The Full Story Behind Hugh Jackman (Almost Not) Landing The Role Of Wolverine

 Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
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Some Hollywood castings are just too iconic to imagine happening any other way. Just as we’ve seen with those persistent rumors of Ronald Reagan being offered Casablanca and that time Viggo Mortensen replaced Stuart Townsend in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, thinking of what could have been is severely intriguing.

The world of Marvel movies in order is a place that has tons of those "what ifs" stored up. That leads us to the story of how Hugh Jackman almost wasn’t cast as X-Men’s Wolverine in 2000, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. Height, “intensity” and two different Hollywood Toms all played a part in connecting the man with his destiny, making for a wild story that’s still kind of hard to believe.

Wolverine cameo in X-Men First Class
Wolverine cameo in X-Men First Class

The Two Stumbling Blocks That Hugh Jackman Experienced When Auditioning For Wolverine

When director Bryan Singer’s X-Men was gearing up to get into production, it was after quite a bit of development history. Part of those events saw series comic writer Chris Claremont pointing Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s Bob Hoskins as his first choice for the part of James Howlett, more commonly known as “Logan” or “Wolverine.”

There was good reason too, as the character was known as being of a shorter and stockier build than the dreamy Hugh Jackman. When he appeared as a guest on Who’s Talking To Chris Wallace, the height difference was one of the concerns that the Australian actor mentioned as a going concern. Here’s how he recalled that very issue being addressed by then-Fox president Tom Rothman:

I did about seven auditions … I remember finally, I did audition, audition, audition, and then I went to see the head of production. We were talking, and he said, ‘It’s just one problem. I hope the fans are not gonna have a problem, because the character’s meant to be 5 foot 5.’ And I said, ‘Tom, really, it’s gonna be absolutely fine. Don’t worry about a thing.’

Jackman even accentuated that story by walking away crouched as he concluded his remarks to Rothman, something that would come back to haunt him to a certain extent in the future. But at the moment, Hugh’s 6’3” stature seemed to be problem #1.

Problem #2 came from the killer edge needed to play the role of Wolverine. That concern was addressed by one of X-Men’s credited screenwriters, David Hayter, during an interview with Inverse. The Watchmen screenwriter shared the perceived pros and cons of hiring Hugh Jackman as follows:

He was great, but he was the nicest guy in the world and he was very tall and super handsome, so we didn’t think he was Wolverine. … I think one thing Hugh captured with Wolverine is his heart. Hugh is such a lovely, caring guy and that really came through in the character. Hugh’s real strength came from the humanity of Wolverine. All that was left was to find the viciousness.

Though he made quite the impression, Hugh Jackman wasn’t meant to be cast in X-Men the first time around. Which, at the time, was good news for his competition; even if one major name turned the role down for some interesting reasons, and the eventual winner would see fate turn fickle.

Russell Crowe as Maximus in Gladiator
Russell Crowe as Maximus in Gladiator

Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Competition

Out of the candidates that were present during the X-Men Games, two need to be discussed in our story. And as luck would have it, Hugh Jackman’s interview with The Daily Beast laid out those key players as follows:

I did a casting call that thousands of people did around the world, and believe I was put in the mix early on. Dougray Scott got the part, Russell turned it down—that’s the second role I’ve gotten that Russell’s turned down. He’s been very good to me, Russ. The other one was Australia.

So as you can see, Dougray Scott was originally crowned as X-Men’s Wolverine. But let’s go back a minute, because a Gladiator-era Russell Crowe was offered that same role and passed on it. What in the world would have possessed Maximus Decimus Meridius, “commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor,” to pass up on popping these Marvel Comics claws?

Well, according to a radio interview via, it all came down a simple decision. In the context of what Crowe's caveat happened to be, you can be sure the following moment still hounds him to this very day:

If you remember, Maximus has a wolf at the centre of his cuirass, and he has a wolf as his companion ... which I thought was going to be a bigger deal [at the time]. So I said no, because I didn’t want to be ‘wolfy’, like ‘Mr Wolf’.

Russell Crowe was out, and despite his recommendation of Hugh Jackman, Dougray Scott was in! Things were looking up, and X-Men had its snarling madman, who undoubtedly had the same “problems” as Hugh Jackman. The Scottish actor standing an even 6’ may have inspired similar anxieties, but that didn’t stop Fox president Tom Rothman from announcing Scott’s casting in a press release (via Flickering Myth), which read as follows:

Bryan [Singer] was incredibly demanding over who could play [Wolverine], and we needed to find somebody who was dynamic. Dougray has the charisma, the physicality and the intensity.

Normally, this is the point in a story such as this where the movie’s made, leaving the world to debate whether Dougray Scott’s return for Deadpool 3 is a wise move. But that story exists in a parallel universe, one where our second Hollywood Tom didn’t enter the picture.

Dougray Scott stands looking annoyed in Mission Impossible II.
Dougray Scott stands looking annoyed in Mission Impossible II.

The Accident That Ultimately Landed Hugh Jackman As X-Men’s Wolverine

So Dougray Scott’s X-Men casting happened while he was making another movie: the espionage thriller Mission: Impossible 2. That’s right, folks, Tom Cruise is a big part of why the once-and-never Wolverine didn’t get to fulfill his potential destiny in the pre-MCU firmament. Once again, David Hayter’s interview with Inverse yielded the details as to why this fell apart, which played out as follows:

We kept getting calls from Tom Cruise saying, ‘We just need him a little longer.’When we were about to start shooting the movie, we hadn’t seen Wolverine or fit him for costumes so we sent costumer Louise Mingenbach down to Australia to fit him, and it turned out he had been in a motorcycle accident shooting Mission: Impossible 2 and he’s dropped down to like 150 pounds. It just wasn’t going to work.

Between production delays on the second of the Mission: Impossible movies and those unfortunate injuries, Dougray Scott was off the table as Wolverine. It was Hugh Jackman’s time to shine, which led to one more crucial audition. Hayter, through his talk with Inverse, admitted to one specific factor that convinced the lot once and for all that Hugh was their man:

[Producer] Lauren Shuler Donner said, “Let’s bring back Hugh Jackman.” So she had him flown out and they did coaching sessions with him to really get him to that sort of Clint Eastwood hardass edge. Then he came in and did his audition and there was this one moment where he turned to the camera and he looked like young Clint Eastwood. That was the moment.

While poor Dougray Scott had damaged ribs to mend, Hugh Jackman had some claws to get fitted for. And in the case of a crucial figure in X-Men history we mentioned at the top of the story, those adamantium appendages were exactly what sealed the deal for Jackman and his casting.

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine with adamantium claws out
Hugh Jackman's Wolverine with adamantium claws out

How X-Men Solved Hugh Jackman’s Height Problem, And Why It Was All Worth It

Once Hugh Jackman stepped into the role of Wolverine for 2000’s X-Men, there was no turning back. There apparently wasn’t a lot of standing up straight, at least for a time, while the Australian actor landed his landmark performance. Throwing it back to the Who’s Talking To Chris Wallace interview mentioned previously, Hugh detailed this solution to his taller than required stature while filming:

I never had my shoes on. … The rule was, unless they were a kid, they had to be taller than me. I was literally crouching like that, shoes off, people were on planks and boxes all around me. So they went to a great effort, and I think after a while they just gave up on that.

So Mr. Jackman charmed his way into decades of inspirational cold showers and delicious-looking Deadpool 3 cheat meals all thanks to timing and ability. But who did he have left to impress? Try X-Men comic writer Chris Claremont, a party who was very protective of the mutant.

However that didn’t take much apparently; it was just one scene that Claremont mentioned in Inverse’s oral history of Wolverine. Sometimes the claws do make the mutant, and with the decision to make Wolverine’s claws sprout painfully from his hands, that much was true for Chris. Which led to this overjoyed reaction from his premiere screening of the finished film:

It was epitomized onscreen in the first X-Men movie when Anna Paquin looks up at Hugh Jackman and asks, “Does it hurt?” Then he takes this marvelous five or ten-second beat and says, “Every time.” I remember jumping up at the premiere and saying “Yes!” at the top of my lungs. Not only because it was my line from the comics, but it also epitomizes the character.

Call it fate, destiny or just a series of events that led to where we are today, but Hugh Jackman feels like he was meant to be Wolverine. All that’s really left at this point is to honor the story that led to that fate, and to prepare ourselves for his return in Deadpool 3, which is scheduled to hit theaters in Summer 2024.

Which means it’s also time to relive all of Mr. Jackman’s past adventures in the X-Men saga, through the usage of a Disney+ subscription. After all of this storytelling, we’ve earned that right; especially when it comes to the joyful cameo he made in X-Men: First Class.