Casting A Wide Net
Casting X-MEN proved to be another formidable challenge. The process began in the spring of 1999 and wasn't completed until late October 1999, when principal photography was already underway.
"There are so many great heroes and villains in the comics that one of the toughest parts of development was choosing the characters on which to focus," says Lauren Shuler
Donner. "Once we figured that out, the task was to put a great ensemble cast together."
The first actor to sign on was former professional wrestler Tyler Mane, who plays the 7'2" havoc-wreaking
"The transition from professional wrestler to Hollywood actor is actually a pretty natural one~" says Mane, who in reality stands a still-formidable 6' 10" and weighs 275 pounds. "Wrestling is performed on the hardest stage in the world — the four-sided kind — where you can't hide anything. It's all out there for the world to see. As a wrestler, you create a character in the ring. It's a totally different persona, which translates easily into acting for the stage or screen."
For the role of Professor Charles Xavier, the filmmakers agree that Patrick Stewart was their first — and only — choice. Shuler Donner first mentioned the project to Stewart several years ago when he was filming Conspiracy Theory with her husband, producer-director Richard
"Just look at Patrick next to a picture of Xavier," says Singer. "There's an obvious similarity. Much more importantly, Patrick is an incredibly talented actor. His voice, presence, and ability to understand the material made him perfect for the role."
For Stewart, best known for his role as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Xavier is the latest in a long list of strong characters he's played over the years. "I'm just another authority figure," says Stewart, laughing. "Since I was a teenager, my career has been littered with kings, captains, emperors, party bosses, trade union leaders, presidents, generals; you name it, I've worn the uniform. Now, in X-MEN, I am a mutant leader. What's truly ironic is that I am the least authoritarian figure you're ever likely to meet."
Stewart was particularly pleased to have the chance to work opposite his old friend from his Royal Shakespeare Company days, Ian
MeKellen. "In all the years we spent together at the RSC, Ian and I worked together only on one production, and that was just a few days work. But we are of a similar age, our careers have grown together, we come from the same part of England and, in many respects we have similar backgrounds. Then, to find ourselves playing these two closely-linked characters in X-MEN was a total delight."
The feeling was mutual "What fun," enthuses MeKellen. "Two actors of the same generation, tempering our respective English accents to battle each other in this fantasy world."
MeKellen also was pleased to reunite with Bryan Singer, with whom he had worked on Apt Pupil. "I am a great fan of Bryan's," says
MeKellen, "and we are good friends. He has wonderful taste, and a clear vision of the material."
McKellen appreciated Singer's depiction of the intolerant society in which the X-Men live. The actor also has his own take on this aspect of the X-Men mythos. "I'm interested in this mutant world because, in a way, I feel like I'm a 'mutant'. Being a gay man, I often am thought to be too dangerous, unusual and abnormal to be allowed into society as a whole, judging by the laws that prevail in my country and indeed throughout the world. And it's not just gay people who can identify with these characters, but other minorities, as well.
"I was also attracted to the film because it is a rattling good adventure story, complete with the sort of moral dilemmas that Shakespeare plays with<
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