X-Men was released in theaters 20 years ago today, and star Hugh Jackman is marking the occasion by sharing a silly behind-the-scenes video complete with a crack at his lack of muscle tone when he first played Wolverine. Indeed, a lot has changed in the superhero movie genre over the last two decades, but X-Men was in many ways a foundational film for what would come later. 20th Century Fox and director Bryan Singer (who, unfortunately, is allegedly a Bad Dude) crafted a grounded take on a superhero movie that would pave the way for even more grounded/grittier films like Batman Begins in the future. It’s hard to overstate how abnormal it was to step into an X-Men movie and have the prologue begin in a concentration camp.
The franchise would have its ups and downs in the ensuing years, but no one loomed as large as Jackman’s Wolverine. The actor became synonymous with the role, and would lead the only successful solo spinoff from the X-Men franchise – twice! (let’s all pretend X-Men Origins doesn’t exist okay?). But Jackman wasn’t even supposed to play Wolverine. As he quips in the tweet below, he had only three weeks to get into shape to play Logan. Dougray Scott was originally cast in the role, but when the production of Mission: Impossible 2 ran over-schedule, Scott had to drop out of X-Men. Singer had already begun filming and was scrambling to find a replacement, and in steps Jackman with basically no prep time.
Jackman was a standout even in that first X-Men, and would go on to shine in sequels like X2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past. One could accurately say the entire franchise was basically built on Jackman’s shoulders, and so it’s kind of fitting that the series has now essentially sputtered out following the release of last year’s dud Dark Phoenix and the sale of Fox to Disney, which now puts the X-Men under Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios’ purview – just after Jackman retired from the Wolverine role with the brilliant Logan.
So take a quick trip down memory lane and check out Jackman’s throwback X-Men video below.