It’s hard to look back on the X-Men film series and imagine Hugh Jackman not playing Wolverine across nearly all the movies. But let’s not forget, Jackman wasn’t a household name before he donned the adamantium claws, and before he came aboard, other, more well-known actors were in talks to play the gruff mutant.
Before Hugh Jackman’s name was even mentioned for the first X-Men movie, director Bryan Singer was interested in having Russell Crowe play Wolverine. Two decades later, Crowe acknowledged that there’s no way he would have done the role the same justice that Jackman did. As he said during his interview on The Howard Stern Show:
There's no way I would have ever done that. Even if I'd done the film, I wouldn't have carried it through with the grace and the direction that Hugh gave it.
In 1999, when X-Men started shooting, Russell Crowe was best known for movies like L.A. Confidential and The Insider, and his breakthrough performance in Gladiator the following year would catapult him to worldwide fame. However, bringing Wolverine to life just just didn’t interest him and he turned it down, just like he did with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where he was being looked at to play Aragorn.
Instead, Hugh Jackman scored the role, and he has Russell Crowe to thank for that, because it was Crowe who recommended Jackman to Bryan Singer. The director ended up casting Dougray Scott as Wolverine, but after Scott had to back out of X-Men due to scheduling conflicts with Mission: Impossible 2, Jackman was brought in as his replacement. The rest is history… nine movies across 17 years worth of it, to be precise.
While it would have been interesting to see a Russell Crowe-portrayed Wolverine would have looked like, it’s hard to say if Crowe would have stuck with the role as along as Hugh Jackman, let alone if his portrayal would have been well received. Luckily for Crowe, his career didn’t suffer in any way for not taking X-Men and he ended up winning the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Maximus in Gladiator.
While no official plans for the X-Men post-Dark Phoenix have been announced yet, it’s expected that the property will be rebooted to fit within Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity. Considering his huge popularity, which existed even before Hugh Jackman came aboard X-Men, it’s a good bet that a new version of Wolverine will someday grace the silver screen.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for all the biggest updates concerning the X-Men, but for now, you can look through our Marvel movies guide to learn what the MCU has coming down the pipeline.