Michael Jackson Wanted to Play Professor X in ‘X-Men’
Anniversary essays tend to be affectionate looks back at popular movies. Not the new piece in The Hollywood Reporter timed to the 20th anniversary of the original X-Men. This article calls the set of the film “traumatic,” and claims that the fact that Fox enabled director Bryan Singer’s alleged misbehavior during production “created a monster” that thrived in Hollywood for years, until an article published in The Atlantic detailed accusations of sexual misconduct.
You’ll have to go to THR for the full story of Singer’s behavior on the set, but the piece begins with a largely unrelated but absolutely fascinating anecdote about the early days of production, when Singer and producers were working on the Fox lot trying to cast the movie. Apparently, one day in the spring of 1999 Michael Jackson just showed up at the office to pitch himself as the guy to play X-Men founder and leader Charles Xavier.
X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner recalled the episode in detail:
I said to him, 'Do you know Xavier is an older white guy?' And Michael said, 'Oh yeah. You know, I can wear makeup.'
As part of his sales pitch, Jackson played the team an “elaborate presentation complete with the short film Ghosts,” a 40-minute mini-movie Jackson made in collaboration with makeup master Stan Winston and horror author Stephen King. Jackson plays numerous characters, including an older white man. There’s actually an article about Ghosts in the ScreenCrush archives if you want to read more about it — but you can watch the movie below:
Fox supposedly “never seriously considered Jackson for the role,” in part because was Jackson was already dealing with misconduct allegations of his own. Instead, Fox chose X-Men fans’ top choice for the role, Patrick Stewart, who went on to play Xavier for the next 17 years. Now I’m trying to imagine Michael Jackson in the part. You’d need a mind as strong as Charles Xavier’s to fully wrap your brain around how that casting would have changed the shape of X-Men movies, and superhero movies in general.
Gallery — Every X-Men Movie Ranked From Worst to Best: