Just yesterday we noted a rumor that Ben Walker, the actor supposedly cast as the Beast in X-Men: First Class, had been dropped by Fox over concerns that he's too close in age to stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Studio executives were apparently worried about the student being just five years younger than the teacher.
That rumor came in two parts, with the Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye writing that he "started hearing that Fox might end up re-offering Walker his Beast role back!"
However, now comes word from Roger Friedman, who was the first to report Walker's casting as the Beast (after The New York Times wrote he'd been offered a part in "a coming X-Men project"), that he's now negotiating to reprise his starring role on Broadway in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
Friedman attributes Fox's apparent hesitancy about Walker not to his age but to nervousness following flops like Knight and Day, The A Team and Marmaduke.
"So far, still, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender remain with the film," he writes. "They’re the 'senior' cast, which is just hilarious. Look for a lot of different Taylor Lautners to assume the other roles. Fox, I’m told, even checked Lautner’s availability."
His implication that the roles of Xavier and Magneto could be recast by an anxious Fox strikes me as incredibly far-fetched -- that would clearly signal the production is sinking fast -- but it's not difficult to imagine executives want to strike box-office gold by transforming an unknown actor with the right mix of good looks and charisma into a "star." What studio isn't searching desperately for the next Taylor Lautner to anchor its franchise?
Wherever that Lautner clone is, Fox had better find him quickly: X-Men: First Class is set to go into production in August in London. The film opens on June 3, 2011.