This week HitFix is revisiting some of the key turning points in recent entertainment history and considering what would have happened if history had turned a bit differently. What if…?
At the turn of the millennium things were looking up for actor Dougray Scott. He had been hand selected by Tom Cruise to be the villain in the anxiously awaited sequel to the megastar’s 1996 blockbuster “Mission: Impossible” and he was all set to follow that up with what might have been a breakout role as Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s big screen adaptation of the X-Men comic book series. But when the production schedule of “Mission: Impossible II” went long, Singer had to make a snap decision and settled on an unknown by the name of Hugh Jackman.
What if Dougray Scott had played Wolverine in “X-Men” and not Hugh Jackman?
Three things that might not have happened:
1. We could have been robbed of one of the finest Oscar telecasts in history. That would be the one held in early 2009 celebrating the films of 2008 (the year “Slumdog Millionaire” dominated the scene). Oscars producer Laurence Mark and director Bill Condon tapped Jackman to host that year, a very unique choice but one with a bit of synergy, seeing as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was set to open two months later. Without an already extensive history with the franchise (and therefore, without such a film to “promote” by his presence on the show), would Jackman have still been picked? Maybe at some point along the way, since he got his start as a song and dance man on stage after all. But it’s highly unlikely this would have been the year and we’d have been robbed of one of the best hosts the typically taxing telecast has ever seen.
2. Hugh Jackman would have seen a very different start to his career. Getting your start as Wolverine in an “X-Men” movie, of all things, pretty much sets you on a fanboy path from the start. But coming off of musical performances in shows like “Oklahoma!” and “The Boy from Oz,” it seems a stretch to think that, without this serendipity, Jackman would have launched onto the movie scene in such a populist sort of film. So would we have even ever really seen him in things like “Swordfish” or “Van Helsing?” It’s possible he would have landed in, and maybe stuck with, more prestigious projects like “Les Misérables” and, well, “The Prestige.”
3. Scott’s “what if” career still wouldn’t have mirrored Jackman’s real one. It’s tough to say this with any certainty because, as a result of missing out on such a high profile role, Scott didn’t necessarily get a chance to choose from the same projects Jackman did (more on that below). When you look at Scott’s career, you don’t exactly see similar choices being made throughout. He probably wouldn’t have gone on to be the heartthrob/romantic comedy “star” that Jackman became, though he obviously would have had a much bigger, or at least more popularly recognizable, career on his own terms if he had been fitted for the claws.
Three things that might have happened:
1. Hugh Jackman would definitely still be a big deal. No matter how he was going to get his start, I think it’s pretty clear he was made for this business. He has the charisma and inner light of a full-on movie star, and if it wasn’t going to be “X-Men” that launched him onto the map, I have every confidence that it would have been something else. It might have been something less overt without the pop culture trappings, but we were always going to know this guy’s work on the big screen.
2. It goes without saying, Scott’s opportunities would have been much different. This ties in with the note above, but when you’re Hugh Jackman and you spark in a superhero movie that makes decent bank, you suddenly have such variety as “Kate & Leopold” and “The Fountain” and “Real Steel” to choose from. Scott never saw that big a door open for him, but if he had played the most exciting character in the first film adaptation of the X-Men comic book series, you can bet it would have been a different story. Whether he would have made good on the opportunity, we’ll never know, but he certainly would have had a different pile of scripts on his desk.
3. People might care about “Mission: Impossible II” a little more? Sure, John Woo’s is largely considered the weakest of the franchise, but it had its fans in 2000. After all — OMG! — it was the MTV Movie Award winner for Best Movie! But it feels mostly forgotten, perhaps willfully, in the 13 years since its release. However, I’m betting that it would have taken on a whole new curiosity factor with kids today talking about, “Hey, you know that guy that played Wolverine? He was a bad guy in a ‘Mission: Impossible’ movie! With Tom Cruise! Seriously!” And now I feel old.
Did history work out for the best?
Yes. Hugh Jackman is always a great cheerleader for his movies and that’s been particularly the case on the “X-Men” franchise. He could have just shown up, done the work and moved on to the next thing, but being who he is, he never stops taking it seriously and he always serves as a wonderful steward for the character of Wolverine. I’m sure Dougray Scott would have been committed, too, but the charismatic spark Jackman has afforded really means a lot. And it’s interesting to note that a respected actor launched onto the scene in a superhero movie that came at the dawn of a decade that would eventually be bursting at the seams with similar brand product.