Superhero movies weren’t always big business. Prior to the comic-movie renaissance launched by 1998’s Blade and set ablaze by Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie in 2000, the thought that we’d ever see big-budget movies based on our favorite comic book heroes was just fanboy pipe dreams.
Even the notion that we’d see the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer directing a $220 million Avengers movie was outright ludicrous. Hollywood was very different in the late 90s and early aughts. However, before superhero movies became a box-office trend, there were major Hollywood players who saw their appeal.
Case in point: James Cameron’s aborted treatment for a Spider-Man movie has been circulating the internet for ages. If you’re a fan of Giant Freakin Robot, there’s a good chance you’ve even read it. However, what isn’t as widely known is that James Cameron also considered making an X-Men movie.
Some initial plans for an X-Men movie came from legendary Marvel writer Chris Claremont (as originally reported by The Wrap). Claremont was responsible for one of the best-remembered comic runs of Marvel’s merry mutants, writing Uncanny X-Men from 1975-1991 and co-creating characters such as Rogue, Phoenix, and Mystique. He spoke at a Columbia University panel where he dropped the Cameron bomb.
Apparently, Claremont and Stan Lee pitched the idea for an X-Men movie to James Cameron back in 1990, soon after Cameron launched his Lightstorm Entertainment production company.
“Just think about this for a minute: James Cameron’s X-Men. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. That’s what we were planning,” said Claremont.
Unfortunately, the project was accidentally thrown under the bus when Stan Lee changed the subject to Spider-Man. As Claremont explains:
About 20 minutes later all the Lightstorm guys and I are looking at each other, and we all know the X-Men deal has just evaporated. Kathryn goes off and writes a screen treatment for X-Men that was eaten alive by all the idiots who have a piece of Spider-Man because Marvel during its evolution has sold off the rights time and time and time again.
So, what would Claremont’s dream version of a James Cameron/Kathryn Bigelow X-Men movie look like Claremont wanted Angela Bassett for Storm, a bit of casting that would have been brilliant.
His ideas for Wolverine were a bit more, well, unorthodox. Claremont envisioned English actor Bob Hoskins (who played Mario in the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie) in the role. Hoskins might not be most people’s idea of an action hero, but he did fit with the comic version of Wolverine: a short, feral scrapper.
Claremont said that he was sold on the idea of a Hoskins Wolverine by a scene in the 1984 movie Lassiter where Hoskins assaults Tom Selleck. That’s strangely appropriate: Selleck was, notoriously, almost Indiana Jones before passing on the role that then went to Harrison Ford.
The James Cameron X-Men movie never came to be, and we thankfully got Hugh Jackman as Wolverine instead of Hoskins. But imagining what a guy like Avatar and Terminator director James Cameron could have done with this group of superheroes sure does feel like one of Hollywood’s true sliding doors moments.