Shaquille O'Neal will always be remembered as one of the world's best basketball players, but the man has also dipped his toes into plenty of other pursuits over the years, including acting. In his NBA heyday, he also left his performing mark either cameoing as himself or leading movies like Kazaam and Steel. Okay, so not quite the best acting resume. Anyway, during the late 1990s, the first X-Men movie was also in development, and when casting was still underway, Shaq was hoping to play Bishop.
In an extensive interview with THR, X-Men screenwriter David Hayter talked about some of the actors who came in to audition for the movie. Highlights included Terence Stamp and Michael Jackson (yes, that Michael Jackson) for Professor X, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey for Storm, and Viggo Mortensen for Wolverine. Shaq, though, left a special imprint on Hayter when he came in. When asked who Shaq wanted to play, Hayter responded:
He's got the big M scar over his face. Because I didn't know the character, it didn't end up in the script. But I did walk past an office one day and there he was and much larger than life.
At a time when the biggest X-Men stories available outside of the comics themselves were episodes from the '90s animated series, Shaq knowing about Bishop is a deep cut. Since David Hayter didn't know about Bishop at the time, it sounds like Shaq wasn't so much responding to a casting call as he was just visiting where work was being done on X-Men and seeing if he'd have any luck petitioning to play Bishop. I can't help but wonder what might have happened if Hayter was familiar with Bishop then. Maybe that would have led to the character's inclusion, and while that still wouldn't have guaranteed that Shaq obtained the role, given the basketball star's popularity, maybe he could have at least cameoed.
Introduced to the comics in 1991, Bishop (full name Lucas Bishop) is a mutant with the ability to absorb and redirect energy. Hailing from a future where mutants have been placed in concentration camps, Bishop traveled back in time to prevent the X-Men from being killed, which kicked off the sequence of events that created the apocalyptic period he originally lived in. Bishop was eventually played by Omar Sy in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but because he was a minor player in the movie's dark future, we didn't learn anything about his past. All we saw him do was make good use of his energy powers until he was killed by a Sentinel. Now that the timeline has been reset, it's anyone's guess where he is in the X-Men cinematic universe.
The X-Men franchise continues next with Logan, which hits theaters across the U.S. starting tonight.