The Powers That Be

After years of waiting they are finally hitting the big screen. It's curtains up for the X-Men

Wolverine & Mystique

Grant Kempster introduces
the talented team of superheroes

  Selected from the new-look,
bigger Starburst Special #44

For over 35 years the names Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops and Xavier have meant more than just a kind of animal, a weather condition, a Greek mythical creature or a name your parents might give you if they’ve had a few too many before the christening. For that matter, since the first edition of The Uncanny X-Men hit the shelves in comic stores across the globe, eager fans have lapped up the adventures of the mutant superhero gang.

Sticking with it through the new team-member acquisitions and catastrophic story lines, the X-Men fan-base has been renowned for its devotion and great affection for the franchise. A fact which the entertainment industry has long recognized, sending forth a barrage of X-related entertainment beginning with the animated Pryde of The X-Men in 1989 and coming right up-to-date in 2000 with the long awaited live-action X-Men movie.

Kick Off

The prospect of a mega-budget X-Men film had always been on the cards, but it wasn’t until March 1996 that it seemed as if, at last, a live-action version of one of Marvel comic’s most successful comic-books might actually make it to the big screen. Finally Twentieth Century Fox had given the all-important green-light to the project, with a tentative release date of Christmas ’96 and an as-yet clean-slate of director and actor possibilities.

Unsurprisingly, the slate wasn’t empty for long, as soon after the announcement, names began to fly around like confetti in a hurricane, beginning in great style with the news that Se7en scribe Andrew Walker was penning the script and Superman helmer Richard Donner would direct. As it turned out, a large number of writers and directors would be associated with the film before cameras finally began to roll in Hamilton Ontario in October of 1999.

Not long after his Oscar glory (for The Usual Suspects), the mantle of director fell to Bryan Singer who readily came on board, setting Walker’s screenplay aside as a consequence. It was Ed Solomon who then took overwriting duties, attempting to add the flesh and bones to Singer’s vision, a vision which would eventually take five writers to lock down to a finished shooting script that the studio was happy with.

Chris McQuarrie, Joss Whedon, David Hayter, Bryan Singer and co-producer Tom DeSanto all pitched in to get it right, taking the multi-coloured heroes off the Fantasy comic pages and slam-dunking them firmly into reality. DeSanto in particular was to be a huge asset to the team, especially since Singer knew precious little about the genre.

“That’s where I think Bryan is a good balance because I’m sort of the comic fan boy and Bryan is the audience,” DeSanto explained to fans at a Detroit Comic convention. “He [didn’t] know the X-Men, but he’s come to over the past three years. Bryan is now its biggest champion. He loves the mythology and he loves these characters. So it will be accessible to people who don’t know The X-Men but X-Men fans and people who love the books will be on equal ground.”

Marvellous Stan

Singer also got the seal of approval from the Godfather of Marvel, Mr Stan Lee. “This guy Bryan Singer, who did The Usual Suspects, he’s not a comic-book director,” Lee said in an interview with the Comic Book Continuum. “He does very intelligent, character-oriented movies. Yet, he’s a big fan of the X-Men. He wants to do this and he wants to make it intelligent and believable.”

Finding a writer and director was only half the problem of getting this long-awaited project off the ground, and long before any official word came out about casting choices, everyone had an idea whom they wanted to play who in the big-screen adaptation. It came as no surprise that every hot Hollywood star became attached to at least one of the sought-after roles, some of which were ludicrous and others which were nigh-on perfect...

Grant Kempster

Meet the players

Professor X

Name: Charles Xavier
Code-name: Professor X
Movie Player: Patrick Stewart
Powers: The most powerful telepath on Earth, Xavier can search, change and erase the memory of anyone he chooses.
History: Having been the leader of the X-Men since their inception, Charles continues to lead to this day. Many years before he founded the X-Men however, Xavier worked as a doctor in Israel where he befriended Eric Magnus, a man he would later call Magneto, his life-long nemesis.

Storm

Name: Ororo Munroe
Code-name: Storm
Movie Player: Halle Berry
Powers: Ability to control the weather
History: First appearing in Giant Size X-Men #1, Storm has since proved an electrifying addition to the group. Born in New York, raised in Cairo and hailed as an African Goddess, Ororo has led a troubled life, but has since, of course, found meaning in it thanks to the Xavier Institute.

 
 

For more player profiles, and quotes from the stars who made it through casting (and a couple who didn't), don't miss Starburst Special #44

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Images © 20th-Century Fox, Visual Imagination
Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction

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