Michael Jackson Campaigned for Role of Professor X in First X-Men Movie, Producers Say

The role of Professor X ultimately went to actor Patrick Stewart

Michael Jackson, Professor X
Photo: Mark Mainz/Getty; 20th Century Fox/Marvel Ent Group/Kobal/Shutterstock

X-Men could have been a different film if Michael Jackson got his way.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the 2000 superhero film, The Hollywood Reporter interviewed a number of insiders about what was going on behind the scenes.

Two producers who worked on the film recalled to the outlet that in 1999, Jackson went in for a meeting with director Bryan Singer, where the pop superstar made a case for why he should play Professor X, a role that ultimately went to Patrick Stewart.

"I said to him, 'Do you know Xavier is an older white guy?' " said producer Lauren Shuler Donner. "And Michael said, 'Oh yeah. You know, I can wear makeup.' "

Jackson went on to deliver a presentation, which included the musician’s short film Ghosts, in which one of the characters Jackson portrayed was an elderly white mayor, the outlet reported, going on to note that he was never seriously considered for the part.

Executive producer Ralph Winter also recalled Jackson wanting to play the part in a recent interview with the Observer, calling him a “big comic fan.”

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart as Professor X. Moviestore/Shutterstock

Of course, Jackson wasn’t the only famous face who wanted in on the film.

In a 2017 interview with THR, screenwriter David Hayter recalled a list of some X-Men hopefuls who didn’t end up making the cut — including the singer’s sister.

“I was brought on as they were casting, so I was lucky enough to be there for some of the people who came in like Terence Stamp for Xavier and Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey for Storm,” he said, adding that Shaquille O’Neal also lobbied for a part in the film.

Viggo Mortensen came in. I really liked Viggo for Wolverine, but it didn't come together for whatever reason” he continued. “Angela Bassett was our first choice for Storm, but her agents wanted more money than we had at the time. Same with Rachael Leigh Cook for Rogue.”

Jackson also showed major interest in another Marvel film, 2002’s Spider-Man.

In a 2012 interview, the late Stan Lee shared that Jackson had tried to buy Marvel in the ‘90s. “He felt that would be the only way that he could play Spider-Man,” Lee said in an interview with Moviefone.

“I knew Michael Jackson. And with the things he discussed with me, I felt he wanted to be Spider-Man. That was the character that interested him,” Lee, who died in 2018, added. “I think he'd have been good. I think he'd have been very good. But I must say that Tobey Maguire was wonderful.”

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