Before Patrick Stewart was cast as the mighty Marvel Comics telepath, “King of Pop” Michael Jackson pitched himself to the filmmakers to play Professor Charles Xavier in 2000’s X-Men movie.
That meeting was recounted as part of a larger exposé from The Hollywood Reporter on X-Men director Bryan Singer, which details a long pattern of unprofessional and allegedly abusive behavior on set and off that eventually saw Singer fired from directing Bohemian Rhapsody nearly two decades later.
Michael Jackson met with Bryan Singer and a group of the filmmakers involved in the X-Men movie back in the spring of 1999. Jackson, who THR notes was wearing sunglasses and refused to shake hands, made his case for why he should play Professor Charles Xavier, mentor and leader of the X-Men, in what would become the first big Marvel movie blockbuster.
Jackson, it must be remembered, was no stranger to acting, having portrayed the Scarecrow in 1978’s The Wiz. He also acted in several of his extended music videos, such as “Thriller” and “Bad,” and starred in the 1988 musical anthology film Moonwalker as well as the Francis Ford Coppola-directed, George Lucas-scripted fantasy short, Captain EO.
X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner recalled telling Jackson at the X-Men meeting, “I said to him, ‘Do you know Xavier is an older white guy?’ … And Michael said, ‘Oh yeah. You know, I can wear makeup.'”
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Jackson’s “elaborate presentation” to the X-Men team included showing the short film Ghosts, wherein Jackson plays an older white mayor at one point.
THR claims Jackson was, “never seriously considered” for the role, citing one unnamed former film exec citing the late singer’s child sex abuse scandal as one reason why: “Michael was already in the thick of all his allegations by X-Men.” (It should be noted that THR also delves into the many sexual misconduct allegations against Bryan Singer in their piece.)
In the end, Patrick Stewart was cast as Professor X in 2000’s X-Men, a role he continued to play until 2017’s Logan.
Michael Jackson’s pitch to play Professor X isn’t the only curious “what might have been” piece of X-Men casting history. Then-unknown Hugh Jackman replaced Dougray Scott as Wolverine, while Jim Caviezel was originally tipped to play Cyclops before James Marsden won the role.