyer, Red Sonja) and Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway (Fire & Ice, Conan The Destroyer) wrote an X-Men film for Orion Pictures before the studio had financial issues.
Another incarnation had James Cameron producing a version with Near Dark director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker) and a script titled Wolverine & The X-Men was penned by Gary Goldman (Total Recall, Big Trouble In Little China, Navy Seals) around 1991 for Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Carolco Prictures. When Carolco went bankrupt the project was essentially dead.
In 1994, producer Lauren Shuler Donner got her hands on the X-Men rights and brought it to 20th Century Fox hiring screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (Seven, The Wolfman, 8mm, Sleepy Hollow, Fight Club, Event Horizon, The Game) to work on a script, he was also assigned to write a Silver Surfer movie for the studio that never saw the light of day. After multiple tweaks to the X-Men script from various writers (some uncredited like Christopher McQuarrie and Ed Solomon), David Hayter would eventually get the screenwriting credit. It was eventually shot in 1999-2000 in Toronto/Hamilton/Burlington, Ontario, Canada by director Bryan Singer (attached since 1996) and released in 2000 earning an impressive $296.3 million globally on a budget of $75 million.
The Hugh Jackman era was certainly a bumpy road as the Australian actor was a last minute replacement for the Wolverine role as Scottish actor Dougray Scott had a scheduling conflict as he was busy shooting John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II. During the Cameron/Bigelow incarnation, Bob Hoskins had been considered. Much later on actors such as Russell Crowe, Viggo Mortensen, and Keanu Reeves had been in the mix for Wolverine.
The commercial success of the first X-Men movie is often cited by many as the turning point for Marvel projects being appealing to wide-range of audiences. Alongside Blade, proved to Marvel that people were willing to go see popcorn films featuring their characters which at the time had been considered a niche audience as a multitude of comic book movies had failed to make money in the 1990’s. Many studios tried to chase the box office returns achieved by Tim Burton’s Batman movies only to lose a lot of money in the process.
Due to Wolverine’s popularity he ended up landing his own film trilogy at 20th Century Fox starting with the forgettable mess, X-Men Origins: Wolverine that was plagued with studio brass,Tom Rothman, meddling with production and threatening to fire director Gavin Hood. A workprint of the film had been leaked online ahead of the officially release with incomplete visual effects and wasn’t much better than the theatrical version, as it clearly had half-cooked effects and godawful digital claws. The horrible effects only highlighted how bland the film was.
Luckily, The Wolverine was helmed by James Mangold (replacing Darren Aronofsky) and became one of the better films of the X-Men franchise and led to a stellar final bow for Hugh Jackman in the sequel Logan. Hugh would announce his retirement as Wolverine following the success of Logan, even turning down multiple pleas from Ryan Reynolds to make a Wolverine vs Deadpool movie.
Marvel Studios is now in the perfect position to reboot the X-Men and remove all the silly timeline issues along with the character deviations that started with Singer’s first installment giving us faithful versions of the mutants. The only mutant project they’re currently working on is the R-rated Deadpool 3 starring Ryan Reynolds as they recently hired Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Loeglin to write it.
The Falcon & The Winter Soldier has introduced Logan’s stomping-ground Madripoor and I hope we’ll see the location in future X-Men projects. I’d love to see Marvel give Wolverine a faithful origin covering his adventures during WWII/Cold War, confrontations with Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, connections to the Canadian mutant team Alpha Flight or in the Weapon X Program as Marvel Studios would likely be able to explore this stuff in a Disney+ series as not to distract from the main X-Men team.
We’re still waiting on Marvel to announce the creative team working on their X-Men reboot.
Hiring the next Wolverine is gong to be a pivotal moment for Marvel Studios because Hugh Jackman has been the face of Logan for over 20 years and to some fans their entire lives. It’s sort of tough coming up with the “perfect list” of casting hopefuls to play the MCU’s Wolverine because those are big shoes to fill. However, I came up with a group that might skew a little older but I felt had the well-rounded careers that could be solid enough to be in consideration along with being names that I assume Marvel would want to target. Given that Moon Knight’s Oscar Isaac is in his forties it wouldn’t be that hard to imagine older/seasoned contenders for Wolverine.
HENRY CAVILL (AGE 37): Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The Witcher, Man of Steel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Stardust, Immortals, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Enola Holmes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League.
CHRIS PINE (AGE 40): Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond, Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, Hell or High Water, Outlaw King, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Unstoppable, Smokin’ Aces, This Means War, and The Finest Hours.
TOM HARDY (AGE 43): Band of Brothers, RocknRolla, Black Hawk Down, Locke, Taboo, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Venom, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Peaky Blinders, Dunkirk, Legend, The Revenant, The Drop, Lawless, Warrior, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bronson, Marie Antoinette, Star Trek: Nemesis, and Layer Cake.
CILLIAN MURPHY (AGE 44): 28 Days Later, Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Peaky Blinders, Red Eye, Sunshine, Dunkirk, Free Fire, TRON: Legacy, Cold Mountain, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and A Quiet Place II.