Back in 2000, Hugh Jackman became a blockbuster icon playing Wolverine in the first ever X-Men movie – but he famously wasn't the first choice for the part. 20th Century Fox explored a number of avenues before tapping the Australian actor for the role, and had even signed an original deal with Dougray Scott (who had to drop out due to an injury sustained on the Mission: Impossible II set). Viggo Mortensen was one of the performers who was on the studio's wish list back in the late 1990s, but he turned them down, and now he has revealed why: it was too big a commitment, and not faithful enough to the Marvel Comics source material to satisfy his son.
Viggo Mortensen was recently a guest on the Happy Sad Confused podcast (via The Playlist), as he is currently promoting the release of his directorial debut, Falling, and during the interview the Lord of the Rings star discussed the backstory behind the time he almost played Wolverine in X-Men. Per Mortensen, the reason he decided not to be a part of the project was because he knew that it would eat up many years of his career, and he didn't want to play the same character that many times. On top of that, he ran the proposal by his comic-book-fan son Henry Mortensen, and it wasn't viewed as up to snuff:
On the time commitment front: yeah, that was definitely a strong instinct demonstrated by Viggo Mortensen. Hugh Jackman wound up playing Wolverine seven times over the course of 17 years (including his cameo in X-Men: First Class), and while he got opportunities outside of the X-Men franchise, it was definitely seen as the role that his career revolved around.
As for the part of Wolverine in X-Men not being entirely faithful to Marvel Comics: also an accurate assessment. While the film is certainly revered for the way in which it changed the world of comic book movies, there is also a lot about the source material that was altered – much of it involving the three-clawed Canadian with the adamantium skeleton. According to Viggo Mortensen, Bryan Singer had memorable reaction to his son's assessment of the script... but added that it didn't really matter ultimately anyway.
Thinking about all this makes one consider how 21st century Hollywood would have been different. If Viggo Mortensen had said yes to playing Wolverine, that surely would have made him unavailable to replace Stuart Townsend and play Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings movies. But maybe that's a role that Hugh Jackman could have taken? He certainly wouldn't have been a bad fit for the part.
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NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.