When Patrick Stewart appeared as Professor Charles Xavier in the first X-Men film, it was a slam dunk piece of casting. The British actor completely looked the part of the classic comic book character and mentor to the team of extraordinary mutants. However and according to the filmmakers behind the 2000 blockbuster that birthed a superhero explosion that’s still going strong after two decades, Stewart didn’t even want the part, but there was someone else who did: Michael Jackson. (Yes, that Michael Jackson.)
In a wide-ranging retrospective on the making of X-Men for its 20th anniversary, the Observer reports that Jackson was one of many random stars who’d routinely show up to Fox studios eager to appear in the film. But while the King of Pop was petitioning to play Professor X, the studio knew Stewart was the perfect choice for the part. Unfortunately, the Shakespearean actor wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to spend the whole production in a wheelchair, which became a sticking point as the filmmakers tried to woo TV’s Captain Picard into playing the powerful psychic:
“Patrick Stewart didn’t want to [play Charles Xavier]. It took a long time to convince him,” [screenwriter David] Hayter said. “Terence Stamp told me, ‘You know why Patrick doesn’t want to do it? Because of the chair. He doesn’t want to be stuck in the chair. But I don’t mind. In fact, I also look excellent bald.’ Everyday I was surprised by the faces coming in. Like, I’d find Mariah Carey sitting in my office wanting to go talk to Bryan about being Storm or something. So that’s always shocking.”
Obviously, Jackson was never in serious contention to play Professor X even if Stewart had turned down the role. Then again, none of the filmmakers specifically say that, so try not to dwell on a Professor X that moonwalks into people’s minds and dance-fights Magneto. As awesome as that may be.