The X-Men films have had a rocky road at times. The first two movies were a genuine breath of fresh air and helped to sell the idea of a superhero universe before anyone had ever heard of the MCU. Then the third movie was a complete disaster, and the first solo Wolverine movie made us wish they’d never make any more. The series bounced back, though. Movies like X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past helped reinvigorate the franchise, and Wolverine movies kept getting better, leading to the Oscar-bait Logan movie. And despite X-Men: Apocalypse stumbling, the future of the franchise (complete with entertaining spin-offs like Deadpool 2 and New Mutants) looks better than ever.
Obviously, the success of these movies hinged on the success of the casting. Some of the casting made perfect sense: Patrick Stewart had been the fans’ choice for years to be Professor X, and Ian McKellen was an inspired choice to be the villainous Magneto. Other casting choices were serious risks. Some actors looked terrible for a role and ended up surprising us, while others were just as bad as expected. Let’s fire up the old time machine and check out 8 Disappointing X-Men Castings That Actually Worked Out (And 7 That Failed Miserably)!
15 WORKED: ANNA PAQUIN
Many fans are too young to remember this, but Anna Paquin was an extraordinarily controversial casting choice for X-Men. She was cast as Rogue, who most fans knew as the super-strong, super-buxom powerhouse of the team. Paquin, meanwhile, looked like a wilting wallflower, coming across as more helpless than heroine. However, Paquin managed to make it work. She nailed Rogue’s tragic background, and she managed to have great chemistry with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.
She helped to humanize his rough character while also serving as an awesome audience surrogate as we saw the world of the cinematic X-Men for the first time.
In no time at all, she went from being a casting decision that many fans disagreed with to being a choice that helped to define the entire film series.
14 FAILED: OLIVIA MUNN
Olivia Munn was a surprise casting choice for X-Men: Apocalypse. By all accounts, Munn was taking the role very seriously. She took this role instead of portraying Deadpool’s girlfriend Vanessa, and Munn even insisted on sporting Psylocke’s iconic purple costume. Still, fans were wondering how well this comedic actress would transition to big-budget action cinema.
As it turns out, the answer was “pretty damn badly.” The failure for this is shared by both Munn and the script: the movie gives her character very little to do and pretty much zero meaningful scenes. At the same time, though, all Olivia Munn really does in the movie is glower. And considering it’s not even a menacing glower, we’re going to call this a failure in X-Men casting.
13 WORKED: TYE SHERIDAN
Part of what made fans nervous about X-Men: Apocalypse was the idea of re-casting certain iconic roles such as Cyclops and Jean Grey. Fans were mostly happy about the casting of Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, but were a bit more nervous about Tye Sheridan as Cyclops. He was unknown to most fans and about to take the reins of a truly iconic X-Man. To everyone’s surprise, though, Sheridan knocked it out of the park.
He helped to capture the nervous neurosis behind why Cyclops keeps the world at arm’s length while actually adding dimensions of daring and fun to the character.
Considering how often Cyclops is portrayed as a boring stick in the mud, this is a pretty serious acting feat!
12 FAILED: HALLE BERRY
It’s tough to imagine, but when the first X-Men came out, Halle Berry was not exactly a superstar. She had a lot of experience, but she wasn’t a household name, and fans were understandably concerned with how she would portray the regal character Storm. Would Berry be able to channel what it took to portray a goddess?
Unfortunately, that answer was “no.” As we would later find out, Berry is a very gifted actress, but X-Men reduced her to a silly wig and even sillier dialogue. Nobody can forget the awkward scene where she demonstrates what happens to “a toad that gets struck by lightning.” Ultimately, that’s a sure sign of a bad performance: when your performances as a character for nearly a decade and a half are still best encapsulated by the worst line reading in history.
11 WORKED: LUCAS TILL
Lucas Till was cast to play Cyclops’ brother Havok in X-Men: First Class. The casting was controversial for several reasons. First, the age thing was weird -- fans found it odd that the cinematic Cyclops had a much, much older brother. Second, it felt like a retread -- a new team that is still being led by a Summers. Finally, the big question: who the hell was Lucas Till?
Before this movie, Till mostly played bit roles in TV shows and films. His performance as Havok ended up being so charming and funny that it landed him the leading role on the reboot of the classic series MacGyver! Till has First Class to thank for that, as it showcased his range as an actor and his appeal to diverse audiences.
10 FAILED: JOHN HELMAN
Josh Helman was another weird bit of casting. He was cast to play the younger version of William Stryker, the chief antagonist of X2. This role was originally played by Brian Cox, and then Danny Huston took over in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As the Stryker character became more important in these rebooted movies, it seemed equally important to cast a versatile actor for the role. However, Helman is not that versatile actor. To be fair, he is mostly given scripts that call for him to be “generic soldier guy.”
At the same time, though, his performance never rises above the dreck that’s on the printed page.
We are left with someone who is not only more boring than other X-Men villains, but more boring than anyone else who portrayed this character!
9 WORKED: KODI SMIT-MCPHEE
Kodi Smit-McPhee was another actor whose casting in X-Men: Apocalypse made fans nervous. He was supposed to give us a portrayal of a much younger, much more nervous Nightcrawler. However, Nightcrawler already had a dazzling portrayal by Alan Cumming in X2. How could this newcomer actually stack up to the high standards of Cumming?
As it turned out, Smit-McPhee was surprisingly great in this role. He gave us an entire range of emotions as Nightcrawler: we felt his pain and fear at the idea of human persecution just as we felt his nervousness and joy at being around other mutants. And the fact that he had perfect comedic timing was the cherry on top of a very blue cake! Ultimately, we’re excited to see what he brings to his next appearance.
8 FAILED: BEN HARDY
Ben Hardy’s casting was met with mixed feelings from the X-Men fan community. On one hand, we were finally going to get a cinematic adaptation of Warren Worthington’s transformation into the Apocalypse henchman Archangel. At the same time, though, he had very little acting experience and was unknown to most people. Fans were understandably curious how he would perform in this critical role. As it turns out, Hardy gave an unmemorable performance, and the script doesn’t do him any favors. Instead of being a pivotal character, the movie changes much of what we know about Angel and gives him very little dialogue.
The final result is someone who is more of a plot device than a character, and even his death barely registers as a blip on the audience radar.
Maybe they can change the past one more time and we’ll finally get a good cinematic Angel?
7 WORKED: EVAN PETERS
At this point, everyone recognizes Evan Peters as the guy who shows up and steals exactly one awesome scene per X-Men movie. However, when he was cast as Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, his most prominent role had been as Todd in the movie Kick-Ass. With his slacker burnout on-screen persona, it was doubtful he could do Quicksilver justice.
And then he showed up and took our breath away. The on-screen version of his powers showed how devilishly fun it could be to move at such speed, and the character has a fun tendency to listen to music while he makes high velocity mischief. Peters’ sheer enthusiasm for the role is infectious, and Quicksilver went from being unknown to most casual moviegoers to being an absolute favorite character!
6 FAILED: VINNIE JONES
As the X-Men movies went on, the films periodically cycled in new bad guys from the comics. It was only a matter of time until we got the Juggernaut, and he was portrayed in the third X-Men film by Vinnie Jones. At the time, Jones was primarily known from movies such as Snatch, so he seemed like he’d be an odd fit within this mutant on-screen universe. Spoilers: he was a really odd fit! Part of the issue was his costume, which looked nothing like his comic counterpart.
He also just looked goofy on-screen -- it turns out “guy who runs into other guys” is not visually impressive.
Finally, Jones himself is all sneers and one-liners, making it hard to take the character seriously. How bad was this performance? In an age where we’ve had three different Stryker performances, no one wants to try Juggernaut again!
5 WORKED: ALEXANDRA SHIPP
Alexandra Shipp had lots of expectations when she was cast as the young Storm. On one hand, she’d be taking over for Halle Berry, who by then had established herself as a cinematic icon. At the same time, though, Berry’s performance as Storm was really disappointing, and fans wondered if this relatively unknown young actor could do the role justice.
And she did! X-Men: Apocalypse was a movie where fans scrutinized the portrayal of characters ranging from Psylocke to Apocalypse. However, there was almost universal praise for Shipp’s ability to understand the entirety of Storm. We ended up seeing both Storm the elemental goddess and Storm the savvy street rat, and it all added up to a very compelling character! Here’s hoping we see a lot more of her.
4 FAILED: TAYLOR KITSCH
Quick, think about Gambit in the X-Men universe! Chances are good that you thought of Channing Tatum, despite the fact that his solo Gambit movie is still a long way away. We did have an on-screen Gambit, though, in the form of Taylor Kitsch. He played the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and fans didn’t know quite what they were getting. It turns out we weren’t getting a lot! In time, Kitsch would prove himself with longer roles in things like Friday Night Lights and True Detective.
However, his performance as Gambit lacked all of those quintessential Cajun qualities.
He was not charming, mysterious, nor intimidating, and if we’re being honest, the bad CGI surrounding his appearances was more memorable than his appearance was. At least Tatum has little competition for “best Gambit!”
3 WORKED: LIEV SCHREIBER
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a hot mess of a movie. However, there were a few things the film did right. One of those things was casting Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth. However, this was a controversial decision at the time, as Schreiber mostly played in moody, broody character pieces. Fans understandably wondered how he would channel the animalistic Sabretooth.
Schreiber pulled a pretty impressive trick on us: he took what he was good at and made it good for Sabretooth. Instead of getting a relatively mindless animal, Schreiber played Sabretooth as a sadistic serial killer who happens to be nearly unkillable. Considering his goal is to torment Wolverine, the moody Schreiber ended up being great in the role. Ultimately, he was the best part of a bad movie.
2 FAILED: TYLER MANE
Before Schreiber could wow us as Sabretooth, the role was brought to life by Tyler Mane. This casting caused many fans to scratch their heads: why was a wrestler cast in such an important role? Was he going to wow us all with his acting prowess and become a breakout cinema star?
Suffice it to say that Mane is no Dwayne Johnson -- he did not break out into film stardom, and this performance helps illustrate why that is.
He was basically cast to look big and scary for action scenes, especially those with Wolverine. The rest of his scenes, though, have almost no dialogue, and he is reduced to grunting his way through the film. It’s embarrassing to watch, and we can only imagine how embarrassing it was to act out!
1 WORKED: HUGH JACKMAN
That’s right, true believer! Despite the fact that he ended up becoming a true film legend, Hugh Jackman was insanely controversial at the time that he was cast as Wolverine. After all, they were trying to bring a five-foot tall iconic Canadian to life, and they ended up casting a six foot tall Australian nobody. It seemed like studio suicide at the time.
We’re big enough to say we have never been so happy to be so damn wrong. Hugh Jackman perfectly channeled the berserker rage of Wolverine, but he also brought to life his softer side, especially regarding a character like Rogue. He managed to make everything look good, right down to those embarrassing leather uniforms. In later years, Fox learned the real secret is that he looks even better outside of the silly costumes!