Back before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was crushing everything in its path, superhero movies were dominated by the X-Men. In 2000, Blade was really the only successful superhero on the big screen. That is, until X-Men debuted and introduced the world to Marvel’s mutants. After the surprise success of the first film, multiple sequels, prequels and spin-offs were released over the last 17 years. Out of the success of the 10 X-Films came some new stars. The best example is Hugh Jackman, who was an unknown theater actor from Australia before he became one of the biggest A-Listers in Hollywood after landing the role of Wolverine. But not everyone was so lucky.
For every Hugh Jackman, there were handfuls of actors that just never were able to capitalize on their superhero fame. Some were flashes in the pan, seen in one film. Others had multiple films to really launch their careers, but could never rise above their roles as X-Men. This list is comprised of actors that were given the keys to Hollywood, but for one reason or another, weren’t able to turn that opportunity into a lasting, successful career like Jackman. Maybe it’s because their acting wasn’t up to par or they were part of a film that wasn’t all that great. Either way, the following 15 actors never became more than mutants in spandex.
15 SHAWN ASHMORE
Shawn Ashmore was lucky enough to play one of the most iconic X-Men in not one, not two, not three, but four X-Men films. His portrayal of Bobby Drake, aka Iceman, is one of the best parts of the original X-Men trilogy. It’s because of his great performance that he is brought back in the timeline-merging Days of Future Past. But unfortunately for Ashmore, he was not able to turn his role in four blockbusters into anything substantial.
Even though his star has faded, Ashmore hasn’t completely been absent from film and TV. He has done his fair share projects, most notably in a starring role in the short-lived series The Following. However, as a star in four comic book films, you would think he would have been able to turn those credits into a couple starring roles in a major movie.
14 DANIEL CUDMORE
When you think of the most memorable scenes from Colossus over the course of the multiple X-Men films he’s been featured in, pretty much everything comes from Deadpool. Outside of Deadpool, you might be hard-pressed to mention any scene of note featuring the metal-skinned mutant. Think of how bad that must feel for the actor that played Piotr Rasputin, aka Colossus, in the three non-Deadpool films. That’s the problem that faced actor Daniel Cudmore.
Unfortunately for Cudmore, he wasn’t really given much to do in his X-Men films. He just turned to metal, fought a couple bad guys and that was pretty much it. He has no real character moments at all. But he was still Colosssus! That should mean something. Well, for Cudmore, it didn't mean much. He never was able to rise about the “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” roles. He has a fairly extensive IMDB, but always as a third-tier character. Poor guy.
13 JEREMY RATCHFORD
Most people assume that the first ever live-action adaptation of an X-property was 2000’s X-Men. Four years before Hugh Jackman donned the claws, Fox had attempted to launch a franchise with a Generation X TV movie. It would have worked too, but the TV movie was absolute garbage.
Starring in this disaster was Jeremy Ratchford as Sean Cassidy, aka Banshee, one of the lead teachers at Xavier's School. Ratchford was honestly pretty decent as Cassidy, but Generation X suffered from a low budget and horrible writing. After the TV movie was a bomb, Ratchford basically disappeared until the 2000s. He’s gone from starring roles in X-franchises to, now, where he’s a single-episode guest star as a nameless detective in It’s Always Sunny in Phildelphia or NCIS. Wonder what would have happened had Generation X been a hit?
For all involved, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be a huge triumph of a film. Unfortunately, it turned out to be, perhaps, the worst X-film to date. And for Wil.i.am, the film was supposed to mark the beginning of an illustrious acting career. However, the Black Eyed Peas rapper, who played John Wraith in the film, was seen as one of the worst parts of a bad movie, and that pretty much killed any shot of him being a serious actor.
You almost have to feel bad for the guy. He was a large part of the marketing campaign for the film, featured in interviews on late-night talk shows and in magazines. Other actors, like Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds, survived Origins relatively unscathed. In fact, both of those actors were able to redeem themselves in incredible X-Men films. Wil.i.am, on the other hand, just has to live with the fact that his feature film debut will probably be the only major live-action acting credit to his name.
11 FAMKE JANSSEN
Famke Janssen wasn’t just a side character in the original X-Men films. As Jean Grey, she was one of the main stars. Her story, told over the course of three films, was the driving force of the series, especially in the ill-advised X-Men: The Last Stand. Common sense would tell you that being one of the main stars of three massive films would give you a golden ticket to do just about anything you want to do in Hollywood. For Janssen, that just never happened.
Since the three X-films, and cameos in The Wolverine and Days of Future Past, Janssen’s biggest role was in the Taken series. Sure, those were big deal films, but she was reduced to a damsel in distress. That’s a far cry from the freaking Phoenix! That being said, she has just signed on to star in the spin-off for the popular TV series The Blacklist. Hopefully, Janssen’s luck will turn around.
10 RAY PARK
After his role as Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, Ray Park was supposed to be destined for great things. The martial-artist-turned-actor was clearly the best part of Episode 1, and was quickly signed to star as Toad in the first X-Men. However, when X-Men was released in 2000, Toad was definitely a weak part of the film. It didn’t help that he was on the receiving end of one of the worst lines in all of superhero films. “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning?” Apparently, you don’t get good acting gigs.
After X-Men, Park’s biggest role was as Snake Eyes in the two less-than-awesome G.I. Joe movies. Even though Snake Eyes was pretty awesome, it didn’t help Park’s career that he wore a mask through it all. Most recently, he’s starred in a couple of Mortal Kombat webseries.
9 AGUSTIN RODRIGUEZ
Agustin Rodriguez has never been a household name. By the mid-‘90s, he had been a regular in a short-lived TV series and had a small role in a film directed by Kathryn Bigelow. However, Agustin was sure to breakout big as the star of the newest X-Men franchise, Generation X. As Skin, Rodriguez was the point-of-view character for the audience. He wasn’t the biggest name in the film, but his role was clearly the meatiest.
Well, we all know how Generation X turned out. And when you’re the star of the film, and that project goes down in flames, your career is pretty sure to follow suit. Since Generation X, Rodriguez has attempted to stick around Hollywood with the odd short film or TV appearance. But you can tell when you’re not a well-known actor when you can play 3 different roles in 3 different episodes of Law & Order.
8 LYNN COLLINS
Silverfox is one of the most important characters in the history of Wolverine. When it was announced that X-Men Origins: Wolverine would feature Silverfox, everyone was ecstatic that the classic love story between characters would be explored on the big screen. Then, the film came out, and everyone just held their heads in shame as they left the theaters. Lynn Collins couldn’t have predicted that when she signed on for one of her first major film roles as Silverfox. Unfortunately for the actress, portraying one of Wolverine’s greatest loves would lead to a short-lived film career.
Collins did have one big film after Origins. She was one of the leads in the massive failture, John Carter, opposite fellow X-alum Taylor Kitsch. But since then, her roles have mainly been on the small screen in TV movies and guest-starring roles. Sadly, Collins wasn’t the worst part of Origins, but the film was just that bad.
7 DOMINIC MONAGHAN
In 2009, actor Dominic Monaghan was having an amazing career. The British actor was riding high off the heels of three hugely successful Lord of the Rings films, while just finishing up a starring role on one of TV’s biggest shows, Lost. Naturally, he would be looking to transition back on the big screen with a role in a major blockbuster. Sadly, he chose to do that with X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
After the failure of Origins, Monaghan’s film career was pretty much kapoot. He’s starred in a couple low-budget films, with nothing really hitting big. However, his big hit since Wolverine is with his nature show Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan. It looks like he’s traded in his big screen ambitions for a travel/nature series. While Wild Things is a critically-acclaimed series, Dominic's acting career seems destined to never recover.
6 JANUARY JONES
January Jones is an actress that had everything going for her in 2011. After a bunch of guest-starring roles on TV and a few small roles in film, she had finally broken out in a big way on the critically-acclaimed AMC series Mad Men. She seemed poised to be the next big thing when she signed on to star as Emma Frost, aka the White Queen, in X-Men: First Class. While that film successfully kickstarted a new series of X-Men films, January Jones just wasn’t… well… good.
After her fairly superficial portrayal of the complex villain Emma Frost, Jones really hasn’t done much on film. Her two post-2011 films were very small and straight to VOD. The only role of note is on the FOX comedy The Last Man on Earth. While that series is funny, Jones is hardly the reason to watch. Sadly, Jones not only hurt her film career, but pretty much guaranteed we’ll never see Emma Frost on the big screen again.
5 ALEX GONZALEZ
Let’s be real, unless you live in Spain, you probably have never heard the name Álex González. That being said, the actor was one of the stars of X-Men: First Class as Riptide. If you don’t remember Riptide ever being in First Class, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Needless to say, González didn’t leave much of an imprint on audiences in his first major English-language film.
If you watch interviews from 2011, when First Class was set to premiere, González was excited to launch a career in Hollywood. Having only done Spanish films, the actor was one of the villains in an X-Men film and was hoping to turn that into more Hollywood roles. Unfortunately, while many of the actors from First Class went on to bigger, better roles, González was left going back to Spain to act. His flirtation with Hollywood ended as soon as it began.
4 JOSH HELMAN
Outside of Magneto, the only villain in the X-Men films to really stand out was William Stryker in X2, played by Brian Cox. So, when the X-Men film universe went back in time for their prequel series, and Josh Helman was hired to play a younger Stryker, fans were excited. Helman had to be pretty excited also. He was featured in one of the best films in the series, Days of Future Past, and also the sequel, Apocalypse. Unfortunately, having roles in those two films hasn’t helped Helman’s career at all.
Since Days of Future Past, where Helman actually was in Mad Max: Fury Road. However, he played Slit, a role you probably didn’t know existed. He next big project was Apocalypse, but that film didn’t showcase Helman at all. With nothing of note on the docket upcoming, it looks like Helman won’t be able to capitalize on his X-credentials anytime soon.
3 GINA CARANO
In 2011, fighter Gina Carano was starting her transition out of the octogon and into acting. Her first major film, Haywire, directed by none other than Steven Soderbergh, was just released, and she had signed on to star in Fast & Furious 6. These two roles gave her the momentum to sign on for her biggest role yet, as the villain Angel Dust in Deadpool. However, even with Deadpool’s incredibly huge financial and critical success, Carano has disappeared from Hollywood.
Since Deadpool, Carano’s biggest project coming out is Jay and Silent Bob’s Jason Mewes’ directorial debut, Madness in the Method. That’s a far cry from co-starring in a massive superhero film with Ryan Reynolds. And unlike most of the Deadpool cast, she’s not coming back for the sequel. It looks like Carano’s brush with Hollywood stardom peaked with her role opposite the Merc with a Mouth.
An actress can only dream of landing a popular TV series in her first role ever. That’s what happened with actress Amarilis (yes, only one name). After being a series regular on the syndicated TV show Sweet Valley High, Amarilis was set up to launch into a great acting career. While other actresses, like Brittany Daniel, went on to star in films and TV series after Sweet Valley High, Amarilis disappeared completely from Hollywood. Why? Two words – Generation X.
Starring as M in the Generation X TV movie, Amarilis had what was probably the coolest role in the film. She was the beautiful, smart and tough center of the team of young mutants. Unfortunately, that film just happened to be a big pile of crap. After Generation X flopped, she landed a guest-starring role in an episode of a TV show, but then disappeared. She has literally no more acting credits to her name.
1 AARON STANFORD
Aaron Stanford finds himself on this list not because he has a bad career Post-X-Men, but because he is an example of never quite living up to expectations. After beginning his career working in great films by Spike Lee and David Mamet, Stanford was also featured as one of the main villains, Pyro, in the X-Men films X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand. For any young actor, these are amazing credits.
However, after The Last Stand, his film career pretty much ended. Currently, he’s the lead on Syfy Network’s 12 Monkeys. That show, while good in its own right, is a sizable step down from being one of the leads of a film that grossed almost half a billion dollars. We’re not saying that Stanford has been doing bad work since his days of lighting X-Men on fire, but he just was never able to transition into the actor he was groomed to become.