17 Heroic Facts About the X-Men Movies

If you feel like a villain for thinking that the glut of superhero movies regularly filling theaters around the world is too much, you might want to direct your attention to the X-Men movie series. The first of the currently seven films in the ongoing story of the team of mutants came out 15 years ago this week, beginning the strong reemergence of some surprisingly nuanced films starring costumed crusaders that Batman & Robin almost single-handedly destroyed. As the trailers for X-Men: Apocalypse and Deadpool, the next films in the X-Men saga, wow audiences at Comic-Con, we're looking back at some facts about the franchise that are best read without a pair of Oakley shades.

1. JAMES CAMERON AND KATHRYN BIGELOW WERE AT ONE POINT SET TO PRODUCE AND DIRECT.

Years before Bryan Singer officially signed on to direct in 1996, Stan Lee and longtime X-Men comic writer Chris Claremont pitched an X-Men movie to James Cameron (Terminator, Aliens, Titanic) and Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) to produce and direct, respectively. Claremont was keen on Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) to play Wolverine, and Angela Bassett to play Storm. When Stan Lee piqued Cameron’s interest about the Spider-man series instead at the meeting, Claremont knew he had lost them. In 1994, 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to the comic series after Carolco Pictures went bankrupt.

2. JOSS WHEDON WROTE FOUR LINES OF THE FIRST X-MEN MOVIE, INCLUDING THE INFAMOUS "TOAD" ONE.

Several writers were hired to work on an existing draft of the script, including Whedon. Most of his changes were ignored on account of his “quick-witted pop culture referencing tone,” something he didn’t know until he was invited to, and attended, a read-through. His exchange between Cyclops and Wolverine stayed ("It's me." "Prove it." "You're a dick."), as well as Storm asking Toad if he knows what happens when his kind gets struck by lightning. Whedon claimed she was supposed to say that in a much more low-key tone. The Buffy television creator did end up heavily contributing to the franchise down the line: one of the two X-Men comic book story arcs that X Men: The Last Stand was loosely based on was the Whedon-penned “Gifted.”

3. ROBERT RODRIGUEZ TURNED DOWN THE CHANCE TO DIRECT X-MEN.

Rodriguez rejected big-budget movie projects at the time because he didn’t think they would be fun. Bryan Singer initially said no to directing X-Men, then changed his mind after reading the comics. During filming, Singer read online that he had been fired. Executives had to tell him that wasn’t true.

4. RUSSELL CROWE WAS THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY WOLVERINE.

Instead Crowe suggested his friend, a virtually unknown Australian actor named Hugh Jackman. Despite the recommendation, Dougray Scott was cast, but Scott had to drop out to keep his commitment to Mission: Impossible 2. Then the role was given to Jackman, who joined on October 11, 1999, 19 days into production.

5. JACKMAN TRAINED BY WATCHING MIKE TYSON VIDEOS IN HIS TRAILER.

He would shadow-box along with the footage, and asked the writers to make the fights ugly, not long and heavily choreographed affairs. The actor also purposely took ice cold showers in the morning to make him as angry as Logan.

6. JANET JACKSON DROPPED OUT OF THE FILM.

The singer-actress was cast in the role of Storm, and even had a chance to visit the set, before dropping out to not disrupt her concert tour. Halle Berry took the part instead, and didn’t let it go for the sequel, even though it meant that she had to back out of shooting a different movie: Gigli. Another actor who left the project because of scheduling conflicts was Jim Caviezel, who was set to play Cyclops.

7. PATRICK STEWART HAD NEVER HEARD OF X-MEN.

When he was first asked what he knew about the X-Men, Stewart thought he was being asked about The X-Files.

8. THE CAST PARTIED AT SIR IAN MCKELLEN’S HOUSE.

James Marsden recalled that the original cast would meet up at the Magneto actor’s house for barbecues and sing show tunes by the piano.

9. MCKELLEN AND STEWART DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY CHESS.

A chess master came in to teach them.

10. SABRETOOTH WAS A FORMER WRESTLER.

Tyler “Nitro” Mane was initially hired as a stunt man. When Bryan Singer spotted him, he promoted him to cast member.

11. THE MYSTIQUE MAKE-UP PROCESS TOOK MUCH LESS TIME OVER THE YEARS.

In the first film, it took nine hours for Rebecca Romijn to be painted Mystique blue. For X2 they got the process of putting on 110 prosthetics down to six hours. By the time Jennifer Lawrence was portraying the character in X-Men: First Class, it “only” took three hours.

12. THERE WAS SOME TROUBLE WITH USING CONTACT LENSES.

Tyler Mane left his Sabretooth contacts in for too long and was unable to see for a day. Before getting her request granted in future installments to have her eyes yellowed by CGI, Romijn wore yellow contacts that limited her vision. She was worried that she would inadvertently kick Bruce Davison (Senator Kelly) in the face on the helicopter, which is exactly what happened.

13. JAMES MARSDEN WAS TOO SHORT TO LOOK HUGH JACKMAN AND FAMKE JANSSEN IN THE FACE, EVEN THOUGH HE IS ALMOST 5’11”.

He had to stand on apple boxes and raised tracks in Cyclops’s scenes with Wolverine and Jean Grey. At least Marsden was given a lifetime supply of Oakley sunglasses for wearing their product.

14. BRYAN SINGER ONCE MADE THE CAST AND CREW WAIT TWO HOURS ON THE SET OF X2 SO HE COULD "THINK."

The director sat on a log in the middle of a field while precious light was fading to figure out how to fix a scene where Wolverine and Jean Grey talked about “a relationship that they never really had.” When he returned to civilization, he asked the present camera crew if they thought that the two characters should kiss. They all raised their hands, with one male member asking if they can do more than that.

15. FAMKE JANSSEN DID NOT KNOW HER FATE UNTIL HALFWAY THROUGH SHOOTING X2.

Only the studio president’s copy of the script revealed her death. Even though she wasn’t in the scene at the end in the Oval Office, Janssen appeared in costume in all of the publicity shots set there.

16. RYAN REYNOLDS ACKNOWLEDGED ALL OF THE PHYSICAL TRAINING SOME CHARACTERS HAD TO GO THROUGH.

Wade Wilson’s sarcastic comment in X-Men Origins: Wolverine about enjoying being stuck in an elevator with five guys on a high-protein diet was improvised on set by Reynolds.

17. JAMES MCAVOY AND NICHOLAS HOULT MAY HAVE OVER-PREPARED.

McAvoy played a younger Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class, so he took it upon himself to shave his head before shooting. Turns out that he was supposed to have a full head of hair for the movie, so he had to wear hair extensions. Before playing Hank McCoy in the same film, part of Hoult’s research was to watch episodes of Frasier to get Kelsey Grammer’s accent down. Grammer played Beast/Hank McCoy in X-Men: The Last Stand.

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A Canadian Man Set a Guinness World Record for Most Marvel Comic Tattoos

Here’s something to Marvel at: A 36-year-old man from Alberta, Canada just set a Guinness World Record for having the highest number of Marvel comic tattoos on his body, Nerdist reports.

Rick Scolamiero, of Edmonton, boasts 31 Marvel tattoos in total and is inked from his neck down to his feet. What started out as a plan to get a sleeve (full arm tattoo) of his favorite Marvel characters quickly morphed into a full-body makeover.

"I fell in love with the artist’s work and wanted to continue to see what else we could come up with regarding tattoos,” Scolamiero told Guinness World Records. “I have been a Marvel comic lover since I was small and growing up we didn’t have much but I always had my Marvel comics and Marvel trading cards. They actually got me through some tough times so the idea of having them on my body forever just really appealed to me."

Wolverine and Spider-Man can be seen on his forearms, the Guardians of the Galaxy trail down his left calf, and LEGO versions of Daredevil and Deadpool adorn his ankles, to name but a few designs. Scolamiero didn’t want to leave any superheroes behind, so he had them inked onto his, well, behind. His left and right buttocks feature depictions of Spider-Man 2099 (a futuristic version of the original) and Vision (from The Avengers), respectively.

He even got Marvel comic artist Stan Lee’s autograph tattooed onto his wrist. In total, he attended one tattoo session per month for the past seven years and endured 350 hours under the needle. Now that’s dedication.

Check out the video below to see Scolamiero show off his tats.

[h/t Nerdist]

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Pearls Before Swine
Andrews McMeel
Andrews McMeel

Since its quiet debut online in 2001, Pearls Before Swine, Stephan Pastis’s strip about an anthropomorphic and acerbic band of animals trading barbs and cultural commentary, has become one of the bigger success stories in modern-day cartooning. Take a look at a few things you might not have realized about the strip’s history, including its origins and why the notoriously reclusive Bill Watterson once paid it an illustrated visit.

1. STEPHAN PASTIS STARTED OUT AS A CARTOONING LAWYER.

Before he committed to cartooning as a profession, Stephan Pastis studied to become an attorney. The San Marino, California native practiced in the field of insurance defense from 1993 to 2002, representing insurance companies who were being sued by policyholders. At night, he would draw and send samples to syndicates. “When you’re in law school, you think you’re going to be a lawyer like Oliver Wendell Holmes, arguing esoteric points of law,” he told Cartoonician.com in 2014. “But in truth, what you do is, you get in petty fights with other lawyers about who served whom and when, and how well you can bury someone in discovery, and keep someone in deposition for hours.”

2. CHARLES SCHULZ ENCOURAGED HIM.

Hearing that Peanuts creator Charles Schulz stopped in for breakfast every morning at a Santa Rosa ice skating rink, Pastis staked out the arena in 1996 in the hopes of soliciting some advice from the legendary cartoonist. Schulz graciously invited him to sit down and gave him some input on The Infirm, a legal comedy Pastis was working on at the time. The meeting emboldened Pastis, who took to reading Dilbert collections to try and evaluate why successful strips worked. Focusing more on two misanthropic animal characters, Rat and Pig, Pastis started circulating samples of Pearls Before Swine in 1999. (The title comes from a Bible verse, Matthew 7:6: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”)

3. A SALES GUY ALMOST KILLED THE STRIP.

After honing his skills, Pastis’s Pearls drew the attention of several syndicates. One of them, United, offered a “trial” run where they would verify he could turn in strips on a consistent basis before going out to newspapers. After that phase, Pastis expected to start appearing in print. But one salesman at the syndicate changed that with just one word. Pearls, he said, “sucks.” Fearing the strip wouldn’t catch on, United let Pastis shop the strip around in 2000 before calling him back and offering to put the strip on their website to see if readers responded. They did. Bolstered by an endorsement from Dilbert creator Scott Adams, Pearls wound up in newspapers in 2002. Eight months after its debut, Pastis quit practicing law for good.

4. IT MIGHT BE THE DON RICKLES OF COMIC STRIPS.

In 2006, Pastis drew some criticism for poking fun at the comparatively mundane strips Baby Blues and Zits, as well as the highly homogenized Family Circus. Some fans of those strips wrote in to complain, but the targets of his ribbing didn’t take things so seriously. Bil Keane of Family Circus requested to see the strips mocking Jeffy and company—Pastis depicted them as profanity-spewing alcoholics—while Baby Blues referenced Pearls by having the kids in the strip play with a toy crocodile, a nod to his acerbic crocodile characters.

5. HE UPSET CATHY GUISEWITE.

One of Pastis's repeated targets has been Cathy, the laconic strip about a harried single woman that ran through 2010. On his blog, Pastis recalled a phone conversation he had with Cathy creator Cathy Guisewite in which he called to inform her he wanted to depict her playing naked Twister in the strip. An appalled Guisewite insisted he withhold it from publication. Later, Pastis won a National Cartoonists Society award for Best Comic Strip, an honor presented by Guisewite during the ceremony. Pastis feared some reprisal, but Guisewite just said she was proud of his accomplishment.

6. ONE STRIP ABOUT ISIS WAS WITHHELD FROM PRINT.

In 2016, Pastis depicted the character of Pig on the phone with his sister and trying to correct her grammar from using “me” to “I.” His insistence leads to screaming, "I, sis!” into the receiver, with the National Security Agency subsequently hauling him away. His syndicate refused to run the strip, citing concerns people would be upset if a terrorist attack happened to unfold in the days or weeks surrounding publication.

7. BILL WATTERSON MADE HIS RETURN TO COMICS IN THE STRIP.

After finishing his 10-year run on Calvin and Hobbes in 1995, cartoonist Bill Watterson largely stepped away from the public eye. He ended his extended sabbatical from comics in 2014, covertly stepping in as a guest artist for Pearls. Watterson was a fan of Pastis’s work and got in touch via a mutual friend. Watterson wound up doing three daily strips, leaving readers to wonder why the Pearls style was suddenly hewing so closely to Watterson’s, before Pastis broke the news. Once the story was out, the strips blew out a server on Universal’s Uclick site.

8. PASTIS IS A CHARACTER IN THE STRIP.

While Pastis has said that the character of Rat exhibits some of his humor, he has been known to frequently insert himself into the strip. This can confuse some readers, as in the case when the illustrated Pastis divorced his wife, Staci, within the narrative of the comic. That led people to believe the cartoonist was really getting a divorce. (He wasn’t.)

9. YOU CAN BUY PLUSH PEARLS CHARACTERS.

In 2009, Pastis and Universal struck a deal with plush toy manufacturer Aurora for a line of stuffed Pearls Before Swine characters, including Pig, Rat, and a Croc. Pastis joked that the three-dimensional products would help him “draw the back-view” of his cast when he needs a visual reference.

10. IT GOT AN ENDORSEMENT FROM A CONVICTED MURDERER.

In 2010, Pastis was somewhat horrified to read that a man awaiting trial for a double homicide in Utah wrote in to a local newspaper to chastise the prosecution and offer his view of the offending circumstances. At the end, in a weird non-sequitur, he implored the paper to “bring back Pearls Before Swines [sic] and Garfield.” The defendant, Jeremy Valdes, pled guilty in 2015 and was ordered to serve two life sentences.

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