The Faces of Wolverine: Actors Who Almost Wore the Claws Before Hugh Jackman

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Before Hugh Jackman became synonymous with Wolverine, several actors circled the iconic role in Bryan Singer’s 2000 film X-Men. The journey to casting Wolverine was anything but straightforward, with notable names and intriguing backstories paving the way for Jackman’s eventual casting.

Tristar Pictures

Russell Crowe: The First Choice

Director Bryan Singer’s initial choice for Wolverine was none other than Russell Crowe. Known for his powerful performances and intense screen presence, the New Zealand-born actor seemed like a natural fit. However, Crowe himself did not see the resemblance. When shown artwork and depictions of Wolverine, he remarked that he couldn’t see any similarity between himself and the Marvel character. Interestingly, he did see a resemblance to a friend of his: an up-and-coming actor at the time named Hugh Jackman. Despite Crowe’s suggestion, Jackman wasn’t well-known then, having mostly appeared in Australian television roles and two small Australian films.

New Line Cinema

Viggo Mortensen: A Fan’s Disapproval

After Crowe’s reluctance, the search continued, bringing Viggo Mortensen into the picture. Mortensen, who would later gain worldwide fame for his role as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, was shown storyboards during his meeting with the filmmakers. In a 2021 episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Mortensen recounted how he took his son, a comic book fan, to the meeting. His son was not happy with the depiction of Wolverine at the time, which influenced Mortensen’s decision. Coupled with his hesitation to commit to a multi-film deal, Mortensen ultimately walked away from the role. He later praised Jackman’s performance, saying, “I think he did great. I’m sure no one could imagine anyone doing it better than he did anyway.”

Paramount Pictures

Dougray Scott: The Almost-Wolverine

Next in line was Dougray Scott, who agreed to a multi-film deal and was ready to become Wolverine. However, fate had other plans. Scott was filming Mission: Impossible II, directed by John Woo, where he played the villain opposite Tom Cruise. Filming delays and on-set injuries created a scheduling conflict, putting Scott in a difficult position. Over the years, reports have suggested that these conflicts prevented Scott from taking on Wolverine, but Scott himself has pointed to Cruise as the primary reason. In a March 2020 interview with The Telegraph, Scott stated, “That one was out of my control. Tom Cruise didn’t let me do it. We were doing Mission: Impossible and he was like, ‘You’ve got to stay and finish the film’, and I said, ‘I will, but I’ll go and do that as well.’ For whatever reason he said I couldn’t. He was a very powerful guy. Other people were doing everything to make it work.”

Despite the missed opportunity, Scott has no hard feelings towards Jackman. “I love what Hugh did with [the Wolverine character]. He’s a lovely guy,” Scott said.

20th Century Studios

Hugh Jackman: The Unlikely Hero

Jackman, who had essentially already lost the part, was thrust back into consideration due to Scott’s inability to join X-Men. With filming already underway for three weeks, the production was in a bind. As Kevin Feige, then a producer’s assistant on the film, recalled in a July 2024 interview with Entertainment Weekly, “There was a scramble to get our Wolverine. Lauren [Shuler Donner, Feige’s boss at the time,] was very excited about this Australian guy, who had been rejected initially. In my memory, one of the main reasons was that he was too tall. Wolverine in the comics is called ‘Lil’ Fireplugs’ sometimes. He’s a short guy. But they were desperate.”

Jackman, standing at 6 foot 3 (around 190 cm), was certainly taller than the comic book Wolverine. Nevertheless, with the clock ticking, a last-minute offer was made, and Jackman found himself donning the claws.

On the day of the announcement, an October 1999 Variety report captured the breakneck events: “In the whirlwind casting change, Jackman’s deal was finalised late last week so he could be fitted for his claws over the weekend. He will begin rehearsals and action choreography today.”

Jackman himself has spoken about taking over the role from Scott – even apologising to him. In an October 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Jackman said, “I met [Scott] early on and I said to him, ‘Man, I am sorry.’ And he said, ‘It’s just business, but you have just gotten one of the greatest roles out there, so go crush it.’ I just remember being so impressed by that and his class, and hopefully I am a big enough guy that when someone else takes over, I will do exactly what was done to me…and I feel glad to just be a part of the legacy of that character.”

Marvel Studios

The Legacy of Wolverine

Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine has since become legendary, with fans and critics alike praising his performance across numerous X-Men films. Few could have predicted the run that this Sydney-born actor would go on after being thrust onto the world stage as an angry mutant. The role that almost went to Crowe, Mortensen, and Scott ended up transforming Jackman into a global superstar. It’s somehow been 24 years since he was cast in the role – and he’s still going strong: Deadpool and Wolverine is Jackman’s 10th film (including guest appearances) as the mutant and marks the actor’s long-awaited arrival into the extended Marvel Cinematic Universe.